Ross Glavin has never waivered in confidence throughout his first year in charge of Moorefield. The former county title winning captain has been keen to press home the notion that the club are without doubt the best team in Kildare at present, and that they are more than capable of competing on a higher plain.
They’ve swept all before them within the Lilywhite borders in 2017, winning the Division 1 league title and going on an unbeaten run through the championship as they claimed the ultimate honour in Kildare club football for the first time since 2014.
Before the sweat had even been wiped off the brows of the players following their county final win over Athy, Glavin was talking up the team’s prospects in the Leinster Championship. When Niall Hurley-Lynch scored a match-winning point in the last minute against Portlaoise on the same day that All-Ireland favourites St Vincent’s were knocked out by Wicklow side Rathnew, the path to provincial glory suddenly opened up.
“Moorefield has completely underachieved in the last 10 years and I was a part of those teams that completely underachieved, but that was probably because on occasions we were satisfied with winning a county championship,” noted Glavin, who was on the last and only Moorefield team to play in a Leinster final.
“We were a more narrow-minded group of individuals, but this team has set out its stall differently to teams in the past and they are more ambitious and have greater belief. Their ambitions were that they wanted success at provincial level and they will no longer accept that a team like Moorefield can be satisfied at just winning county championships.”
Such lofty ambitions following two years without claiming the Dermot Burke trophy seemed rather grand at the start of the year, but Glavin remarked on how it has been completely player driven.
“That was completely player driven,” he said.
“The joy of all of it was that this was coming from the players; it wasn’t me coming in and making up a story and having a dream that we want to achieve more than other teams, it was the players that were telling each other. They were telling the management as well that ‘look, now we have to look at bigger things and start doing things better’. There’s not much between club teams in Ireland when it gets to this level, and we are in that situation now where we can really start to believe that we’re good enough to go the whole way. We have a really tough challenge in a few days’ time and we can’t look anywhere beyond St Loman’s.”
Moorefield’s most impressive performance of the campaign arguably came in their win over Rathnew a little under two weeks’ ago. While the wins over Athy, Celbridge and Portlaoise were eye-catching for a whole host of reasons, beating Rathnew in Aughrim in a controlled performance when reduced to 14 men was another notable progression.
“I think throughout the year we have definitely continually progressed, and I think that playing against top quality opposition, which we have done regularly throughout this year has really helped the learning curve some of the younger players are on,” concludes Glavin.
“They have continually progressed in the challenges they’ve faced as well and they’re getting better at reacting to what they are presented with on the pitch, so everyone is in a good place right now.”
While Moorefield may be relatively inexperienced at this juncture of Leinster competition with just one appearance in a final, St Loman’s are completely new to this. They’ve won three county titles in a row but this is their first ever final. Their front eight is packed with talent in the form of Westmeath trio John Heslin, Paul Sharry and Shane Dempsey, while former Offaly forward Ken Casey is a live threat at the edge of the square.
Glavin expects Sunday’s opponents to come in with a huge degree of confidence, even comparing the current Loman’s outfit to the Moorefield side of 2006.
“From a Loman’s point of view they’re probably looking at their own recent record and they’ll be saying to themselves ‘look, in the last three years of championship football we’ve only lost two games’ and those two times they were beaten was to the eventual All-Ireland winners with Vincent’s last year and Ballyboden the year before,” he said.
“They’ll probably be saying ‘now is our time’, but on the other hand, in 2006 Moorefield kind of came from nowhere that year and we were a real force to be reckoned with. We were a similar type of team, a young team who improved game by game as the year went on, and it’s very similar to the team we have now because our belief is growing and growing. The experience we’re getting each week is helping us come the next game.
“It’s great that as a club and as a management team and as players we have experience of winning a provincial championship, and as you look around Kildare there aren’t too many Leinster medals floating around. We can really advise some of the younger players of how big an occasion it is, and not too many teams have got to a Leinster final. It’s an opportunity not to be taken for granted.”
Glavin will have studied Sunday’s opponents with a fine tooth comb, and, most pertinently, the impact that John Heslin can have. The Westmeath star has chalked up 11-57 in nine championship games to date, but the Moorefield manager has confidence in a defence that has been absolutely superb to this point.
“I was only listening to Radio One there last week and Martin McHugh was talking about what’s the trend in club football in Ireland at the moment, and what’s coming to the fore is that the big teams have a really prominent freetaker, and John Heslin is one of those freetakers that if he gets an opportunity from anywhere in the final third he’ll score,” he said.
“I think our whole team needs to be aware; you don’t want to be giving away any silly frees. We’ve been really good at that all year anyways, and one of our defensive mantras is that when we’re tackling to make it difficult to give a foul against us. We’ve been doing that really well and I’d like to think that the players will step up to that challenge again now.”
Vitally, there is some experience of playing in Leinster finals among the Moorefield ranks. Glavin was playing at midfield on that famous day in 2006 alongside current captain Daryl Flynn, while David Whyte and Ronan Sweeney were also involved. His memories of that day are rather vague now however.
“All I can really remember is that the weather was absolutely atrocious and that we got a good start,” pondered Glavin.
“Roli [Sweeney] really confidently got us into a really good place by scoring two penalties and after that I can’t really remember a whole lot other than we, as a team, back then had a really good discipline and a really good attitude. Again, they are similar qualities to the current team. Other than that I can’t really remember a whole lot. It doesn’t feel like a long time ago, but it is a long time ago.”
This weekend Glavin, and all of Moorefield, will be hoping to create more lasting memories.
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