Marc leads a very healthy Bray camp
LIFTING the O’Donoghue Cup for Bray captain Marc Lennon would be as much about paying a tribute to the past as it would be about offering a helping hand to the future.
Since he was a child, Marc Lennon has hurled for Bray. Part of that golden generation that arrived when all sorts of shoulders were put to the hurling wheel by a committed and driven group of people, Marc is feverishly passionate about his club and his game and he is also aware of the threats to both if focus is lost in a town that is bursting with opportunities for other sports.
Bray’s rise in the world of Wicklow hurling is a wonderful achievement, and despite a relatively bleak spell that has followed since their county final defeat in 2017 when Glenealy thwarted their four-in-a-row dreams, they are back with a bang this season with Marc as captain and manager Paul Carley having tapped into the undeniable potential within a squad of hugely talented hurlers.
Hurling in Bray and the far north of the county needs success to maintain the drive, to fuel the passion and instill a love and a passion for the game in the next generation and the one after and the one after. That’s why if it is to be Marc Lennon climbing the steps to collect the cup from County Chairman Martin Fitzgerald it will not only be a magical reflection on the work of Liam McGraynor, Chris Masterson, Christy Maloney and John Henderson to name just a few, but it will also be a huge boost to hurling in the town.
There’s an undeniable calmness to Marc Lennon, both on the phone and in person. The 24-yearold is softly spoken, enthusiastic and obliging and refreshingly pleasant. The Bray captain began hurling with Bray Emmets in their academy in Loughlinstown as a very young child and would have progressed all the way up along through the ranks, lining out in goals for some of his underage career before unleashing his creativity and boundless energy out the field.
Marc was midfield on that magical night in Thurles when the Wicklow under-21 hurlers defeated Meath in the All-Ireland under-21 ‘B’ hurling final in 2015 with, interestingly, Jonathan O’Neill Snr as his manager, and, no doubt, both will cross paths on Sunday afternoon with little thought given to the adventures they shared on that wonderful journey.
An extremely talented basketball player for Pres Bray during his school days, Marc also captained Bray to the Minor county crown in 2013 when they came through a replay battle with Glenealy that year so leading teams and playing in big competitions is nothing new to the Bray Emmets captain.
During our chat, we mention the aforementioned dip in form of the Bray Emmets Senior side since 2017 and since the stepping down of John Henderson Snr as manager.
Marc Lennon agrees that things went a little south for a time, but he says that manager Paul Carley has completely changed the mindset.
‘Hard to say where we went off track,’ said Marc, ‘We’ve been the same team for two or three years, we lost a body or two. The last two years Paul Carley has been brilliant. He’s brought a real belief to the squad. He has us all rearing to go and we have all the young lads coming through, the likes of Davy Maloney, Ronan McMahon, Cian Lohan. We have that competition this year,’ he said.
Marc is referring to what can happen in any club if a group of players become too comfortable in their team and are not being pushed for their place by other hungry hurlers just bursting for a chance. It’s abundantly clear that Bray’s performances this year (unbeaten in the championship) and their competing in in the Dublin league has brought them a level of sharpness that has been absent since the moving on of John Henderson Snr.
‘Paul’s a great man,’ said Marc regardng manager Paul Carley from Glynn-Barntown in Wexford. ‘He’s got his own way of hurling, it’s quick. Everyone wants to be on the team. Paul has everyone enjoying their hurling but if you’re not playing up to the standard then there are people to take your place.
‘Lads can just get comfortable but this year everyone knows they have to up their game.
‘It’s great fun as well,’ added Marc. ‘He’s a great man to get the buy in.
‘We haven’t had that since John Snr left. There was a bit of a gap. It was very hard for Tommy Carroll to come into that scene. He did his best but he possibly didn’t get the buy in,’ said Marc.
If buy in was missing two years ago it’s certainly not missing this year. Unbeaten in the championship, accounting for Glenealy and Carnew in the league section and coming through a war against Pat’s in frightful conditions in Aughrim in the semi-final.
‘It’s been a great campaign,’ said Marc. ‘Everyone’s target was to get to the county final, and we’ve got there, and we’ve played some good hurling. Probably, last Saturday (against Pat’s) was not our best game. Pat’s have been very well set up. Mick (Neary) has done a great job there and you always have the threat of Andy (O’Brien) and ‘Dee’ (O’Brien),’ he added.
It’s Glenealy in the final, no strangers to Marc or his Bray Emmets colleagues. They toppled Glenealy at the start of their wonderful run of titles and as mentioned it was Glenealy who took the greatest pleasure in wrecking Bray’s dreams of a four-in-a-row in 2016 so the scene is set for a savage battle come Sunday.
‘We know we are in for a massive test next Sunday. They are the county champions for two years in a row and they’re a great team. They’ve young lads, the likes of ‘Bosco Jnr’ (Jonathon O’Neill), ‘Flash’ (Gary Hughes). It’s hard to say (where it will be won and lost). The work rate of both teams will have to be astronomical. It could come down to who is going to get the goals,’ he added.
Marc Lennon says winning on Sunday would mean everything to him and his Bray colleagues. It would be a huge honour for him to lead what he describes as a ‘fantastic group’ of players and it would give hurling in Bray a massive boost.
Be prepared for a monstrous battle on Sunday.
And if you look towards the trenches be prepared to see Marc Lennon toiling harder than most. He’s invested everything into this, his past and Bray’s future. Now it’s down to the present, and no better man than Marc Lennon to drive it over the line.
Bray captain Marc Lennon on a magical night for Wicklow hurling in 2015.
Marc in Aughrim last Sunday.