Two Mile House manager Niall Browne was jumping with the trophy in his grasp as he jogged across O’Connor Park on Saturday afternoon, basking in the glory of his side’s latest big win.
The small club from the outskirts of Naas had just captured the Leinster Intermediate Championship title, five years on from winning a provincial title at junior level. A club on the rise and one riding the crest of a wave currently, Browne was every bit entitled to genuflect in the ocean of positivity around Tullamore.
That was despite the victory coming after what he described as a ‘dreadful game of football to watch’, though he equalled that out by stating that ‘one-point games are the most enjoyable to win’.
It felt like we had been here before with this Two Mile House team, who at one stage looked like they were going to run away with it when they blasted their way into a 1-7 to 0-2 lead after 26 minutes. Mistakes gradually began to have a toll on their game however, and they were clinging on in the end when the fell over the line with a 1-8 to 0-10 advantage. Against Shandonagh of Westmeath in their opening game of the Leinster Championship, they also looked home and hosed before red cards and injuries began to have an impact, allowing their opponents narrow the margin of the lead before the House scraped through with the win.
“It’s funny – everything happens for a reason,” beamed Browne when asked about the similarities between the two games.
“We were leading against Shandonagh fairly easily and before we knew it we made a lot of mistakes and picked up a couple of knocks, and then we were under massive pressure. The thing about it is that the education you get being under pressure like that, you can revert back to it again in other games. As a club, and our history as a club in the last 15 years, we lost so many of those games that it probably kind of strengthened us up a bit and we’ve learned a lot from that. So now, as a group of players, when it is tight we’re fairly decent in that sort of situation because we’ve been in more than many other clubs.”
The wind was a major factor as the Kildare champions surged clear when they had the assist of the elements, but Shamrocks began to eat away at their lead very steadily when they shot into the Hospital End in the second half.
Two Mile House had a six-point lead at the break, and there were debates being had within the stand as to how many points the wind was worth as Shamrocks sought to mount a comeback.
“We could have easily put that game away in the first half,” admitted Browne.
“We had probably screwed up five or six scoring chances, so we put ourselves under pressure. But look it, the big thing for me is that we’re a Kildare club and Kildare club football is very much a running game – it always has been back down through history. Kildare teams are OK against the wind, so I wasn’t too worried. We probably struggled to kick long balls in, but we’re a running side so I said to the boys there is a big wind there, but it’s not going to put us off as much as maybe an Offaly team who try and kick it.”
Browne also reserved some praise for a couple of players who had a big influence on Two Mile House securing the silverware, one of whom was teenager Tony O’Connor who has barely played at senior level for the club. He was thrust into the action as a substitute in just the second minute, replacing the unfortunate Shane D’Arcy who injured his shoulder straight from the throw-in.
“Tony is a great athlete,” said Browne.
“Tony is like the second fastest in Ireland for the 400 metres at under 18 or something, and he wasn’t available all year through commitments to running. I’ve been at him all year and thankfully he has been released to play for us, and in the last couple of games he has been magnificent. He’s a serious talent and he’s probably one of the best players we’ve produced now in a number of years.
The manager was glowing in his praise for Chris Healy however, who turned in a man of the match display before hastily making his way from Tullamore to attend his sister’s wedding. The centre-forward scored three points from play, set up Conor Keogh’s goal, and his general workrate around the field was almost tiring just to watch.
“Chris was magnificent,” remarked Browne.
“I mean, one thing in clubs and teams is that we talk up a weaker guy that has a good game and we celebrate the underdog, and sometimes we don’t recognise what we have. We don’t maybe value it until it is gone. Chris Healy, today, put in maybe the biggest performance for the club in any big game in the history of the club. He was magnificent today; his father can’t be here today and his sister is getting married, so for him to come down today and do that is brilliant. He represented the Healy clan well today, and any plaudits he gets he deserves it.”
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