HE’S SPENT 19 seasons pounding the club football treadmill, yet when county final day dawns next Sunday, Brendan Walsh will be observing from the sidelines.
The 37-year-old has been at the heart of Clonakilty’s football efforts this season yet a challenge match against Mid Kerry a week before the county semi-final in August brought his season to a shuddering halt. Walsh broke his ankle to smash any ambitions of future involvement in 2009. Yet Walsh’s mood remains upbeat ahead of Clonakilty’s county decider against St Finbarr’s next Sunday.
“It’s very disappointing, but as I’ve said to people, I got closure pretty much within five minutes of it happening. I’d be more disappointed if I had a hamstring injury or a calf injury, but I knew there was closure to it pretty much when it happened, so it’s not as hard as people would think. I’ve known now for the past four weeks that I’m not going to play.”
The semi-final experience was an uncomfortable one for Walsh, being restricted to a sideline viewing and watching his Clonakilty teammates stumble past Bishopstown to triumph.
“We were haunted. Absolutely haunted! It was unfortunate for young Paul Honohan that his radar was off a little bit for Bishopstown late on, and that’s the way it goes.”
That slender one-point victory has propelled the West Cork men into a decider for the first time in six years. That 2003 decider brought heartache in the shape of a defeat against Castlehaven.
“I think, looking back at it, we were a little bit naive,” recalls Walsh. “A lot of our players are still involved, they were quite young at the time, and we were beaten by two points. We were coming very strong at the end of the game. That maybe showed that we didn’t have the fullest of beliefs from the very beginning. We let Castlehaven dominate for too long before we realised we were in with a shout.
“We didn’t even think about the final this year to be quite honest. I’d go back to this time last year, we went up to the club sevens and the players themselves got organised. They organised themselves to go up, and that was kind of the start of it. You could feel there was a bit more momentum. But what I really look at success as is the amount of teams at all levels. We’ve togged out four football teams at adult level this year, something that never happened before.”
Throughout the season Clonakilty have been able to pick from a full deck of players, operating without the impediment of having club men involved with county outfits.
“I suppose it does help,” says Walsh, “even though in fairness to Conor Counihan, he has allowed the championship season to flow. We have one guy, Conor McManus, on the periphery, and I think it’s kind of good sometimes to have fellas involved because they come back with new ideas, and contribute to the club thing. It’s nice to have your fellas available for training and matches, but at the same time I’d like to see a couple of the lads involved, even on the training panel.”
Two years ago Clonakilty squared off against St Finbarr’s in the county championship, emerging as emphatic victors. Since then Walsh has been hugely impressed with the city side’s renaissance.
“The club really reorganised itself. I’d say it was a reality check for them, such a famous club, and it obviously hurt their pride. they have pretty much the same group of players, apart from getting a couple of younger guys up from their U21 team which was successful. They’ll be a big test.”
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