*St Breckan’s manager, Declan O’Keeffe. Photograph: Burren Eye Photography
AS A COLLECTIVE, St Breckans’ senior panel made themselves a promise this year that they would keep going to the final whistle.
So far they have certainly kept their end of that deal and it has led them to a first Clare SFC final since 1996.
On Saturday, they were pushed all the way by an experienced St Joseph’s Miltown outfit and secured a one point win in extra time. The manner of their 1-12 0-14 victory is made more impressive by the fact they went behind for the first time at the beginning of extra time as momentum swung behind the Miltown men.
Declan O’Keeffe is in his fourth year involved with the side but his first as manager. “It is total relief at this stage. I’m delighted for the lads, they’ve been on a long journey and taken a good few hits along the way, they showed great character at the end of the game and the end of extra time, it didn’t look good at the start of extra time but I’m delighted for them, it’s great to be facing into two weeks to prepare for a final,” he said moments after their extra time success.
O’Keeffe admitted that he was worried when Miltown stuck their noses in front. “Obviously you’d be concerned but there is one thing I know for sure with this group of players and they will keep going, we made ourselves a start of the year and at the start of every game that we will go to the end and take it to the final whistle and they did that. They had to dig very deep, there was times when we were definitely on the ropes but thankfully the knockout blow didn’t come”.
Speaking to The Clare Echo, he pointed to the heartache of recent seasons as a driving force for the North Clare side to progress further in 2023. “It’s a combination of experience over the last number of years, this is our third semi-final, we lost the quarter-final last year and there is a lot of hurt around that, it is only all football around North Clare, they love it up there and I’ve got to know that in the four years that I’ve been there, they love their football, they’ve had to learn the hard way which is what makes it all the sweeter, we’re in a final now so we have to have a go at it”.
There are two finals on offer for all teams vying out in the top tier in Clare football, the championship decider and the Cusack Cup decider. St Breckan’s will line out in both, having come up short in the Cusack Cup against Ennistymon where two points was the difference at the final whistle.
Success in the championship brings much more satisfaction, ex Kerry goalkeeper O’Keeffe noted. “This group won the Cusack Cup last year, it was never our long-term aim, our long-term aim was to go as far as we could in this competition, we’re in the final now, we’ve taken every match on its merits and the final will be no different. We’ll come to win and have a crack off it”.