Tuesday 12 December 2017

'All were magnificent'

BRANDON O'CALLAGHAN, Dale Flynn, Steve Kehoe, David White, Timmy Dwyer and Evander Chatara did not play in the final but all played their part in our All-ireland win - remembering Brandon's goalkeeping performance in Oriel Park away to Seatown F.C. when we came from a goal behind to win 2-1, and his incredible save late in the game against Mervue when we got through on penalties.

This has been a victory for a group of 19 players who bought in to the philosophy that the strength of the unit has to be greater than the sum of the individual parts. Our sixth All-ireland Youths win in 15 years, and forgive me if I take most pleasure from this one. It's four years since we last won, four tough years in more ways than one, tough times on and off the field.

For my son, Joseph, to be involved certainly added to the emotional mix. The manner in which this group of players have developed over the last two years, technically, physically, mentally and in terms of character, will remain a source of pride for me, and Seánie O Shea, my side-kick and mentor, the heart and soul of the Wexford Youths who cut the grass three times in 14 hours before the game.

I'd like to pay tribute to all the junior clubs in the county who worked with these players from an early age, to the wonderful Emerging Talent Programme that continues to produce talented players in a conveyor belt-like fashion every season.

I have always felt that the thin line between winning and losing a game is totally distorted by the unfairness of the gap between same. Societal perception of the difference between the two leaves much to be desired, but such is life.

Mount Merrion were a powerful side and in Conor Ffrench and Karl Corbett, they probably had the best players on the pitch. In their managers, Dave Carroll and Dave Mccann, they had two gentlemen who lost with class and dignity. A wonderful sporting occasion thanks to all involved, epitomised by Mount Merrion's Stephen Doughan, a Dublin friend of my son Joseph, who was first to embrace me at the end - how we under-rate the real value of sport.

As for the Youths on the day, the pressure was great, a nervous first-half, but the challenge of being a goal behind brought out the best in them as they dug deep and got across the line. All were magnificent for me, and the outstanding Donal Shanley, Dale Scallan and Conor Mccarney will be under-age again next season, along with substitutes Dale Flynn and David White - hope springs eternal.

The world and its aunt can throw what it likes at me but nobody can take the pleasure of under-age football away from me.

Another season, another group of wonderful players, another feast of memories to remember all my days.


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