Charleville batten down hatches for ‘mystery’ Gaels

FULLEN GAELS, who are they? Even to Charleville they’re a bit of a mystery.

A glance through the team that beat Donegal’s Burtin in the quarter-final reveals players from Tipperary, Galway, Wexford, Limerick, Tyrone and Cork.

But who are they? Not a clue, says Charleville full-forward MervynGammell, one of the stars of theMunster Club final win over Cappamore.

“We’d know of James O’Shaughnessy and Kevin Hayes, both of them from Dromina, our old rivals here in North Cork – the good auld days! That’s about it.”

One man who can enlighten us is Fullen Gaels team manager Stan Murray-Hession, a native of Malahide.

“We’re a bit of a mystery to ourselves, to be honest!” he said. “We have a total membership of only about 35, playing and non-playing, but we cast a wide net. We have to, we’re the only hurling club in the Greater Manchester/Merseyside area, so we’d have fellas travelling up to 60 miles just to come to training, and even further for matches.

“Matches are a huge problem, very hard to come by. If we wanted achallenge match at this time of the year we’d have to go down to London, over four hours’ drive away.”

In fact if you want to really pinpoint the difference between Charleville and Fullen Gaels as they head into battle this weekend, you need look no further than that – matches.

“How many competitive matches did Charleville play last year, 20? Then you add in the games at minor and U21 level – we’ve had a total of seven. We’ve had a great auld year, winning the championship in Britain again, then winning the All-Ireland quarter-final, something no team from this side of the water had managed at junior level.

“But we’re realistic too. We know, from what happened us against Meelin last year [lost 2-15 to 0-8], we’re going to be up against it again. They destroyed us, took us apart. We’ve lost several players since then and now we’ve lost Alan Morrissey as well to a hamstring injury.

“Alan is from Aghada, one of our best players, and he’s gutted at missing this game. Overall we lost ten in total from the starting 15 last year, so the lads that are there now are really only getting to know each other.”

Advantage Charleville then, very definitely, yet Mervyn preaches caution.

“I was looking through their team after they won their quarter-final – they’re picking from strong hurling counties. Mystery or not, I’m taking nothing for granted and neither isanyone else.

“We took no break over the Christmas, trained four times, and it’s nice to have something to train for at this time of year.

“As one of our younger players [sub-keeper] Maurice O’Brien said, ‘we have no pre-season this year, we have it done already from last year’! And he’s right.

“Most teams are just getting back into training now, looking at achampionship game maybe in May, but we’re straight into it, an All-Irelandsemi-final. Win that and we’re in Croke Park – how many of us will get that chance again? We have 38 fellas togging out, add in the teammanagement and you’re looking at over 50 – if even one of those ever gets a chance to be involved in a game in Croke Park, he’ll be very lucky.

“What chance for the rest of us? Not a fecking hope. This is the bestincentive of all time.”

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