*Alan Sweeney & Daniel Carey. Photograph: Willie O’Reilly (Burren Eye Photography)
Nine years ago, St Breckans clashed with Kerry opponents in the Munster club intermediate football final and came up short, they are in familiar territory on Sunday as they face Templenoe from the Kingdom in the provincial decider.
Alan Sweeney was a thirteen year old spectator watching his club team suffer a seven point defeat, the standout memory for him being the rapturous reception St Breckans received as they made their way onto the field at the Gaelic Grounds. This weekend, he will have the honour of leading the North Clare men into battle.
“We know we don’t get these opportunities every year. A lot of us were there on the day nine years ago, it was a massive day for the parish, the lads just fell short after a massive performance. Going into this final, it’s great to have two or three of them lads still on board, they’ve shown great experience this year, all of them haven’t been playing but they’ve really helped us get through the tough games”.
On Sunday gone, a last minute Ciaran Downes sent Kilmihil/Shannon Gaels to glory over St Breckans in the U21A final. Having picked up some knocks, the fitness of the younger Lisdoonvarna and Doolin men will be monitored at training on Wednesday night.
A selector to the U21 side in which eight starting members are expected to feature in the intermediate final, Sweeney admitted that picking up the spirits hasn’t been an easy task. “It’s been very very difficult. They went into the 21s game and knew it was going to be a massive challenge, Kilmihil/Shannon Gaels are a very strong team, anyone that was at the game Sunday knew it could have went either way.
“Anyone that has ever lost a county final like that with the last kick of the game knows it’s so hard to pick yourself up. Not many teams get a chance to make amends a week later, we’ll be going down to Mallow on Sunday with a lot of fire in the belly and some hurt bottled up from last week. Hopefully we’ll start quick like Kilmihil/Shannon Gaels did last week and go from there”.
Speaking to The Clare Echo, Alan pointed out that this weekend is different for them as it is the first championship outing of 2019 where they go in as underdogs. “We sat down at the start of the year and our two aims were to stay in the Cusack Cup and we eyed up the intermediate title, they were our two main priorities. Once we got the shackles off and got over the county final by a point and got through the first game in Munster it was bonus territory and so is every game in Munster. County final is the bread and butter but we’re in a Muster Final now and it’s absolutely massive for us”.
Part of Colm Collins’ county panel, the Lahinch Golf Course greenkeeper revealed he wasn’t too upset to missing out on pre-season preparation were they would be through their paces, “It’s great to be missing out on the running,” he laughed.
Their trip to Mallow by bus should take two hours when they depart Lisdoonvarna on Sunday morning. Once they reach their destination, captain Sweeney will be reiterating a few final points along with manager Donie Garrihy. “I’d like to think I’m a good speaker, I know I mightn’t be the best footballer in the group but I’d like to think I show leadership on the field at times,” he said of his captaincy attributes.
“The key message I’ll be hammering home this weekend is that we will not be giving up whatever happens. If we go ten points down in the first ten minutes it will be the next ball, if we go ten points up in the first ten minutes it will be the next ball. We’ll have to play for sixty five minutes out of our skin if we’re to get a result but we’ll be playing a game in ten minutes, first ten minutes see how we are, next ten minutes see how we are, next ten minutes it will be half time and break the game down to go from there”.