Tuesday 24 April 2018

Sligo legend O'Hara plays down favourites tag as Tourlestrane bid to end holders' hoodoo

Thanks, but no thanks is the view of O’Hara, especially as back-to-back title wins in Sligo are a rarity. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Thanks, but no thanks is the view of O’Hara, especially as back-to-back title wins in Sligo are a rarity. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

The 'F-word' does not crop up in conversations among Tourlestrane players ahead of tomorrow's Sligo SFC final against Eastern Harps at Markievicz Park.

That's 'F' as in 'favourites' and not the swear word that is so commonly used even in ordinary conversation by Irish people.

In this case Tourlestrane, co-managed by former All-Star Eamonn O'Hara and his ex-county team-mate Gerry McGowan, go into the decider as holders and yes, you've guessed it, rated as favourites by media and neutral observers.

Thanks, but no thanks is the view of O'Hara, especially as back-to-back title wins in Sligo are a rarity. The last club to achieve that feat were St Patrick's, and that was in 1989.

"We have to deal with the favourites tag, but thankfully enough of us are long enough around not to be fooled by that," said O'Hara.

"It's a case of very much another game. Yes, it's a big occasion but we need to solely concentrate on ourselves and getting our performance right.

"If Eastern Harps come with a performance that's better than ours, we'll wish them well, but all we can do is just really, really concentrate on ourselves."

The co-manager retired from county football in 2013 at the age of 37 after 19 years wearing the Sligo colours.

He won his All-Star in 2002, played Compromise Rules for Ireland, gained a coveted Connacht Championship medal in 2007, and ended his career with the accolade of being Sligo's longest-serving player.

At club level he won eight medals with Tourlestrane as a player and co-managed the club to the county title with McGowan last year.

O'Hara was a winner as a player and shrugs off the 28-year hoodoo that has afflicted reigning champions.

"History hasn't been good to a defending champions, and we're defending champions," he said.

"If somebody wants to take motivation from that, let them do that. We just have to worry solely about ourselves.

"All we're worried about is our performance and doing our level best to win the game."

Eastern Harps, managed by Shane King, were last in a final in 2010, and that year they won the Owen B Hunt Cup, defeating Tourlestrane.

King captained Harps in 2010 and hopes for a repeat as team boss.

His club has waited seven years to get back to the final, but King believes his young team have learned and improved over the last three campaigns. Now it's about mental stability and focus.

"The hype around the area is massive, so over the last ten days, we have been trying to keep the lads grounded," said King.

"It's just an hour's football. There will be butterflies and that's to be expected. To me, that always drives on a team."

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