Harry Reilly’s managerial journey with Éire Óg has been like that of a player slowly establishing himself.
The Cavan man started with the club’s junior Cs, winning a Mid-Cork title. He repeated that trick with the junior Bs and then took the junior A job before being appointed as intermediate manager at the end of last year.
So far, the year could scarcely have gone better. The club secured promotion back to Division 2 of the County Football League and tomorrow night, they will look to make it a double when they clash with Rockchapel in the IFC final at Páirc Uí Rinn. Even Reilly is surprised that he is leading a Cork side into a decider.
“I didn’t even dream about it, to be honest,” he said.
“I’m football-mad, I’d have played minor and U21 for Cavan. I wanted to get involved in the club alright but I didn’t think that I’d end up managing the intermediate side.
“I’d seen what was happening with the team the last couple of years. I thought that they had great potential and they were a great bunch of lads but they should have been doing better than they were. Last winter, I began to think that maybe I should go for it and I won it on a vote.”
The final is a repeat of last year’s quarter-final. Then, Éire Óg ‘won’ the middle 40 minutes of the game by 1-14 to 0-3 but the concession of two goals in the first 10 and two more in the last 10 was costly.
“If you let in four goals, you don’t have much of a chance in a football match,” Reilly said.
“We’ve cut that out this year, we’re conceding about nine points a game on average. It’s about defending from the front and getting extra numbers back and lads are more committed in the tackle as well. They’re fighting for each other when they do have to put in the hits.”
Éire Óg’s progression is perhaps all the more surprising given that they lost the inspirational Ciarán Sheehan to the AFL after last season’s championship. His absence has forced others to step up, though.
“You’ll never replace Ciarán, he’s a special player and you only get one like him every now and again. It made the other lads have a look at themselves, other years they might have stood back and let Ciarán do it, get the ball and kick it into Daniel Goulding.
“There’s a more balanced approach now, everybody has to work 100% and it’s worked so far.”
The Ovens club are without another stalwart this year too. Tony Dineen, whose cousin John starred in this year’s run, died tragically last December.
“He was a huge part of Éire Óg, a great club man and a true gentleman,” Reilly said.
“He would have been best friends with a lot of the lads and it came as a huge shock. It was a hard thing to deal with, you wouldn’t know how players would react.
“We’ve only mentioned Tony’s name once or twice all year, but it’s in everyone’s mind that we want to do it for him too.”
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