How Glen Rovers beat the dark days

Six days out from their first Munster final appearance in 40 years, and the Glen Rovers clubhouse is humming with activity.

How Glen Rovers beat the dark days

Flocks of young kids, determined to be decked out in the correct attire for the trip to Thurles, flow in and out of the club shop which is manned by three women. The gear is flying off the shelves.

In the club bar at the top of the hill, five elderly gentlemen have gathered at the counter. The chat is of Ballyea and who, outside of Tony Kelly, has the potential to ruffle the feathers of Graham Callanan, Stephen McDonnell, and company in the Glen defence. Gary Brennan is mentioned. “He’s the footballer,” quips one of the men.

Club PRO Mary Newman proclaims the first supporters bus for Sunday sold out in 20 minutes. The second is almost full. They brought four buses to the Gaelic Grounds for the semi-final win over Patrickswell. The plan is to have five on the road to Thurles.

Win or lose this weekend, Glen Rovers, on and off the field, is the picture of health.

Manager Richie Kelleher says they’re enjoying the good times because it wasn’t that long ago when the coffers were so depleted that the money wasn’t there to feed the senior team on the way back from matches which took place well outside the city.

In the middle of the last decade, he remarks, this club was at a “serious” crossroads. Financially, the Blackpool outfit were in a huge hole.

Back in 2005, a major redevelopment project, which involved the construction of an indoor hurling alley, gym, new dressing rooms and floodlights, was undertaken. Grants were received from the Government, Munster Council, and Cork City Council, but as the economy went belly up, they were left with three loans totalling close to €1m and without sufficient revenue streams to keep on top of their repayments. Bar profits climbed to €95,000 per annum during the Celtic Tiger years fell to €4,000 as the recession roared.

“Membership had dropped. The bar was down. The good times were gone and the money just wasn’t there,” Kelleher explains.

“In the good times, if you travelled to an away match up in Newtownshandrum or wherever, you’d stop for grub and a pint on the way back. That stopped. The club didn’t have money for it.

“When results went against us, players start giving out because they felt they weren’t being looked after. We were five up against Sars in the 2008 county semi-final. We lost that game and that just compounded matters.”

The county final was reached in 2010 and it was around this time that a collective decision was taken to stop blaming one another for the mess they were in and instead, start focusing on getting the club back on solid ground.

“It was everybody’s fault and it was nobody’s fault. That attitude needed to change.

“We had a night in the Opera House for three years running where we organised a panel discussion on sport. We had George Hook as MC and we brought Dónal Óg Cusack, Henry Shefflin, Davy Russell, and John Mullane. Tickets were €50 a pop and we packed the place out. We had turned a corner.”

He added: “In 2014, we drove to the county final. We set a tone that players give back rather than take. The days of players going in and getting training gear, I didn’t ask for any of that. If we are away and stay overnight, which we rarely do, the players pay for themselves. You could bleed a club dry by bringing psychologists in and all that. I don’t believe in any of that. I keep saying the only thing you should want from this club is the little gold or silver medal. Now, the players have two of them. You can’t buy them, you have to earn them.”

And Kelleher has been leading by example as they seek to bloat their medal collection. His brother’s stag took place in Edinburgh the week before the county final against Erin’s Own. A few of the players had also been invited, but their attendance was a non-runner.

“The players who were staying at home were telling me to go as it was my brother’s stag. I have to lead by example and how would it look if they were staying at home and I jetted off. I stayed at home and the players appreciated that.

“You give yourself a better chance of success if you’re willing to make the little sacrifices. We’re on heaven’s door at the moment.”

Meanwhile, Mallow will stage the Munster Club SFC final between the Nire and Dr Crokes on Sunday week.

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