SPECIAL COUNTY FINAL PREVIEW
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that Cathal Henry seemed to be over the worst of the effects of a collision with his marker shortly after Harte was withdrawn.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.