We can upset the odds again, says Stack

LET’S get this in right at the top, because in all the excitement of weeks like this in a small parish, it’s something that’s far too easily overlooked.

Reaching an All-Ireland semi-final is an expensive business, a huge drain on precious reserves. There’s all that winter training to be done, expensive trips to clubs with all-weather facilities, who themselves are faced with the challenge of paying off the loans on those facilities.

So it is that Tommy Stack, full-back on the Dromcollogher-Broadford team to play Crossmaglen Rangers in Pearse Park, Longford, this afternoon, begs a little indulgence. In the midst of all the questions about facing the Rangers firepower, about the underdog status of Drom-Broadford, about how perceptions of the Limerick and Munster champions as agricultural footballers he makes a sobering point.

“We’ve been training in various places, over the last few months,” explains the Rathkeale-based national schoolteacher.

“We’re a small club, we don’t have a winter field, so we have to go to Rathkeale, to Newtownshandrum and sometimes to Mallow. This year has shown us one thing — we need to get better facilities for ourselves. So please, get that plug out – we need more money. It costs to use these outside facilities, and we’ve used them quite a bit, so…”

All donations gratefully accepted? “Yes! We have a lot of good sponsors; Cleary’s Bar in Newcastlewest is the main sponsor, but the local businesses have been very good as well, as have many others throughout west Limerick. It would have been a very tough ask without those people, so thanks to everyone who contributed. But we’re a small community, it’s very tough to raise money in those circumstances.”

Earlier in this campaign, the players themselves made a small contribution to the club coffers, and they did it with a combination of astute work off the field and good work on it.

Munster semi-final, up against Nemo Rangers, the team that tops the roll of honour in this competition with seven titles, proud representatives of rebel Cork for the umpteenth time in their history, and — much as in today’s encounter — Drom-Broadford weren’t given a snowball’s chance in hell of advancing. Cue a visit to the bookmakers.

“We took a gamble — for the club — and it paid off. Those are things you wouldn’t do every day of the week but we fancied ourselves to win that day.

“We didn’t have a lot on it – I think we were just overpriced that day, it was around 7/1, a good bet.”

So, have they done the same here, taken another punt? No, says Tommy – the odds aren’t good enough, and anyway, there’s enough already at stake.

A place in the All-Ireland final – who would ever have believed that, in either Dromcollogher or Broadford?

And yet here it is, and despite what the odds may again say, even against another All Star football attack Tommy and his team-mates again have every chance of pulling off an upset.

“We had done a lot of preparation for Nemo, had studied their play, devised a plan. We played a sweeper on the day, which made my job very easy, and not because they weren’t tough opposition – they were – but they just seemed to have possession so far out the field, couldn’t get it inside our lads.

“We had everything covered when it mattered most, and when the ball did come in we were able to force them wide. It’s hard to know how it’s going to go against the Crossmaglen attack; it’s a totally different style of football to anything we’ve played before — they play long ball, they play short ball, they like to handpass, they come up the wings, they like to come up the middle.

“We’ve just got to be ready for everything, really. They’re a fantastic footballing side, their forwards are just high class, McConville and the Kernans in there. It’s a challenge I’m looking forward to so much – if you’re playing anyone, you might as well play against the best, and in fairness to them, they’re pretty close to the best that’s out there.”

In fairness to Drom-Broadford also, they’re no slouches themselves, a pure footballing team that likes to play ball – keep-ball.

“Yeah, we like to hold onto the ball, make wise decisions on the field, only part with the ball when the time is right.

“We’re not worried about conditions, whatever comes, we’ll be ready for it; whatever way the field is, that will be fine. If it’s ploughed up, well and good, if it’s hard as a rock, no problem. We’ve got fellas who can play every condition, who can ride a tackle, play through a tackle.

“We’ve beaten Nemo Rangers, beat Kilmurry-Ibrickane in the Munster final, a good side, and we beat some good teams to come out of Limerick also.

“Every match along the way was tough, and that’s probably helped to make us the team we are now. You write us off, and you do so maybe at your peril. We can only focus on ourselves – the bookies will make their odds, the people will make their decisions, but we will just do our best on the day.

“Crossmaglen are probably the standard-bearers for club football for the last ten or 15 years, they constantly come with a team that has a chance of winning the club All-Ireland. It’s a massive ask for us, we’re the minnows, they’ve been there so many times before, done it before. We’re just looking forward to it, hope we can perform to our ability, and hopefully that will be good enough on the day.”

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