Fives hoping Gunners can fire and shock fancied Newtown

AS a player, Tom Fives has had first hand experience of that “special feeling’’ in the immediate aftermath of victory in a Munster Club SHC final.

Eight years ago he played a starring midfield role when Ballygunner mastered Cork’s Blackrock 2-14 to 0-12 to end years of fruitless endeavour for the club, by lifting the provincial title for the first time.

Now Fives wants to sample that delight again on Sunday, this time, however, as a selector, along with Mick Gaffney and former Cork goalkeeping ace Ger Cunningham, who has worked wonders since taking over as manager of the Gunners at the start of the year.

Fives, a native of Tourin in west Waterford and a member of a family synonymous with that club virtually since its foundation, has however been a ‘Gunner’ through and through since he threw in his lot with the club following his posting in Waterford city.

He was ever present in the side during a golden era when the Gunners dominated the domestic hurling scene and finally won that hitherto elusive Munster medal with that 2001 victory over the Rockies.

But now all of Fives’ focus is on Sunday and that mouthwatering showdown with Newtownshandrum, who start as favourites having already beaten Thurles Sarsfields at Semple Stadium before staving off another strong challenge from Adare in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. “Newtown will be a different calibre of opposition to anything we have played this year,’’ said Fives. “They are a class act, a proven class act, as they showed in their virtual demolition of every opposition encountered in their own county championship.

“And then, when big challenges were thrown down in the Munster campaign, they had the resilience, commitment and, above all, the hurling ability to survive them.’’

The Ballygunner selector said their semi-final display against Cratloe will not be good enough to bring them glory on Sunday, agreeing however with Ger Cunningham the team didn’t play as well as they are capable that day.

“In the first-half, in particular, Cratloe didn’t get the rewards their efforts deserved and we won’t be able to afford a repeat performance against a team as good as Newtownshandrum,’’ said Fives.

“In some way you might even say we got out of jail given all of the missed chances they (Cratloe) had, especially in that first-half.”

However, he is equally adamant the Gunners are well capable of rising to Sunday’s challenge – as the club has so often done in the past when cloaked as the ‘outsider’.

“That particular tag will suit us ideally,’’ said Fives.

While the magnificence of the O’Connor twins, Ben and Jerry, and the powerhouse defensive play of the long-serving Pat Mulcahy, isn’t lost on Tom Fives, he believes what makes Newtown as formidable an outfit as they are is their all-round balance.

“In every position they have players of the finest quality, and the challenge for us is to try and successfully counter them,” he said. “It’s a big ask for sure, but we will have laid our own plans, our own strategy, and we must wait and see how it goes.’’

He remains confident, however, whatever the result the Gunners will acquit themselves admirably. And he is looking to their most experienced duo, Fergal Hartley and Paul Flynn, to provide real leadership.

Of Hartley and Flynn he just bristles with a mixture of enthusiasm and admiration. “They are really two phenomenal players who have given extraordinary service to this club, and they will be big men for us again on Sunday,’’ he said. “No two players would be more deserving of a second Munster Club medal than them.’’

Fives acknowledges a year in which the senior team is supposedly in transition following the departure of some of their greatest players of the last decade has turned out to be one of the greatest ever for the Gunners.

Already the club has completed the senior/minor championship double, and the U21s will be odds on to make it a hat-trick when they play Dungarvan in that final on Saturday week.

In the meantime, however, there’s that rather important clash on Sunday – a game Fives is confident can be won.

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