AIB MUNSTER CLUB SFC FINAL:
Austin Stacks v The Nire
Liam Lawlor has noticed the increase in numbers along the sidelines in Ballymacarbry.
As the footballers of The Nire prepare for a Munster club final against Austin Stacks on Sunday, he’s seen more and more people stroll down to the Mill Field to watch the drills.
“You’d notice it now the evenings are cold and dark, you’d see the crowd down at training.
“They’re great to support us. Up in Kilmallock against Ballylanders (in the quarter-final) they were fantastic, very vocal, the same when we played Cratloe the last day. There’s a great buzz around the place the last few days, building up nicely again for this weekend.”
News seeped through during the week that they won’t be in Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday but in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. It doesn’t have an impact on their preparations, says Lawlor.
“It won’t make a huge difference to us. A good few of us have played there, I’ve been there with Waterford, and we played Dr Crokes there back in 2006 as well.
“It’s a fine pitch. Maybe because it’s a bigger stadium the atmosphere won’t be as good as it would be in Páirc Uí Rinn, where you’re in on the players a bit more if you’re in the stand: it’s harder to get involved when you’re a spectator in a stadium with a lot of empty spaces
“But that won’t matter when the ball is thrown in.”
Lawlor is correct about the experience in the ranks of the Waterford champions. He’s seen plenty of big days as the full-back for the Déise hurlers. The O’Gorman brothers have won Railway Cup medals. Jamie Barron is an inter-county hurler. Brian Wall played for the Waterford hurlers in a jam-packed Páirc Uí Chaoimh 10 years ago.
“We’ve lads who’ve been around. You mentioned the O’Gormans, they’re very experienced. Someone like Jamie Barron or Conor Gleeson is as good a footballer as you’ll find in the country. That helps with the younger lads, but they’re confident anyway. They’ll be looking to express themselves on Sunday, to go out and show the country what they can do.
“That can be the tricky thing, to convey to lads that it’s an opportunity, a game of football at the end of the day. That they shouldn’t get tied up with nerves ahead of it, that it’s only football, a game they’re playing all year.”
This is the biggest test, though. Austin Stacks bring a considerable reputation to Cork tomorrow before you even consider the man they occasionally deploy on the edge of the square.
“Look, we all saw Kieran Donaghy during the year,” says Lawlor. “We all know what he can do. He turned the drawn All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo when he came on for Kerry, and he was outstanding in the replay. He’s a huge man, very skilful, a real handful, and he was instrumental in Kerry winning an All-Ireland. A super athlete.
“But Thomas and Maurice O’Gorman would have played against him, it won’t be unknown territory.
“We’d also be well aware he’s not the only weapon that Austin Stacks have. Daniel Bohane, William Kirby — those guys are Kerry county players, and that means they’re quality players. If we put all our eggs into one basket and try to keep Donaghy quiet, another guy will slip in and get a goal, so we’ll be making our plans accordingly.
“Austin Stacks are a very good team. They’ve taken up the mantle of Dr Crokes, who were very good champions before them, but there’s pressure that goes along with that, and all the pressure will be on them.
“It’s Kerry v Waterford in football. That’s what it comes down to, and people are obviously going to presume it’ll go one way. The bookies certainly have, I think they put Stacks as short as 1/3. We don’t agree with that, as you might imagine. We’re not going down to make up the numbers or just give a good account of ourselves. We’re in it to win it and we’ll give it a shot. We’ve nothing to lose. We have our work done, we’ve the training done, and we have plenty of belief in our team. We’re going out to play the game we play, not limit Stacks.”
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