Evergreen Sweeney keen to deliver for Moorefield
Published 15/10/2016 | 02:30
The "unusual scenario" of playing in a county final just days after being unveiled as a Kildare senior selector isn't something Ronan Sweeney envisaged coming into 2016 but he won't hold any grudges should someone hit him a few "clatters" on the pitch.
It's a position that Sweeney, who is still leading Moorefield's attack at 36, couldn't ponder 18 months ago when a specialist told him to "stop playing immediately or you're going to need a hip replacement in two-three years".
A little over a year after finishing up his 13-year career with the Lilywhites, it knocked him for six. Thoughts of club retirement and being a footballing afterthought were floating around his mind but he couldn't swallow it.
"It got into my head last year I have to say, I was thinking 'Jesus what am I doing here?' because at the end of the day no one really cares. Once you're gone, you're gone. A week later no one talks about you with both club and county, it moves on," Sweeney explains.
"That took me back a little bit and I said I'd finish out the year and try to manage it. Then we lost in the championship and I didn't really want to finish like that so I thought if I could go on I would, and I've managed it quite well since.
"This year I just said 'If it's sore I'll stop, if it's not I'll keep going'. Sometimes you have to take things like that with a little bit of a pinch of salt as well but it's good to be told that in another way.
"You're thinking 'hold on now this is serious, I have to adapt my training methods.' I won't be as crazy as I used to be in terms of training and going off every night of the week and doing extra bits here, there and everywhere.
"I'll just enjoy it and if you're doing the basics to get you through and it's hurting you, you have to stop. But if you get away with looking after yourself and just being mindful of it and still enjoy it and play okay, why not keep going?"
With seven Kildare senior titles to his name, Sweeney has nothing to prove ahead of tomorrow's all-Newbridge SFC final against "probably the best Sarsfields team ever" but another medal would be worthy reward for a stellar career which may not extend beyond this St Conleth's Park encounter.
"I haven't made up my mind on next year and the hip thing isn't exactly going away. And I have to think about running around after my kids in a couple of years time, I don't want to be bloody hobbling after them," he quips.
For the immediate future, he plans to patrol the Kildare sideline. When Cian O'Neill, a former championship-winning team-mate with Moorefield, came calling there was only going to be one answer.
His role with Kildare will be his third venture into inter-county management since retiring just three years ago having joining Niall Carew in both Waterford and Sligo. But Kildare is particularly close to his heart.
And while some players find it easy to leave football behind after their playing days, this is a "natural step" for him with an understanding wife knowing that "this is something we're trying to do and I'd be sitting at home miserable if I wasn't out doing it."
The architectural technician aims to plot a resurgence around the plains of the Curragh after a "difficult year".
"Last year was difficult enough for Cian coming in because he was out of the county for so long that he was basically an outsider coming in in terms of what he knew and he had to give everyone a fair crack of the whip," he says.
"He used a huge amount of numbers in the league and I think was probably tinkering around with a few different systems as well and when championship came around they might not have been as clued in as they should have been.
"Next year is going to be different. We know what the majority of the squad is going to be like but they'll start much sooner, will be able to get fitter and stronger much earlier and get working on our game plan earlier.
"We can stick to the fellas who are working the hardest, who are being the most honest and hard-working and toughest, they're the ones that are going to be playing and that's the way it is."
That's for then, however. There are more pressing issues at hand. And having shared a special time with Kenny Duane, who captained their Leinster-winning team of 2006, he's hoping Duane, now manager, can lead them back to the promised land.
"It'll be tough though, county finals and particular derby finals aren't easily won," he concludes.