GAA London Danny Sullivan & Sons Ltd Senior Football Championship Final, Sunday 21st October 2012, Ruislip 3:30pm
McBrearty determined to keep up winning record
By Damian Dolan
Four times a Senior Championship winner, Brian McBrearty has yet to taste defeat in a county final and the Tir Chonaill Gaels goalkeeper has no desire to end that winning run on Sunday.
A winner with the Gaels in 2005, McBrearty was then the vocal presence at the back in the Gaels side that clinched three in a row between 2007-09.
“It can always happen, but I haven’t lost one yet,” said McBrearty, who was part of the side that beat champions to be St Brendan in 2005 in just his second year with the club after arriving from Letterkenny, Co Galway.
“It was very tough; Brendans had a very good team at the time. It was always nip and tuck with them throughout that year when we played them in the league and cup games and we were actually underdogs going into the final,” recalled McBrearty.
Further successes would follow, but a knee injury suffered in 2010 saw him largely sit out the championship that year, and again in 2011. Now something of a veteran at the grand old age of 37, he isn’t looking too far into the future.
“This could be the final one, but we’ll see how we get on. It’s hard to beat to playing in a team and being in a dressing room with a group of guys who are going out to die for each other on the pitch,” he said.
“You just can’t replace that. When the hunger dies that’s the day I’ll hang up the gloves, but you’re a long time retired.
“I probably came back a bit too early in 2011 and I only played in one championship game. The injury flared up again but I’ve done a proper rehab programme all over winter and I’m getting the benefit now.”
That injury meant he was largely helpless to assist the club as it not only missed out on a four in a row in 2010, but failed to even feature in the semi-finals the following year. A scenario that prompted some soul searching within the club.
“Winning’s a habit and once you get the taste for it it’s something that you always want to achieve,” said McBrearty.
“We set our standard out at the start of the year to win the championship, it’s every teams aim to achieve that, but with the Gaels it was a priority. When you don’t win one for a couple of years it hurts.
“Maybe some of the players had got used to it and then maybe took their eye off the ball, but we had quite a high turnover of players between guys retiring, going back to Ireland or having serious injury. It probably was a bit of a reality check.”
The biggest indicator of the club’s determination to turn its fortunes around was the sight of its director of football Paddy Carr taking a more hands on role. On the inside there was a steely determination after the disappointment of 2011 to ensure that the club marked its 50th Anniversary this year in style. A calming influence on the sideline, his influence has been clear to see.
“He’s a very good communicator and a very good organiser. He’s managed the top clubs and he knows how to handle players. The key thing too is he’s got Tir Chonaill Gaels coursing through his blood. He’s got a genuine love for the club, so when he speaks he speaks with a passion,” said McBrearty.
Standing in the club’s path, intent on preventing it from achieving that goal, are Kingdom Kerry Gaels. Tir Chonaill have long since been earmarked as favourites to lift the title this year, but McBrearty is of the opinion that the now battle hardened Kingdom have swung the pendulum their way.
“KKG have to be favourites going into it. They took the scalp of Fulham Irish. We’re basically going up against the ‘county champions’ and they beat a very good Parnells team.
People talk about Tir Chonaill Gaels, but we haven’t won anything,” he said.
“We’ve had very few games – we were six weeks without a game. KKG are battle hardened. That’s the downside of winning the group. That was a benefit to them; they got a few extra games while we were left kicking our ankles for a few weeks.”
The trophy cabinet at Tir Chonaill Park has been rather neglected in recent years, but with Donegal landing their first Sam Maguire since 1992, it would make for one helluva club bash next month if they could claim title number 14 at Ruislip on Sunday.