Today was going to be a milestone date in the life of Coolderry’s Brendan O’Meara, a day long in the planning when he would finally walk up the aisle with his beloved, Jessica Kennedy from nearby Lorrha.
Ah, but the best-laid plans o’ mice and men — all gone by the board now, all changed. The reason? Tomorrow Brendan and the team he captains, Coolderry of Offaly, will take the field in Croke Park to play Loughgiel Shamrocks from the Antrim glens in an All-Ireland Club SHC final. In the life of a club hurler — and everyone in hurling is a club hurler first and last — there isn’t a bigger date on the calendar.
The wedding? In a clash such as this there was going to be only one winner.
“I booked that date [March 16] a year ago or more but it’s a great situation to be in, to be honest,” said Brendan.
As to the inconvenience — what inconvenience. “If someone told me that a year ago [that he’d be in this position] I’d have been delighted. We had to change the date of the wedding,” he said.
April 13 is the new date and making it easier was the fact that Jessica herself was very much on board.
“She enjoys her hurling as well and has a big part in it — we’re happy with it now.”
Anyone even remotely familiar with the culture of the GAA will understand Brendan and Jessica’s joint decision. AIB, sponsors of the All-Ireland club competitions, has had a few slogans down the years but they are more than slogans. Every spring sees an annual renewal of the hopes and dreams that keep those club families together, with villages and parishes around the country rallying around their team as they prepare for the local championship.
Depending on the size of the county a divisional title might be the first step, then the county championship itself.
At the pinnacle, however, an All-Ireland final. For some it’s at junior or intermediate level. For the best, it’s a senior final, St Patrick’s Day in Croke Park. From a small parish with a big and rich tradition on its first appearance on this stage how could Brendan possibly pass on that?
“Yeah, it’s a real honour to captain the team. We’re a close bunch of players really, we get on very well.
“You’re playing year-in year-out hoping you’ll progress and we found it difficult winning in Offaly. You had a great Birr team there for many years. We’re delighted now, we’re in the final, we’re where we want to be.”
And if Coolderry win, and Brendan gets to collect the Tommy Moore Cup?
“We won’t be bringing it on honeymoon anyway! At the end of the day we’re not under any illusions. We’re playing a very good team and if we could win that’d be great but we’ll have our work cut out for us.
“Looking at Loughgiel they had a great win in the semi-final and put up a very good performance and a very good scoreline as well.
“They look very impressive and we know we’re going to be up against it; for us it’s about playing as good as we can on the day and we’ll see where that leaves us. Hopefully that will be enough.”
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