Cookstown won't underestimate Finuge says manager McKeever

Ciaran Woods

COOKSTOWN coach John McKeever is in bullish mood ahead of this weekend's All-Ireland club final against Finuge.

While other teams may be daunted by going up against the formidable Kerry opposition, with the likes of Paul Galvin and Eamonn Fitzmaurice in their ranks, the Fr Rocks coach insists that his side are ready, both mentally and physically, for the battle ahead.

"Like any team you go up against, you try to do a bit of work on them, find out what you can and do a bit of analysis. We've been doing that, we've got people out there bringing stuff back to us. We'll get our heads together, get the homework done and analyse them both individually and collectively, and come a quarter past seven next Saturday night, we'll be ready for them."

There's no doubting that the men from the Kingdom present a formidable hurdle to Cookstown's dreams of a second All-Ireland intermediate crown, but speaking at his side's press gathering last weekend, McKeever insists that his side have all of their bases covered.

"At the end of the day, we don't underestimate the challenge which lies ahead. They'll be firm favourites to win the game. They have quality in their team and a great tradition in their club, just like ourselves. They have the added motivation that this is Eamonn Fitzmaurice's last game for the club, he's retiring from club football to take up the Kerry manager's post, so they'll want to send him off on a huge high.

"It's up to us to try to stop that happening, and we're ready to do that. The only disappointment is that it's still a few days away, because we're ready for them now."

It looks like Cookstown would be tumbling out of the All-Ireland title race when they trailed Mayo's Charlestown by five points at half-time in their semi-final, but the Fr Rock's side showed tremendous battling qualities to take the game to extra-time, restricting their opponents to just a single point in extra-time and emerge victorious.

It was yet another important psychological milestone for a side who so often in the past had been labelled as a soft touch, a team which lacked the appetite for the battle. Now, they are a different animal, according to the manager.

"Charlestown was a dogfight. Travelling down to Longford, going in at half-time five points down in the game. Things are looking extremely difficult for you, but we didn't panic. We said that we needed to keep chipping away at it, to do things an awful lot better than we had been. To cut out the mistakes.

"We got it back to four, then to three, and got the goal we needed to get us back in the game. The boys played very intelligently in the second half and in extra-time.

"Charlestown were certainly massive favourites going into that game, and that underdog tag suits us because it means our boys don't become complacent. They stay focused and grounded and stick to the task at hand."

Cookstown have spent this week polishing off their preparations for Finuge, but also with one eye on their imminent return to senior football in Tyrone, with the division one league getting underway in a matter of weeks. It's been a long road for them already, and with one game left to play, they have no intention of going down without a fight.

"We had our first meeting in December 2011, our first training session in the middle of January 2012. We have worked hard. If you saw these boys out in our training session an hour ago, the pain they were putting themselves through, because we are preparing for every eventuality this weekend, including extra-time again if that's what we have to do.

"Whatever it takes, we'll be ready for it."