‘Blood, sweat and tears have to go into the game’
IT has taken Kevin John Rogers 13 years and eight semi-finals to finally make it to Sunday’s showdown. The 30-year old was still in nappies when Blessington last made it to the same stage in 1988 and he has begun to fear that he would never get to experience a final before hanging up his boots.
The wing-back is as flummoxed as anyone else as to why it has taken Blessington, a consistent powerhouse in Wicklow GAA, 29 years to give themselves a chance to clinch the SFC for the first time since 1983.
It inevitably became a bit of a jinx in some minds but now that Rogers and co. have conquered the mountain, they want to conquer the village next.
“It’s great to get to a final. It’s been 29 years now and I’ve played in a lot of good Blessington teams – this is my 13th year at senior. It’s great to finally be there.”
“It’s remarkable because we’ve always been in the top four or whatever. Even in the early stages of the championship this year, another year nearly went by where we didn’t take our chances. We’d plenty of chances to beat both Kiltegan and Arklow and we left them in the game and left them in the game longer and didn’t kill them off and we nearly paid the price for it.”
There was no shortage of talent in Blessington and every season, they planned on assault on the championship which Rogers worried wouldn’t arise in his playing days.
“Genuine ambitions to win the championship (every year). When I first came onto the panel in 2005, from the players that were on the panel at the time I honestly thought that we’d get to final after final but it didn’t work out that way. We just couldn’t get over the line. Hopefully we put all that right on Sunday.
“It was getting to that stage (that I thought I’d never play in a final). It was semi-final after semi-final and I think in 2013 was our best chance – we were beaten by two points by Baltinglass but we had been a point up with less than five minutes to go. It was a knock-on effect.
“It does play on your mind a bit but this year is different. This year, we had a good chat and pulled everyone in together after we had been beaten by Arklow. We said from here on in, it’s knockout football and then we got the big draw against Pat’s and nobody gave us a chance but we knew within ourselves that we definitely had the players to beat Pat’s. We executed the game-plan on the day.”
Manager Barry O’Donovan’s gameplan may have worked that day, but he’s had to plot Rathnew’s downfall from Melbourne having emigrated there recently. He will return for Sunday. It may not be ideal preparation but Rogers doesn’t think it will stop Blessington from overcoming Rathnew.
“We’d have preferred to have had him with us the whole way to the final but he had work commitments so there’s nothing we can do. There’s nothing we can but it won’t affect the panel at all – we’ve sorted everything out.
“They’ll be hard beaten but sure listen, we’ll up for the challenge and they’re the one team that we haven’t beaten in the championship so no better way to beat them than in the final.
“It’s a final now. It’s a 50-50 game and it’s all or nothing. Blood, sweat and tears have to go into the game from 1-15.”
Blessington captain Kevin John Rogers gets his shot away despite the attention from Paudge McWalter of St Patrick’s.