Casey has Pat’s fit and focused
‘It’s all on the day - simple as that’
CASEY O’BRIEN must play poker. He is about to guide his side into a county final for the first time since 2012 and has the opportunity to topple their fiercest rivals in the process but he is far from a Christmas Eve child. He is composed, calm and most certainly keeping his cards nailed to his chest.
Throughout our conversation – and indeed even hinted at in our chat with captain Dean Healy – there is one reoccurring theme; it’s just another game. The sports psychology is in full effect in Wicklow Town – St. Patrick’s are here to play a game and not an occasion.
For many of O’Brien’s panel, this is a first taste of the big time. It’ll be the first time they stand for the national anthem and the first time they march around Aughrim but O’Brien doesn’t foresee any issues with that.
‘I think they’ll be okay. At the end of the day, it is a county final but it is still just a game of football. For a lot of the lads there will be a lot of things going with it but it is just another game of football. All these lads have played a lot of games of football since they were small kids and this is just another game. Once that ball is thrown in, the ‘county final’ aspect won’t affect them at all.’
The fact that it will be Rathnew in the opposing changing room also has little bearing on O’Brien’s mind.
‘It doesn’t matter who you play in the final. It’s going to be tough. It’s a local game and we’ve everyone living in the one parish but no matter who you play in a county final; it’ll be the two best teams in the county playing in it.
That’s the case every year no matter who is in it. The two best teams will play in the final every year and it’s going to be hard against Rathnew without a doubt. They’re the kingpins of Wicklow football but if you win a county final then they are the team to beat - simple as that.’
How does the Pat’s boss plan on stopping Harry Murphy’s men? ‘I’m not going to tell you!’. As for how O’Brien guided Pat’s back to the promised land of the county final for the first time since 2012, it just took a few small ingredients.
‘I wouldn’t say there’s any secret. We just worked hard and trained hard and there was a lot of commitment made by the whole panel. There was no real secret; we’ve just put our heads down and worked really hard and it’s brought us to a county final. We have one more football match for us to try and come out on top.’
Defeat on Sunday will see their hunt for Miley extend to a seventh year and would make it four defeats in four finals so shaking that monkey off the back would be monumental for this Pat’s side.
‘Six years is a long time. There’s still a few lads around that were on that team but there’s an awful lot of new lads coming through. We’ve a lot of lads there that are dying to win a championship and hopefully it’ll be this Sunday.
‘We want to win. We’ve lost enough county finals over the years. We don’t want to lose but I’m sure Rathnew won’t want to either.
‘There’s pressure on both teams. If you get to a final, there’ll always be pressure on both teams. I firmly believe these games - all championship games - take a life of their own when the ball is thrown in. It’ll be no different on Sunday; this game will take its own course once that ball is thrown in. Both teams are under pressure to win whenever you get to a county final.’
Pat’s looked the more impressive in the semi-finals as they cast Hollywood aside whilst Rathnew were left clinging on against AGB. Those matches, and what victory on Sunday could mean for his side’s long-term future, are not on O’Brien’s mind right now.
‘We were very good but I don’t think either semi-final will have any bearing come Sunday. Out of every game that has been played in the championship this year; none of them will have any bearing on Sunday. It’s all on the day - simple as that.
‘I’m not thinking about any other year at all. We won’t worry about where we’ll be next year; it’s just this year, this Sunday. That’s all we’re worried about’.
St Pat’s manager Casey O’Brien has brought a steel to his side that has been absent for some time.