Thursday 29 September 2016

Evergreen Breheny eyes another long summer

Published 11/06/2016 | 02:30

Sligo's Mark Breheny. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / Sportsfile
Sligo's Mark Breheny. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / Sportsfile

"Good question," Sligo's Mark Breheny smiles when asked what it was that brought him back for yet another roll of the Championship dice.

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He's been active since the winter of 2000, making his debut off the bench against Meath back when the League was played either side of Christmas. That makes him the second longest serving player behind Monaghan's Dick Clerkin. He's 35 and there's nothing left to prove but the maybes and what-ifs still hold a charm.

The decision to continue came down to a combination of things. A chat with his wife, his body telling him it would give him another year and even the way the draw fell in Connacht all eventually led him back for a 16th Championship summer that starts when his side take on Roscommon in Dr Hyde Park tomorrow.

"I reviewed it at the end of the year, talked to my wife and we had a good chat about it and if I were to go again it would not be far off my last year - but I won't rule anything out," he says.

"It is something that I am still enjoying, which is the main thing.

Fortunate

"And we are very fortunate to be in Connacht in a lot of ways because of the number of teams involved and the draw did work out well for us this year.

"You are in a Connacht semi-final straight away and one win and you are in a final again. It probably did play a little part but it would not have made my mind up in full.

"I had to look at a lot of factors, but being one game away from a final was a big incentive for the whole squad to see if we can get over that line."

In Breheny's time Sligo have broken plenty of new ground. The Connacht title in 2007, the county's first since 1975, is the obvious highlight but there have been other big days and big campaigns that keep him coming back for more.

"We beat Galway in Salthill (for the first time) in well over 100 years, I think it was in 2012. We beat Galway in a Connacht final as well, beat Mayo at home, beat Down in the Qualifiers in 2006 - they got to an All-Ireland final 2010. Kildare, 2005, was another one as well.

"There have been so many great days really, but probably the biggest regret for me is not winning another Connacht title over the years.

"Definitely the 2012 final (against Mayo) and also the one against Roscommon in 2010 when we were going really well that year. If we had got over the line there who knows what would have happened?

"If we had got over the line against Mayo in 2012 we would have had Down in a quarter-final and I think they were depleted that day when they played Mayo.

"If you got over that game it would have been Dublin in an All-Ireland semi-final, that would have been a fantastic occasion for Sligo.

"I suppose that's what brings me back, knowing we are not that far away. But we have to close that gap very soon if we want to make that next step."

Irish Independent

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