SPE­CIAL COUNTY FI­NAL PREVIEW

The Sligo Champion - - FRONT PAGE -

TOURLESTRANE will this week mon­i­tor the fit­ness of in­flu­en­tial mid­fielder Pat Harte ahead of this Sun­day’s county fi­nal against neigh­bours Tub­ber­curry.

The mid­fielder limped off mid-way through their semi-fi­nal re­play with Cool­era/Strand­hill last Satur­day hav­ing taken a knock to his leg and had the in­jury heav­ily iced dur­ing the post match hud­dle.

There was some pos­i­tive news on the in­jury front for the south Sligo men, with the news that Cathal Henry seemed to be over the worst of the ef­fects of a col­li­sion with his marker shortly af­ter Harte was with­drawn.

The win was Tourlestrane’s sec­ond game in the space of six days, while the reign­ing cham­pi­ons have just over a week to pre­pare for Tub­ber­curry in what will be a re­peat of the 2013 de­cider.

Joint man­ager Ea­monn O’Hara says that although he would rather have the services of his more ex­pe­ri­enced cam­paign­ers, he is more than will­ing to dip into what is a strong panel.

He told the Sligo Cham­pion: “Un­for­tu­nately we have picked up a few knocks, but that’s the na­ture of the beast.

“Lads like to play foot­ball, but at the same time, the knocks you pick up, it’s a tough ask. Both games with Cool­era were heavy and we paid the con­se­quences with the in­juries we picked up. It’s go­ing to be a chal­lenge.

“But we’ve a panel of play­ers who we can call on. Cathal was a bit con­fused when it hap­pened but he seemed one hun­dred per­cent af­ter the game so maybe it was just from the ini­tial bang. We’re not just sure yet. Our team doctor will sit down with him and make a de­ci­sion in re­la­tion to this week­end, but he was fine af­ter the game.”

Of Harte’s con­di­tion, he con­tin­ued: “We’re more con­cerned about Pat. He’s one of the older lads and his ex­pe­ri­ence for this week­end is vi­tal so we’ll see.

“We’ve that blend of youth and ex­pe­ri­ence and guys com­ing back who’ve been away for some of the sum­mer. The likes of Cian Surlis and Kevin O’Hara are both guys who are still mi­nors and they’ve made an im­pact by mak­ing names for them­selves.

“They’re build­ing up the hours of cham­pi­onship foot­ball so they’ll be the lead­ers in the next few years. But we know they’re there if we need them.”

It took two hours of foot­ball for the 2016 and ’17 cham­pi­ons to dis­pose of John McPart­land’s dogged Cool­era/ Strand­hill side. Two sec­ond half penal­ties helped Tourlestrane on their way, but O’Hara be­lieves they were full value for their win.

“We played much bet­ter on Satur­day and ap­plied our­selves. We were so off it (in the first game), sec­ond to the ball but to­day we were a lot bet­ter. The lads re­ally re­sponded to what we spoke about dur­ing the week.

“We iden­ti­fied our weak­nesses and the mis­takes we made. The first half was al­ways go­ing to be a bat­tle be­cause Cool­era were al­ways go­ing to give you that hard fight.

“In the sec­ond half, once we took own­er­ship we just chipped away. “The penal­ties did help, but we were much bet­ter to­day.”

Tourlestrane’s high press­ing game paid div­i­dends, bring­ing sev­eral mis­takes out of Cool­era/ Strand­hill when in pos­s­e­sion.

“There’s times where you have to drop off and you’re up against teams who are com­fort­able in pos­ses­sion”, he ex­plained.

“We prob­a­bly gave them too much time on the ball in the first game, but we did push up on them and it worked. “We pan­icked them into forc­ing passes that they prob­a­bly didn’t need to make last week. I’m happy with the way we played be­cause we were up for it and that was the most pleas­ing thing for me.”

The green and gold now face into a re­peat of last year’s semi-fi­nal in which they even­tu­ally saw off Tub­ber­curry af­ter a re­play. Look­ing ahead to yet an­other big day out, O’Hara says his play­ers need to be even more clin­i­cal but is care­ful not to put too much pres­sure on them.

“It’s go­ing to be dif­fer­ent (to the semi-fi­nal). “It’s an oc­ca­sion and you don’t want that to get to you be­cause we need to per­form and ex­e­cute our chances.

“Very lit­tle will be done this week. We’ll just be talk­ing about Tub­ber­curry, keep our heads down and pre­pare like we’ve pre­pared for the last two fi­nals.

“We’ll be metic­u­lous and get guys right and let them work on their minds them­selves.”

Sup­port­ers of both sides are set to flock west and to Quiga­bar for this year’s fi­nal which is be­ing played at the Kil­glass venue due to works cur­rently on­go­ing at Markeivicz Park. Weather con­di­tions can be un­pre­dictable on the At­lantic coast, but O’Hara is hope­ful his side can deal with any­thing the day can throw at them.

“We’re con­fi­dent the pitch will be fine”, he notes.

“There can be a gale force wind down there and wet and windy. If it is, it might ruin the game as a spec­ta­cle. But so be it. It’s all about ac­cept­ing the con­di­tions and deal­ing with them and get­ting a re­sult.

“That’s the main thing. Tub­ber­curry are lo­cal to us and when you have that lo­cal ri­valry, it brings a life of its own to the game.”

Away from the lo­cal scene, O’Hara took time to deny the re­cent links be­tween him­self and the va­cant Roscom­mon job.

“That’s a non-run­ner”, he smiles. “Right now my fo­cus is Tourlestrane. I’m not sure where that story is com­ing from. I put my name for­ward for the Sligo job, un­for­tu­nately my work con­di­tions change and I couldn’t com­mit. Man­age­ment of top teams take a lot of time and ef­fort and just don’t have that to give un­for­tu­nately.”

Cathal Henry of Tourlestrane in ac­tion with Cool­era/Strand­hill’s Sean Mur­phy. Pic: Donal Hack­ett.

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