Fullen Gaels focused for Croker

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David Hennessy chats to Stan Murray-Hession, manager of Fullen Gaels, a team who have taken one match at a time and are now just one game away from glory taking on Bennettsbridge of Kilkenny  in the Club All-Ireland Junior Hurling final on Sunday

Fullen Gaels of Manchester upset the odds when they entertained the Munster champions Modeligo of Waterford in Birmingham. After recording an impressive 2-18 to 1-07 victory over Ulster champs Castleblayney in Coolock, Stan Murray-Hession’s team are just one game away from All-Ireland glory. This Sunday will see them as outsiders again when they take on the Leinster champions, Bennettsbridge from Kilkenny, at Croke Park. Fullen Gaels took on Kilkenny opposition on their last trip to Croke Park in the final of the same competition in 2013. Defeated by Thomastown 2-17 to 2-14 two years ago, Fullen Gaels will hope to improve on this performance on Sunday.

But manager Stan Murray-Hession points out 2013 is not even being mentioned ahead of this contest. “It’s all forgotten about,” he tells The Irish World. “You can’t change history so there’s no point in talking about 2013 because ten of our starting fifteen weren’t around in 2013 so it’s largely inconsequential.

“There’s still some fellas obviously that have been around and they bring a bit of experience with them which is something that we can hopefully draw on on the day. But over and above that, whoever wants it most is going to win it.”

Of the current team, goalkeeper Tom Goulding, Liam Knocker, Alan Morrissey, Conall Maskey, James O’Shaughnessy, Reamonn McEntee, Paddy Duggan, Alan O’Neill survive from that Croke Park final.

Fullen Gaels’ ethos all along has been ‘one game at a time’. Speaking to us ahead of their quarter-final against Modeligo, Murray-Hession was looking no further than January 10. Having conquered the Munster champions, there was still no talk of a final appearance.

Fullen Gaels - All Ireland Club Junior Semi Final 25-01-2014

Is it more important now to keep this sort of composure and that the team are not distracted by the occasion? “Yeah, there’s a lot more distractions around this one now than there would be any of the other matches so there is a danger fellas might take their eye off the ball slightly, but we would have a good bit of experience at this stage as well so that will stand to us coming into a match like this, of this magnitude.”

Fullen Gaels will be outsiders again as they are up against a team that boasts several county players, including Jason Cleere, Sean Morrissey and Liam Blanchfield who all won minor All-Irelands with Kilkenny in September. Bennettsbridge annihilated Offaly’s Shamrocks by a score of 1-20 to 0-3 in the Leinster final. They were too physically strong for Annaghdown of Galway in their semi-final, overcoming the Galway team by 2-19 to 0-9: “They’re odds on favourites for a reason. That will tell you how good a team we’re coming up against. Four Kilkenny under 21s this year, three Kilkenny minors this year, in their starting fifteen. It’s a monstrous task for us.

“There’s no pressure on us, good, bad or indifferent. The pressure’s all on them, the expectation is all on them. They’re expected to put us to the sword on Sunday week. I can understand why. It’s only right that it should be that way. They’re the Leinster champions, the Kilkenny champions so it’s absolutely right that they are where they are. You don’t see too many Kilkenny teams bottle it in Croke Park, do you?

“We can’t change what they do under any circumstances, we can only affect our own performance so what Bennettsbridge bring to the match is of no consequence because if we’re not prepared to match what they bring, and we aren’t ready to physically and mentally match it and match it from a skill perspective, then we’ll be blown out of Croke Park.

“I have absolute faith that we’ll put a performance in and over and above that, if we’re beaten by a better team, we’re beaten by a better team but they’re 2/5 (favourites) for a reason. Leinster champions, Kilkenny champions, the pressure’s all on them

“We’ll be going there with absolute faith and belief in what we’re bringing. Whether that will be good enough on the day or not, we’ll wait and see.

“We’ll find out at 2pm on Sunday week. We’ll find out what we’re all about Sunday week because that’s what we’ve been aiming for, we’re now there so it’s up to us to deliver it.

“There’s no point in going over there, competing and having a glorious defeat. There’s only one thing that needs to be done on Sunday week and that’s win. And however we get there, everyone has to be prepared to do what they need to do to get there.”

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