We know it’s a challenge but we love facing a challenge in Blackpool

Glen Rovers manager Richie Kelleher nods when you ask about his club’s recent record in county finals. Sunday’s meeting with Imokilly is a fifth final appearance in the last decade, but Kelleher says that doesn’t make it less of an occasion.

We know it’s a challenge but we love facing a challenge in Blackpool

Glen Rovers manager Richie Kelleher nods when you ask about his club’s recent record in county finals. Sunday’s meeting with Imokilly is a fifth final appearance in the last decade, but Kelleher says that doesn’t make it less of an occasion.

“We don’t take it for granted, because we were down for a long time,” says Kelleher. “We respect the fact that we’re there — we have to take this for what it is and enjoy it while we can, without getting too high, and when it goes we won’t get too low either.”

Those previous county finals are in the memory bank, however.

“Go back to 2010 and we got to the county final, and looking back now we probably did things then that we shouldn’t have done but we still nearly won the game. Getting beaten that year, though, knocked us back. When we got to 2014 we probably did a few things — again — that we might have avoided. But come to 2015 and everything was right on the money. We were able to hit the ground running.

“We knew exactly what we had to do, and more to the point we knew exactly what we needed to avoid doing as well. How do you get experience, though? By trying things. We have some experience now, but we also have to maintain our focus and to do the right things — and to keep on doing the right things.

“In training, we have to really, really up for it, we have a couple of injuries we need to sort out — we’re hoping Steven (McDonnell) will be right but he still has a couple of days to go so we hope the rehab will stand to him. But we’ll make the right call when it comes to it.”

Is not playing someone who isn’t 100% one of the things a manager learns along the way?

“You can’t play someone if he isn’t fully fit, because if you do he’ll be minding himself, and that’s especially dangerous for a defender. If he goes for the ball but he’s minding himself then he’s in trouble, the forward he’s on will go to town on him.

“That’s the perfect example of why not to chance someone — if you start someone who’s unfit and they break down after five minutes, straightaway you’re down one of your subs, you might have to move a few fellas around to accommodate the sub . .. So you have to make the right call to begin with.”

The Glen are an experienced side but they’re also revitalising their senior team as they go — very deliberately, says Kelleher.

“If you’re playing the same players all the time then you become predictable and opponents figure you out that bit faster.

“If you change things around then the team is guessing and that means the opposition is guessing. You have to be fair to players as well — if a young fella is playing well in training, showing up in challenge games you have to give him a go.

At the start of the year, for instance, Dale Tynan wasn’t that driven and wasn’t great in training but we threw him in for our first game, and he ended up playing much better than he trained. We played a couple of challenge games and he was brilliant in them and you were saying to yourself all of a sudden, ‘this fella can play senior hurling’.

“If they’re good enough you must give them the chance because if you hold them back for a couple of years they may drop out. And it works for the older players too because they know the youth is coming through, so they’re driven to perform as well. It’s great for us as a team to have that.”

The Glen spluttered in a couple of earlier rounds but hit top form against Carrigtwohill in the semi-final.

“We were ready for Charleville and Newtown,” says Kelleher. “But things can happen in a game to go against you. Thankfully we’ve been through those situations in the past and we know to stay focused.

“When you get to the county semi-final and final stage, though, you have to be on an upward curve in terms of form, and we had everything right and in place for the Carrigtwohill game. We were in the right frame of mind and it showed. “And in fairness, the lads know they’ll have to be right for Sunday as well or we’re in trouble.”

Sunday is the big test, of course: three-in-a-row chasers Imokilly are in the opposite corner.

“We need to be in the right frame of mind for Imokilly,” says Kelleher. “They’re a super team and they’re going for three in a row — I’m not building them up because there’s no need to do that, they’re very good.

“We know they have plenty of good hurlers but they’re also physically strong, so that’s a different part of the challenge. “We’ll look after ourselves, we think we’re good enough and we’ll have a cut off it. We know it’s a challenge but we love facing a challenge in Blackpool, and we’ll face this one head on.”

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