KILMURRY-IBRICKANE captain Enda Coughlan believes his side’s recent practice in playing against 14 men was instrumental in achieving victory in Sunday’s bad-tempered All-Ireland Club SFC final against Portlaoise.
The match got off to a fiery start when Portlaoise defender Brian Mulligan was sent off after 40 seconds and the Laois team were reduced to 13 players when captain Brian McCormack was dismissed in the second-half.
But in each of Kilmurry-Ibrickane’s three Munster championship games before Christmas and the All-Ireland quarter-final against Tir Chonaill Gaels in January, the Clare side had seen their opponents incur the wrath of the referee.
Centre-back Coughlan filled the role of spare man on Sunday and reckons that the trend of their recent games meant they were well-equipped to exploit the advantage.
“It’s been strange but ever since we got out of the Clare championship, every team we’ve played has had a man sent-off. Obviously it was very early on Sunday for a man to get a red card but that didn’t upset us.
“We know Shane (Hickey) is a great man marker so he went in on the man and I was left free in the half-back line. It worked well and I went up the field to get a point early on, and knew Shane was behind there to look after things. For the kickouts myself and Evan (Talty) swapped and it helped that the three of us knew how to work it.”
Kilmurry-Ibrickane’s failure to ignite in their All-Ireland quarter-final win over Tir Chonaill Gaels had seen their stock dip sharply in the eyes of most observers before Sunday’s match, while their attack had also struggled since the Clare championship, hitting an average of eight points in their four games.
But on Sunday the team enjoyed a notable upswing in form, characterised by their starting forwards contributing 1-11 out of the 1-14 tally.
“We’re marking those forwards every night in training and we know they’re good,” says Coughlan. “They’ve come in for a lot of criticism but they’ve still outscored every team we’ve faced. We knew with the London game as well, that no matter what you doing during Christmas, you’re going to be sloppy in your play after it. It helped us a great deal and we hit Portlaoise early.”
Kilmurry-Ibrickane’s post-match reaction was notable for their players all rushing over to suspended defender Declan Callinan on the sideline. Callinan was later chaired off the field by the players and Coughlan expressed his delight that the wing-back will be eligible for the St Patrick’s Day final.
“Deccie has played with the club at senior for the last 12 years and he’s one of our best friends. He’s a great leader on and off the field. Unfortunately, he missed out today but we’re after giving him another day now. It’s going to be amazing going up to Croke Park now for the final, but we’ll make no bones about it, we’re going up to win it.”
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