independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Oulart determined to right last year's wrongs – Herbert

Oulart-the-Ballagh manager Pat Herbert. Photo: Sportsfile

PERHAPS it was the urgency in their voices that made Pat Herbert change his mind about taking over Oulart-The Ballagh.

The former Limerick star had already given the Wexford club a firm 'no' when he was approached, but when the players came calling, he found it altogether more interesting.

In fairness, it was hardly the most appetising prospect at the start of the year. Liam Dunne's shoes would take some filling, and guiding the club to a fourth county title in a row would only go down as a par score.

To be considered a real success, he knew he'd have to win Leinster.

But there was something in Keith Rossiter and Rory Jacob's approach that changed his mind. Perhaps it was their sense of urgency. Oulart are packed with familiar names but some, like Darren Stamp, a winner of seven county medals, are the wrong side of 30. The clock was ticking and the players knew it.

"The players themselves came to me in January after I had already told the club no," Herbert recalled. "So I knew that the motivation and the interest was coming from the players. I could feel it from them when I went down to meet them and all 29 of them were there to meet me.

"They were self-driven which was great because it meant that we didn't have to start pulling and dragging throughout the months that followed. Once you had that motivation, it was very easy for us to steer the ship."

Having brought Toomevara to a Munster title in 2006, Herbert knew what was required. And having missed out on an All-Ireland during his own playing career with the Shannonsiders, perhaps Herbert could relate to what Oulart are chasing.

Sunday's clash with Offaly's Kilcormac-Killoughey is their third successive Leinster final and a fifth for the club in total, but the wait for a provincial title goes on.

Last year's loss to Coolderry was particularly galling as it seemed like they had the hard work done after they beat Kilkenny champions James Stephens along the way.

"We've spoken about the (Coolderry game) at length since we qualified for the Leinster club championship. We've had good discussions on what went wrong on the day. The 16 wides is something we had to look at, as was dropping six balls into the goalkeeper.

"When you add in the mental side of it, I think corrective action has been taken both on the management side and with the players themselves. They know what went wrong last year and we've been trying to remedy that."

Dublin champions Kilmacud were beaten in Parnell Park despite a late scare but, more notably, they took the scalp of Ballyhale Shamrocks. The injury to Henry Shefflin in that match helped but they made little of Wexford teams' problems against Kilkenny sides and recovered from an early six-point deficit.

Challenge

"There was definitely a challenge there that they were keen to overcome," said Herbert.

"That's a measure of where you're at if you can beat the Kilkenny champions.

"Lucky enough with these guys, they're able to put the county scene behind them when they come back to us.

"They were a totally different group of players when the county were beaten and we got our whole team back. The whole focus was the club.

"The mental challenge was to prepare for a county championship.

"That was our primary focus but deep down, the guys wanted the opportunity to come back and redeem themselves from last year – and now they're getting that opportunity."

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