Crokes' star man Looney hails team ethic at club

Jason O'Connor

IT'S been a good time of late for Brian Looney, numerous Man-of-the-Match awards in helping Dr Crokes reach this point, another chance at the Kerry scene in the McGrath Cup and now he prepares himself for a third All-Ireland Senior Club semi-final in the time he has been involved, but the Crokes forward is modest about the praise that he has received as of late.

"I think I've been lucky in that with the team playing so well then the performances of individuals stand out a bit better. In truth there were plenty of other candidates for the Man-of-the-Match awards that I have picked up," he feels.

He acknowledges that pre-Christmas was another hectic schedule for his team in achieving their goals, but said there was never any question about him looking for a break over January when the opportunity to wear a Kerry jersey again came up.

"We had a massive run of games before Christmas, but I don't think we took much notice of that really until we were finished and had a break for two or three weeks. This game would have always been at the back of our minds and a lot of the lads including myself would have watched ourselves over Christmas.

"In relation to Kerry, maybe if there were only two or three weeks difference between both then I might have favoured concentrating on the club, but seven weeks was a long time to have and I thought it was a very fair compromise with ourselves getting two weeks of training and games with Kerry before coming back here and concentrating on the Ballymun game," Looney said.

While gradual progression has followed Dr Crokes since 2010 in getting to this point, Looney feels that the ultimate aim of winning the All-Ireland title has to be the priority for the three-in-a-row winning County Champions now.

"I was fortunate in one of my first full years on the senior team (2007, Looney having made his senior debut back in 2005, the same year he was with the Kerry minors) to get to an All-Ireland Club Final and maybe I made the mistake in believing that it would be a regular occurrence in the short-term. I learned pretty quickly that it isn't always the case in trying to get out of Kerry, but I think that this group of players has been together long enough now to aim higher than winning County and Munster titles and going to Croke Park on St Patrick's Day and winning it out has to be our goal at this stage," he told The Kerryman.

The Crokes forward felt that getting the trip to London out of the way before Christmas was more beneficial than playing it after Christmas (as was the case in 2007) as it got a big distraction out of the way and allowed the club time to properly prepare for an All-Ireland Club semi-final.

"We were in good fettle going over there and while there isn't a strong tradition of teams from London doing well, there is enough emigration now to suggest that the standard is getting stronger over there and it was good to get our business over there done before Christmas and allow us time to properly prepare for an All-Ireland semi-final," Looney said.

When asked what he feels is different about the Crokes under Noel O'Leary and Vince Casey as opposed to Harry O'Neill, Looney feels it's a number of small things that are actually the difference.

"Noel and Vince are new voices in the dressing room and Donie Buckley made his own impact when he was down with us. I don't actually think there is anything majorly different about the way we are trying to play but it's just a combination of a few small things that helped the team going forward and I think that bit more experience coupled with a bit extra hunger has played its part as well," he said.

Looney has good memories of Thurles as a venue, he came on a sub for the Kerry U-21s in the last five minutes of their 2008 All-Ireland U-21 Final victory at Semple Stadium over Kildare and is looking forward to playing on what he hopes will be a good surface.

"From what I hear it's one that stays good all year round and with very little action there recently it should be in great condition. It will be nice to play on a surface that will be somewhat solid underfoot.

"Ballymun will be a tough nut to crack. Any team to get to this stage has to be good, but Dublin and Leinster in particular then they are bound to be an extremely good outfit. We're looking forward to it and we're just hoping really that the work that we have done both pre and post Christmas will pull us through on the day."