Fiona O’Brien talks to the chairmen and managers of both St Kiernans and Tir Chonaill Gaels on what they think will make the difference in Sunday’s county final
CHRIS BYRNE on why his team are not just there to make up the numbers St Kiernans manager
St. Kieran’s manager Chris Byrne is guiding his side through their final preparations in the build up to their biggest test yet. “This is our first time in the final. There’s no hiding that. But if we’re defeated now then you may as well pack up in the first round!
“We’re definitely going all out to win, and this team has improved so much, we’ve as good a shout as anybody.
“We’ve got some really good players that have come up through our underage, as well as Irish-born lads that have been here for years, and we got two great players this year that have made all the difference.
We have to leave it all on the pitch
“There’s a great feeling in the club at the moment. The performances have been good and there has been a great turnout for training over the past seven weeks. “We’ve kind of had t adapt our sessions a little bit to take into account the delay and the change in weather.
“We told all the lads that they could miss maybe one or two sessions because it was such a lengthy time between the semi-final and final. “But in fairness they’ve all been coming regularly.
“This is huge for them too, they are really up for it. “We’ve kind of been doing more strength exercises to help them deal with the pitch as well as drills with short passes to counteract the wintery conditions on the pitch, to keep the ball moving as much as possible as we’ll need that on the pitch.
“They need to be strong as sliding tackles at this time of year can hurt a lot more as you don’t see them coming, and you can’t really stop yourself.” Chris has been involved with the club for twenty years, having played at full-back for both the Kiernans and London. He originally played with the now defunct Marys when he first moved over from Belmullet before moving to the Kiernans.
“Some of the lads on the team have been involved for as long as me, such is the nature of our underage system, which has been really successful. “Some teams find it a bit more difficult to hold on to players, but there is a real club feel here.
“They have grown up with each other, and it is their home club in much the same way as there is in Ireland. “At the moment I think I know about seven or eight different starters, but it’s up to the lads to prove themselves to get the other spots on the team.
“But they are training well, and the mood is good. But there’s no point in them just going through the motions in training.
“We have to come out fighting on Sunday, we really need that. We can’t leave the hard work on the training ground, or the dressing room or wherever.
“It has to be all left on t h e pitch or we will regret it.” Chris doesn’t think that his side will feel the pressure at being maybe everyone’s secret option to win, to give someone else a chance. “We played well when we knocked out Fulham, but I suppose we are underdogs, but I don’t know how that will affect the mood. We were underdogs against those really too.”
Road to the final
St Kiernans 0-15 vs 2-6 Neasden Gaels
Neasden Gaels 3-10 vs 3-11 Round Towers
St Kiernans 3-16 vs 2-2 Round Towers
Fulham Irish 0-5 vs 0-7 St Kiernans
You can’t beat match practice
BARNEY BREEN on why his side are not letting complacency get in the way of their final preparations Tir Chonaill Gaels will have two challenge matches under their belts by the time Sunday’s final roles around, but their manager knows all too well that it is only when the stakes are on that the true performances of a side will come through. In 2012 Breen co-managed Leitrim to win the FBD Cup, which was their first trophy in 19 years.
“Challenge matches are so important, they really are,” says Breen.
“But it’s been tough. If you are in Ireland you have it way easier as you might just pop over to the next county and you are able to get a game. “You might only have to travel 20 or 30 miles, and there’s loads of games available to you.
“But here we’ve struggled, there’s no one around. “But those two matches have helped. It’s been going quite well and there has been a big improvement from our semi-final performance.
“I thought we were a bit rusty when we faced Kingdom Kerry Gaels. But I’m a lot happier now. “You can’t beat matches at the end of the day, but both teams are in the same boat.” Does being labelled favourites put more pressure on his side?
“It’s understandable, I can see why we are favourites. But it doesn’t really bother us, and we won’t find it a burden. “I suppose we have earned the right to be called favourites and it’s not really something we can complain about.
“The mood is pretty good in training and we are looking forward to Sunday, we’re up for it.
“It has been a long time coming, but that hasn’t really affected the mood as such. “When the semi-final was called off kind off last minute, it did kind of peeve us and we thought that it might be tough to keep motivated.
“But then we just spoke to the lads and told them to continue training as there was nothing we could do about it, it was out of our hands. “So we just kept plodding away and built the mental strength up a bit.
“We are not going to underestimate the Kiernans by any shadow of a doubt. “It’s their first final and they will be up for it, and they beat us in the Conway Cup, but we know what they are like, and are trying to work out what to expect.
“I don’t think that the difference in the conditions on the pitch will really affect us compared to when we play summer football. “At the end of the day it is still just a game of football like any other, and we are used to the Ruislip pitch as much as anyone else.
“We are training in those conditions every week in Greenford so we are well used to it. It’s tough going, but that won’t make the difference on the day. “Whoever is the better team will adapt to it better and it’s as simple as that.
“I think perhaps that experience will tell a lot. As I said this is our fourth final in a row.
“We are well used to playing on this stage, and hopefully our experience will be telling. “When you are one of two teams you are always going to think that you have a chance, and it will be the same for both teams come Sunday.”
Road to the final
Tir Chonaill Gaels 2-13 vs 2-6 Round Towers
Tir Chonaill Gaels 3-7 vs 0-5 St Kiernans
Neasden Gaels 0-12 vs 1-21 Tir Chonaill Gaels
Tir Chonaill Gaels 1-9 vs 0-9 Kingdom – Kerry Gaels