Change of mindset was key
The commitment of several players who normally would have put GAA ahead of their football is one of the key factors in Avonmore’s superb cup run in 2022, according to team manager, Paddy Broughan.
Speaking last week ahead of their Jim McLaughlin Cup final, the Greystones native said that he always knew the potential was there within the players but that circumstances and other demands always tended to get in the way of them achieving that potential.
We started our chat by mentioning the fine scoring tally and defensive work of the team during the campaign.
“We’re strong up front,” he agreed. “It’s a good bunch of lads. I’ve been with them for three years. We’ve struggled for numbers for a few seasons but this year a few of the lads who played Gaelic have committed to the soccer. It’s more or less the same players for the last three seasons. We won Division 1, went unbeaten through the season two years ago. Last year we had the chance to win the Premier and we gave a walk-over to St Peter’s. There was a Gaelic match on the Thursday night, we couldn’t field a team which is completely against how I would feel.
“This year, we got together at the start of the season, and I said, “are we going down the same road?” Before the Gaelic starts, having 17 or 18 lads, and half-way through the season lucky to get 11 lads.
“We had a serious chat. We had the committee in with us and I said that I firmly believed there were trophies to be won. From my experience, from playing all my life, I’ve won domestic stuff in Wicklow, and I said that you will look back on it with regret if you don’t go on and win things this season. When they’re finished playing football, they might look back and wonder how they didn’t win something with Avonmore.
“There’s four of the lads on the team I’ve had since they were under-8s. They went to the Kennedy Cup and they’re mad into soccer. They’re all 24 or 25 now. This team, Callum Pursey, Kaelin Broughan, Cian Ó hÁinnaidh and Fiachra Ó hÁinnaidh, three years ago Avonmore pulled out of the league after three games because they couldn’t field a team, and the four of them went to Ashford and won the Premier league, and Ryan Cahill was with Newtown. So, I went to the committee and said that we should get the schoolboys sorted. And they asked me to take over the senior team.
“Zach Cullen is a smashing footballer. We’ve no issues with anyone playing Gaelic, but it’s just trying to find the balance. And this year, the likes of Eugene Dunne and Shane Beevor, who would normally put the Gaelic first, have put the soccer first, and that’s why we’re at where we’re at because we’ve had 16 and 17 lads most games where we never had that.
“We played Wednesday night against Newtown which was a battle. The final of the Premier Shield is on Sunday and then the Wicklow Cup the following Sunday. We’ve lads carrying knocks, we’ve a couple of lads away on holidays. If that had been last year we would be really struggling.
“The players have always been there, we just didn’t have the cover when any of them were out or playing the Gaelic or whatever, whereas this year we have the numbers.
And what does he expect from Arklow Town, a club he knows plenty about, having coached underage teams there while he also played Tony Breslin on county teams over the years.
“It’s Arklow Town, probably the biggest club in Wicklow with regards soccer. Traditionally they like to get the ball down and play football, that’s what we try to do so it should be an entertaining game from that sense. But it’s all on the day really.
“I was involved in managing schoolboy teams in Arklow over the years. I would have played with Tony (Breslin) on the county teams. We had a few games together.
And how does he see Sunday going for his charges?
“If the lads play at the level they can play at and get the ball down and play football, there’s goals in us. And we can be strong at the back. But don’t get me wrong , we’ve been poor at the back at times and conceded goals and not scoring where we would have expected to score. It’s all on the day,” he added.