O’Niaraigh still learning valuable lessons
By Eoghan Tuohey
Regardless of the victor in Saturdays Leinster Junior Club Football Final, it will be a novel outcome and an historic day for either Dundalk Young Irelands or St. Brigids of Offaly.
Meath, Dublin, Westmeath, Kildare and Laois clubs have dominated the competition for a large proportion of the new millennium, with Young Irelands aiming to assume the mantle of the first Wee County representatives to claim the title, and St. Brigids seeking to become only the second Offaly champions to secure the Junior provincial crown since the competitions inauguration, after Clara in 1999.
Young Irelands are captained by schoolteacher, Cian ONiaraigh, and the influential half-back, who is known for his penetrating runs, often chipping in with a score or two per game, is relishing this time, as its the clubs first foray beyond the provincial championship first round.
This is actually our first time getting past the first round of the Leinster Championship. I remember when we were in Intermediate before, and even the Junior before that, in 2010 and 2008, struggling to get through the first round.
We probably didnt appreciate the competition for what it was and what weve come to realise about the competition, we mightve felt before that we were in bonus territory at that stage, I think thats why the first round game is the most important, if you can get through that, you nearly feel that rather than it being the end of one season and a bonus game at the end of one season, its the beginning of a new one. Thats the way weve approached this campaign, were enjoying it for what it is. You start off with the first game where you have nothing to lose, but now were at the stage where we have everything to gain.
They are a club in a populous town, but one where they must scavenge for resources with other rivals, and so their actual playing population is relatively small. Yet, the club has a storied history, and with three county titles since 2007 at different levels, they are beginning to regain some belief, and are now comfortable setting their sights on the major prizes.
Our manager, Adrian ODonoghue, has tried to instil belief in ourselves. Its not arrogance or overconfidence, but just the belief that we can keep on going and if theres a competition to be won, we can win it.
Cian ONiaraigh, Young Irelands, and Cian Donohue, St Brigid's will collide in Saturday's AIB Leinster Junior Club Football Final.
That comes down to our belief of winning every game as it comes, thats how weve went about this season, we had a disappointing season last year, we were relegated from Intermediate League and Championship, so this year was about building that belief up again, and game on game, weve went through the season and improved.
Adrian talked about Leinster championships and All-Irelands, those kind of things at the beginning of the championship. You dont know if hes trying to rile you up and get you going, or trying to get lads to go training, but, it turns out, these things are possible and its a fantastic time to be around the club.
Louth teams would have historically done fairly well at the Intermediate level, but, you know, these things about being the first to achieve these things, to be honest, we dont really get into that mind-set too much, this is our opportunity and our time, it would be great for the county as well. Were getting a huge amount of support from all the other clubs in the county.
The distinctive black and green coloured side have had an impressive campaign. They overcame Glyde Rangers in a dour, low-scoring affair in the county final by one point. Yet what this game lacked in entertainment value, it made up for with its unifying effect. Their captain believes that to emerge victorious from that encounter required a mental steeliness, one that has benefitted the squad hugely, reinvigorated the club after their relegation last season, and instilled a feel good factor that keeps building momentum as they continue to advance.
Following on from their county triumph, they have dismissed the challenge of the Laois, Westmeath and Kilkenny champions to set up a final date with St. Brigids.
Mentally, theyre the toughest type of game, he admits. Weve shown a lot of mental toughness this year, one point is enough, and whatever stage the game is at. If were one point ahead at the end, thats all that matters. In that county final, conditions had a massive part to play in it, nerves had a lot to do with it as well, for both sides. But, Id like to think for the neutral supporter that theyd see more scores than that this weekend, but as long as we come out ahead thats all that matters to us.
Theres a huge buzz, every two weeks youre getting these days out. I think wed over 70 people coming down to New Ross to see the semi-final. You know, three and a half to a four hour journey, its incredible to see people coming down.
The clubs around Dundalk have been massively supportive of our efforts. When you get to this level and youre representing your county, being here on days like today, its important that the county be represented at this level.