Rice: 'This group plays football the proper way'

Damian Stack

For John Rice last Sunday was a long time coming and we're not just talking about the three finals in four years for this present day Templenoe side. No John Rice's journey to this point began long before that.

Long before this side won novice and junior championships. Long before they made the long march to Croke Park and up the steps of the Hogan Cup. No for John Rice, this is a day thirty one years in the making.

"In my time when Mick and Tom and Pat [Spillane] were playing. We lost an intermediate final in '88, we got to one final and it's a tremendous achievement for a small club," he explains.

Rice, then, knows exactly what this means to the club and knows exactly how precious a thing it is this special group of players that have come together all at once for this golden age.

"It's a serious side," he concedes.

"Serious talent and you could see there any small club in our area, at senior level now we have twenty six fellas togged out today, but that was everybody. We're a small rural club.

"They came up together. Down in South Kerry there's nothing else to do but play football. They're all from footballing families. The Spillanes, the Hallisseys, the Crowleys, the Rices, they're all the old people of the club and it's great to see the next generation coming along, but it's a once in a lifetime generation.

"We'll enjoy this while we can. We're a senior club now next year and we'll give that a rattle and it'll take care of itself after that."

This was a victory years in the making as we've said, but a victory confirmed pretty much inside the opening sixty seconds. Less than that as a point of fact, just eighteen seconds in and Templenoe had the ball in the back of the Gaeltacht net.

"It was [a great platform]," Rice says.

"We did the same in the semi-final. One of the difficulties we have as a small club with four fellas inside with the Kerry team is that we don't have them. We went out against Spa who should have beaten us in Kenmare the first day out, but that was the first time we had a full compliment since last April when Kilcummin beat us and it's trying to reintroduce those fellas and get the whole thing moving again and even the Kerry fellas were in training this week, they were in training last week.

"It's hard to get that gel back and I think we were very lucky against Spa, very lucky against Glenbeigh, but you know they were all character building games and we came through it and I think Glenflesk we were really starting to motor and here again today.

"We've played the Gaeltacht umpteen times and we had to put down a marker today and we said to ourselves we're not leaving another one after us and thanks be to God it turned out like that.

"There's a lot of leaders in the club, you've got the Sheehans, Seán Sheehy, Teddy Doyle, all of these guys put their shoulder to the wheel because they're the guys who keep the club going when the county fellas aren't around."

You wonder where this victory ranks compared to all the others. Is it as good as the first one they won in 2013 against Listry? Is it as good as the junior win? Or the win in Croke Park?

"They're all a stepping stone," Rice says.

"Now to be fair this one is probably bigger because we're progressing to another competition, to win a junior is a tremendous achievement. When we were above at that [Croke Park] we put down a marker that we wanted to move on to the next one, we saw the Marys doing it the day we were there and look this is a fantastic opportunity with these players."

One thing that comes shining through always about this Templenoe side is the way they go about their business. No acrimony, no spite, no malice. They're hard, but fair. They're strong and hard, but they let their football do the talking for them.

"This group plays football the proper way and that's the way we want to play football," Rice says.

"We don't want to be playing sweeper systems or anything like that. We want to use the ball, use the space and showcase the talents of the boys that are there. This is still a young team, these guys when they lost the first intermediate final most of these were twenty two, twenty three, that's young.

"You have to lose one to win one, we lost two to win one, but we'll get over that."

One guy who stood out on Sunday was Killian Spillane.

"Killian has played superbly for us. He's a leader now, he's a big strong man, he's winning ball, but equally then we had leaders on all the lines of the field today. There could have been more who could've qualified for the man of the match as well."