Stalwart Dolan has eyes on prize
Frankie Dolan is older and wiser now. Not decrepit. Not past it. Just settled and focused on Saturday's All-Ireland Club football semi-final between St Brigid's, Roscommon, and Nemo Rangers at Limerick's Gaelic Grounds.
His form during St Brigid's run through the Roscommon and Connacht championships has inspired calls for a county recall and brought him a Provincial Player Award, to be presented on March 7.
Dolan, who will be 33 next July, is not engaging with any thoughts of awards or county speculation as he looks forward to the challenge of Nemo.
Time is marching on, but he's fit, enjoying his football and proving highly effective once again for his club 14 years after his first county final win.
"I'm loving it this year. When you're winning, it makes it easier to go training, but I'm really enjoying it, especially with the team we have at the moment," said Dolan.
"This is probably the best team the club ever had, with plenty of young lads and a good mixture of youth and experience. I've had no major injuries for a while, so that helps the body. The longer the years go on, naturally enough, you get more experience, and that helps to probably enjoy it a bit more.
"A few years ago, I'd probably take it that little bit too serious, be a bit too hyped up or whatever. Now I just go out and enjoy it, because you never know when it'll be your last game."
The build-up for Dolan is shorn of drama, which is just the way he likes it, for he has generated many headlines on and off the pitch over the last decade.
Back in 2006, when St Brigid's won their first Connacht senior club championship title against Corofin of Galway, Dolan received an eight-week ban for an incident during the final with Jimmy Sice, then the Corofin chairman.
Brigid's feared he would be ruled out for the All-Ireland semi-final against Crossmaglen Rangers, but the ban ended before that match.
Dolan's Roscommon career has been punctuated with episodes of exile and difficulties with managers between 2001 and 2008, but the blips fade into the background when it comes to one certainty: Frankie Dolan has been one of the most talented forwards produced by Roscommon.
His ability to score and also to pick out a telling pass have been utilised to great effect by St Brigid's, who have reached this stage of the competition with a team that has shown commendable spirit in adversity.
Manager Noel O'Brien admitted: "We had plenty of scary moments. We were behind in the Roscommon final, we were winning well against Glencar, but were back level with a couple of minutes to go. That could have gone either way.
"And then we went to Tuam (against Killererin.) We probably stole it in the end, but, having said that, we had a few chances in the first half and didn't take them. In extra-time, we pulled away. We've been doing that all year -- putting pressure on ourselves, then always able to up it a bit and get over the finishing line."
O'Brien's blood pressure has so far withstood the tension. Now he and his players know Nemo Rangers present a huge challenge. Army captain and club stalwart Ian Kilbride summed up the attitude of the St Brigid's team.
"It means everything to the lads here. We have a winning mentality in the club but so far that winning mentality hasn't gone past Connacht, and we're determined to make the next step," Kilbride said.
"If you talk about the likes of Crossmaglen and Nemo Rangers, these are clubs with big reputations countrywide. We're seen as somewhat of a force within the county and possibly within Connacht, but not in Ireland.
"We're written off and probably rightly so. We haven't got much experience at this stage, of All Ireland semi-finals, but we're looking to rectify that."
Team captain Niall Grehan is only 23, but considering team-mate Peter Domican was only 21 when he skippered Roscommon to the Connacht title last season, age is no barrier to leading the side.
Nemo have vast experience, but Grehan feels that his team can learn from their 1-11 to 0-11 semi-final defeat to Crossmaglen in 2007.
"Some of us might have a few regrets from back then, that we didn't have a bit more know-how on the day," said Grehan. "We kind of pressed the panic button a bit too early, but we know how close we were at that time.
"This time round, we have a bit more confidence about ourselves. One of our traits is that if we keep fighting to the final whistle, whether we're behind or whether we've a good score ourselves.
"We're a very proud club, and very proud men as players to be representing the club so we're not going to let ourselves or let anyone down."
St Brigid's GAA Club, Roscommon
Home base: Newpark, Kiltoom
Colours: Green and Red
Number of teams: 17 (age 8 to adult)
County SFC champions: 1953, 1958, 1959,1963, 1969, 1997, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010
Connacht SFC champions: 2006, 2010