WHEN you lose a third consecutive county championship semi-final, this time by means of the dreaded penalty shoot-out, everyone in the St Brendan’s camp was understandably gutted on Saturday. But manager Donal Rooney was also extremely proud of his charges.
“I’m immensely proud of the lads. For a group that has had limited enough time together, they really bonded as a group and showed the character that was in that group, to come back from the dead really on two occasions during the game. I couldn’t be more proud of them,” he said.
“We lost our captain in Alan O’Donoghue early doors, we then lost Diarmuid (O’Connor). He is our leader, one of the best talents in the country. For him to only play thirty minutes of what turned out to be close on a ninety-minute game, and for us to be still there, a point up, going into injury-time in extra-time, as I say, I couldn’t be more proud of the efforts the lads put in.”
Churchill attacker Ivan Parker was an absolute revelation on his introduction, scoring a wonder goal, ending up with 1-5 in total, but then facing the heartbreak of seeing his penalty in the shoot-out saved by Austin Stacks goalkeeper Wayne Guthrie.
“Ivan was excellent. We played a bit of a challenge game last week and Ivan done very well, and was very unlucky not to start, but we stuck with the forwards that had got us here, and Ivan came on and made a huge impact, as have all the subs in the last three games. That’s just a great sign of the district, and the players that are in the district.
“It was a very good save. In shoot-outs, you can’t blame anyone for that, it is what it is. Not that I was happy at the end of extra-time, but I was just sort of contented, because the lads had done all they could. Whatever happens after that, it’s a lottery when it comes to penalties. To be fair to Stacks, they slotted their five, so that’s a credit to them,” he added.
Having come so close in recent years, and with so much underage talent filtering through the system, St Brendan’s are as near to a serious championship breakthrough as they can possibly be. Rooney expects that progress to continue, with the obvious caveat that a Na Gaeil victory in the upcoming county intermediate decider against Beaufort could throw a spanner in the works.
“From my point of view, there is absolutely no issue with commitment. Five or six years ago, it was an effort to try and get lads to come in and play for St Brendan’s. Now people are chomping at the bit to play with them.
“Regardless of what happens with Na Gaeil, I think St Brendan’s will still be a strong team next year, but obviously if you were to take the Na Gaeil lads out of that panel, it would weaken it. But that’s a potential problem for next year.”