Handball ace 'Curly' has eye on big prize
PEOPLE TALK about the maturation of young stars like Lee Chin, Rhys Clarke and Colm Heffernan as the key to the success of the Faythe Harriers this year. Some point to the form of the experienced guys like Richie Kehoe and Jim Berry as instrumental.
More again look at manager Iggy Clarke and believe that he has got more out of the Harriers than anyone believed was in them. In truth, it's probably a bit of all of those with just a little something more thrown in. That little something thrown in might just be the return of Paul 'Curly' Lambert to the ranks.
While Lambert was away winning All-Ireland handball titles, the side he had been playing with since he was just out of nappies was struggling for a difference-making forward. That changed upon his return to Joe Kearns' side last year and the corner-forward, who boasts a superb turn of pace and an eye for a score, has gone from strength to strength.
'In a semi-final or final you're going to be nervous. The handball court is a lonely place, when you're getting beaten you have to dig yourself out of it. That gave me a lot of confidence going onto the hurling field, I wasn't as nervous and was more confident on the ball. I've been going alright, so I can't complain,' he explained.
While things have gone swimmingly for the corner-forward who has 2-11 to his name so far this season, the campaign started in innocuous circumstances for his side as they succumbed by eight points to now-relegated Buffers Alley, and Lambert admitted it left his side in soulsearching mode heading into the Rathnure clash. 'Our best performance so far would have to be against Rathnure in the second round of the championship,' he said. 'We had to take a long look at ourselves after the Alley game. Our backs were against the wall after losing the first game, we were going back out against Rathnure who are a team who know how to win and they've a lot of experience behind them. We knew we were going to be up against it. We had to go out and perform that day to put ourselves back in the running for it and we did.'
From that point of the season it's been a procession into their first county final since the winning run of 2001.
So eleven years on what would it mean to the Faythe Harriers players to add a sixth title to their trophy cabinet? Lambert sums it up.
'I'm with the Harriers since I was five years of age and would you believe I've actually never won a county medal. I've four All-Ireland handball medals at a fairly good standard, and I think to win a county Senior hurling championship would be the pinnacle of my career. To me, on a personal level, it would be the biggest thing I'll ever probably achieve if could win one.'
If Lambert can maintain his current scoring form that dream might not be far away.