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Carlow legend Nevin hoping for a Wee bit of luck

AFTER practically a lifetime of service to Carlow GAA, Johnny Nevin is still going strong.

As a full-time coach in the county, he continues to make a significant contribution to the future of the GAA on Barrowside.

Last night he put the county's U-14 footballers through their paces. This morning there'll be a couple of hundred six-to-12-year-olds taking part in the 'Go Games' that fall under his jurisdiction.

And if Nevin now sows the seeds for the future, he has left an indelible mark on the past after an extraordinary inter-county career that spans three decades and has seen him line out on well over 300 occasions for both the county's hurlers and footballers.

"We're getting a good turnout and we have hurling and football on alternate weekends so kids can play both," Nevin explains. "These games will run from April to the end of September and the 'Go Games' are non-competitive, so we're trying to get as many as possible involved in that.

"Hopefully, we'll reap the rewards of this in the future, but I'm sure all of the big counties have similar schemes in place.

"If you're dealing with an eight-year-old it's going to be 10 years anyway before you see the rewards of it."

At the age of 43, he still hurls with senior outfit Naomh Brid, and plays less regularly with his football club Old Leighlin.

He's also done a couple of years as a selector (one under Paul Bealin and the other under Luke Dempsey) with the county's footballers, who are in action against Louth in Portlaoise tomorrow.

"It's against the team who got to the Leinster final last year and are probably looking at doing the same again this year. Plus they won Division 3 while we were in Division 4," he says.

Earlier in the year, Carlow manager Dempsey was forced to deny speculation on that there was unrest in his squad after a number of departures, but among the most frustrating things for supporters is that they often don't have access to their best players.

"Sometimes it's just not sexy to play for your county," Nevin agrees. "By the time lads are 19 or 20 they are used to doing their own thing so we have to try and develop that at an early age.

"The U-14s I have now are eager to learn and enthusiastic, but we have to hold on to them beyond that and start to bring them through."

There were 10 points between Carlow and Wicklow at the end of last year's Leinster championship clash.

That was a particularly galling result for the Barrowsiders, who traditionally gain more joy against Wicklow than other Leinster counties.

And while they are outsiders once again for tomorrow's date with the Wee Men (5/1), they have some classy operators and one of the better midfield combinations around.

Former AFL player Brendan Murphy made a fine SFC debut against Wicklow last year, despite his late red card, while a fully fit Thomas Walsh -- who has been named to start at centre-forward -- is also a formidable force. There are also five debutants set to make their bow for the county.

"Louth have the experience of last year. It's a big ask, there's no doubt about that," contends Nevin. "We'll need to get after them early, make it a battle and set the tone ourselves and see where that brings us."

Irish Independent