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Victorious O’Leary hails ‘special day’ for Gneeveguilla in Mallow

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Corneilius Buckley wins the ball for Gneeveguilla before netting his side's fourth goal against Ballina in the AIB Munster Club JFC Final in Mallow Photo by John Tarrant

Corneilius Buckley wins the ball for Gneeveguilla before netting his side's fourth goal against Ballina in the AIB Munster Club JFC Final in Mallow Photo by John Tarrant

Corneilius Buckley wins the ball for Gneeveguilla before netting his side's fourth goal against Ballina in the AIB Munster Club JFC Final in Mallow Photo by John Tarrant

kerryman

The footballers of Gneeveguilla brushed aside Ballina of Tipperary last Saturday afternoon in Mallow to collect the 2021 Munster Junior title – keeping alive what is more than just an impressive record for the Kingdom in this particular provincial competition.

Kerry clubs always head into the junior provincial competition with the weight of expectation on their shoulders and, while one or two may come up short, more than most come away with the spoils – a trend that Gneeveguilla continued in some style last weekend.

While Gneeveguilla strode into Carrigoon last Saturday as clear favourites manager Seánie O’Leary was taking nothing for granted against what all could see was a powerful looking Ballina side.

“We are kind of flattered here with that score line to tell you the truth” said O’Leary at the final whistle.

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“We had done a lot of homework on Ballina. After we won the county the first name that popped up was Ballina.

"They had played Mountcollins, which would be bordering Brosna, and we heard from people in the know they were a very good side – we were nervous coming here, I can tell you that. I was even more nervous when they came at us from the first whistle.

“Before the game we knew how solid and powerful Ballina were and that put our players on edge coming into this and that really is a very good thing.

“Players of the quality of Steven O’Brien there in the middle. If Steven were from Kerry I would say he would be playing for the county side. A seriously impressive player.

“Ballina had other players of quality too and all of those did what they could. This was a very good side and we are delighted to have got past them and on to the All-Ireland semi-final.”

O’Leary knew that the first quarter would be crucial if his side were to advance to the national competition – a fact that had become evident when doing research on their opponents prior to this one throwing in.

“They [Ballina] started well and put it up to us from the start but we knew they were a side that thrive on the first 15 minutes so we needed to win that period – and we did, and to be fair to our lads they pushed on from there.

"Ballina had been well up, seven or eight points in most of their games at the quarter mark, so that was always likely to be key for us.”

The newly crowned champions may well have bagged a pretty impressive tally of 4-18 however the manager was at pains to point out just where his side excel.

“We have some very good defenders. They say Kerry don’t have any defenders anymore but I still think that Gneeveguilla are producing good defenders – good forwards – a good midfield and a great panel, and without that panel we wouldn’t be here. Panel is everything to us.”

2010 was the last time Gneeveguilla made an All-Ireland semi-final and according to O’Leary the club have still something to prove.

“That may well seem like a long time ago but few at the club that were around in 2010 have forgotten that year.

“There are still three of the lads here playing with us from that year and they will feel that they have something to prove but first, before any of that, we will go away and enjoy this [win] tonight.

"I suppose just for once I am happy that we will have to finish up at 8 o’clock as that makes things a little easier for the management team, but it is also important to mark special days and this definitely is one of those for us.”

So, it is onwards and upwards for O’Leary and his charges after notching up yet another big tally (their second in the last two rounds) and based on the steely determination coming from the team manager it would be a surprise if this Gneeveguilla side don’t continue to improve as this campaign moves towards the biggest day – something they will need to do if they are to make an appearance in an All-Ireland final in the coming weeks.


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