It seems somewhat odd that a team as good as Celbridge and with such resources at their disposal will be lining out for just their second ever Senior Football Championship final on Sunday. They’ve been perennial semi-finalists over the last number of years as a cohort of their last championship winning team from 2008 has blended with the influx of numerous talented young players over the past nine years.
As their current manager, Trevor O’Sullivan says of their record of making county finals, at least they make it count when they get there.
“The first ever was in 2008, which we won, so I hope to keep that record intact,” O’Sullivan told the Kildare Post.
The north Kildare men have one from one in their history of county finals, but they have every chance this year as they have looked completely comfortable on their route to the big day. That’s unlikely to be the case against Moorefield, but they have so far shown a fine blend of defensive composure mixed by some efficiency up front.
“I wouldn’t say that we’ve had it all our own way in any of those games either,” noted O’Sullivan of their wins of Round Towers, Sarsfields, Naas and Johnstownbridge.
“Certainly against Round Towers in the first round of the championship we had a very tough first half and we were finding our feet but managed to pull away in the end. Naas were a tough team and had beaten us in the league semi-final, so we were certainly very focused on that game. We certainly have made good progress throughout and the team is gelling well together.
“It’s always a challenge when you have a bunch of lads on the county team when they come back to you to integrate them again and form a team. That takes a little bit of time as well, but I think at this stage, with a number of championship games together, they’re gelling well and the team is performing very well together.”
Celbridge have been so tight defensively that you wonder where Moorefield will find their scores from come Sunday. With county men Mick O’Grady and Ollie Lyons present alongside the ever reliable quartet of Darragh McEvoy, Mick Konstantin, Kevin Flynn and the resurgent Hugh McGrillen, it’s not so surprising that Celbridge have conceded just 1-45 despite coming up against some of the best attacks in the county.
“Defensively, I think we’ve got a little tighter in every game, and up front we’re seeing players really performing well and having a better understanding of each other. That comes with more games and there has been improvement game on game,” continued O’Sullivan.
While Celbridge have been immense throughout the championship in defence, there remain questions over how much their forward line can rack up. They’ve not scored more than 1-14 in any game since their opening round win over Round Towers, while their opponents on Sunday have amassed that tally and more in each of their wins in this year’s championship. They may need to increase their scoring power when they come up against Moorefield on Sunday, but their opponents have been similarly impressive in the defensive stakes.
When it was announced that Paddy Brophy was coming home earlier this year it was seen as the final piece of the jigsaw for Celbridge; they finally had that class intercounty forward that would give them an extra dimension up front. Brophy has indeed been their standout forward in this year’s championship, but O’Sullivan is not too keen to place too much pressure on the former AFL player.
“Paddy was there in 2012, 2013 and 2014, so he was there all those years as well,” he said of the claims that having Brophy back would give them an extra edge when trying to win a championship.
“Paddy was gone for a couple of years and he’s back now. There was a lot of talk when Paddy came back too, and obviously he’s a huge addition to our team, but there are a lot of good forwards around him as well and any team that’s just reliant on one player would be very easy to close down and shut out. I don’t think we’re that kind of a team; I think we’ve a good balance throughout the whole team.”
Ollie Lyons played in the 2008 Kildare SFC for Celbridge
While Celbridge have competed in just one final in their entire history, Moorefield have won seven championship titles since the turn of the century and featured in last year’s decider. They certainly hold a fear factor for many teams around the county, but O’Sullivan believes the success of the club’s underage teams means that Celbridge won’t fear the green and white jerseys on Sunday.
“I’ve been coaching the minor and U21 teams with Celbridge since 2009 and we’ve a very good record against every club we’ve come up against, so the lads on this team, a lot of them have good experience on those teams and I don’t think they fear coming up against anyone,” he said.
“We’ve huge respect for Moorefield and their tradition, especially for what they’ve achieved over the last decade. They have been the powerhouses of Kildare football, and that record is well deserved for what they’ve achieved on the pitch.”
Moorefield have been served well by the power of their bench in the championship so far this year, with the likes of Ryan Houlihan and Ronan Sweeney being kept in reserve before coming on to make vital contributions in the latter stages of games. O’Sullivan believes that Celbridge have just as much in reserve as Kevin O’Callaghan, Dylan Corcoran and Davy Byrne have all been called upon to provide their own impetus from the sideline.
“There’s no doubting that Moorefield have great talent on their starting team, but on their bench as well to come in, and they’ve done that to great effect in their games this year,” said O’Sullivan.
“I think from our own point of view, we’d be really confident in the squad we’d have as well and we certainly have good options on the bench this year. It’s up to us to look at our own game where we can exploit our strengths and impose that on Moorefield too.”
O’Sullivan will be leaning on those who helped the club to their sole success in the championship in 2008, with seven of the players who played in the win over Sarsfields nine years ago still involved this year. The likes of Hugh McGrillen and Shane Harte are enjoying particularly impressive years, while Ollie Lyons continues his own excellence that has rarely waivered over his last decade of playing football.
“The fellas that played in 2008 and won the championship back then, they’re still massive players for us,” said O’Sullivan.
“The likes of Hugh McGrillen is playing fantastically well, and Ollie Lyons, Shane Harte and Mark O’Sullivan. They have huge experience from that campaign, and since then as well, so absolutely we’ll be looking to their leadership and their experience to bring to bear on county final day.”
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