No time for dilemmas as Moorefield focus on Corofin semi
Defender James Murray is surprised his club has no players on Kildare football panel
Moorefield’s James Murray: “The start of the year this year, we sat down and said we wanted to win an All-Ireland and win a Leinster.” Photograph: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Maybe someday, as Jim Gavin suggested over the weekend, this GAA fixtures puzzle will fall into place “by accident”. Although, as is the case with Leinster club football champions Moorefield, it may take a bit of a freak one.
Because instead of having players torn between county or club, or indeed college, Moorefield have been able to focus entirely on Saturday’s All-Ireland club semi-final against Corofin – simply because they don’t have anyone on the Kildare football panel.
This is despite winning their second Leinster title since 2006, and three of the last five Kildare football titles. That may change after this weekend, or indeed St Patrick’s Day, should they get that far, although for now defender James Murray is perfectly content.
“I can’t dictate what Cian O’Neill [the Kildare manager] is thinking,” says Murray. “We’re just fully focused on wearing the green jersey on Saturday and putting on a performance.
To hear an All-Ireland winning manager telling us what we’re doing right, and what we’re doing wrong at training, just gives us that confidence
“But no, we had nobody in the Kildare squad last summer, and that probably suited us better, as we were able to have a full panel at training every week, and able to have 15 on 15 games.
“It probably is a bit strange that Moorefield, and Sarsfields, have dominated Kildare football over the last 10 years, and haven’t had that many Kildare players. But that’s not what we are focused on.”
Two of Moorefield’s central players, Ronan Sweeney and Daryl Flynn, were equally central to Kildare for many years before their intercounty retirement, and Sweeney came back on board last season as a selector with O’Neill. Murray has played minor and under-21 for Kildare, and it’s likely that O’Neill will at least trial out a few Moorefield players once their club campaign ends. These could possibly include Eanna O’Connor and brother Cian, both sons of former Kerry All-Ireland winning manager Jack O’Connor, who have been playing for Moorefield for the last few seasons since moving to Kildare. The 25-year-old Eanna is now four seasons with the club, and has already committed his future to Kildare, part of the panel for the early stages of last year’s league, although he didn’t make the championship cut.
Jack O’Connor has also been playing a part in the Moorefield success this season, which saw them overturn a five-point deficit in injury time to beat St Loman’s of Westmeath in the Leinster final.
“Jack only comes down once or twice a month,” says Murray, “but he has a great insight into how preparations are going for us. To hear an All-Ireland winning manager telling us what we’re doing right, and what we’re doing wrong at training, just gives us that confidence, that maybe this is going to be our year.
“And Jack is adamant that we have to play that head-up style football, whereas in the past few years, Moorefield weren’t used to that, we were more a running-style team. The two boys, Eanna and Cian, they are all about kicking the ball and that has definitely worked for us this year, kicking the ball into the forward line.”
Dead and buried
That certainly worked in the Leinster final, where, to everyone in attendance, Moorefield looked the proverbial dead and buried going into injury time. But 37-year-old Sweeney threw them a lifeline in the 61st minute and they kicked three further points, the winner from Kevin Murnaghan with the last move of the game.
“The last eight minutes of the game, you couldn’t write it. I don’t think anybody in the stadium gave us a chance. And ourselves too, we probably had doubts that we were going to do it or not. We tried to be calm and calculated but we invited pressure on to us and it was only when we knew that we had to go at them, that we started to get the rewards for putting pressure on them.
“I also think in previous years we were too focused on being the best team in Newbridge, and the best team in Kildare. The start of the year this year, we sat down and said we wanted to win an All-Ireland and win a Leinster and throughout the year, and [manager] Ross Glavin and the other lads in the management, they have kept saying to us that this is going to be our year, that we will win the All-Ireland.”
That county versus college conflict, meanwhile, will be evident in Wednesday night’s two Sigerson Cup semi-finals. UUJ play UCD at Inniskeen, and DIT face NUIG in Mullingar; should UCD advance to a third successive final, Kerry will likely be without midfielders Jack Barry and Barry O’Sullivan as well as Brian O’Seanachain for Sunday’s re-fixed league meeting with Monaghan.
Monaghan have representatives on UCD (Conor McCarthy) and UUJ (Ryan McAnespie), so will likely be down a player no matter who losses.