AGB won’t feel the pressure says boss
DAMIEN Redmond has known a few magical days as manager of AGB but last Saturday evening’s dramatic second-half display against Blessington in a soaking wet Baltinglass must rank up there with the greatest of them all.
It looked for all the world like his AGB side were set to exit the championship having performed so solidly and consistently throughout only for them to produce yet another comeback of mammoth significance and brilliance.
‘It’s simple. We done everything right in the warm-up, everything was going smoothly, everyone was fairly well on the ball, but when we came out not one thing stuck. They got every breaking ball. Our kick-outs weren’t great in terms of movement, looking for it and high fielding wasn’t great either. Gavin Murray was dictating,’ reflected Redmond in the Arklow Bay Hotel on the Sunday night after the game as he prepared to spend the very short turnaround time of a week planning to put a stop to the St Pat’s machine in the county final.
‘And it’s a lot easier to dictate, to put teams on the backfoot. They’re half-back line were going forward and forward, driving us backward.
‘We were dead and buried at half-time. We just needed to get lads into the dressing room,’ he said.
A half-time speech from Ciaran Hyland was a key ingredient in the turnaround and Redmond says that the performances of the likes of Stephen Hurley and Chris O’Brien gave AGB the platform to go on and topple Mick Murray’s men.
‘James Tyrrell and Karl Kirwan were outstanding in all the game but it took one lad at the start of the second half, well two lads really, but Stephen Hurley, I think it was either Anto or Mick McLoughlin, they couldn’t move without Stephen being in their face. And Chris O’Brien nailed Mikey O’Connor with a shoulder at one stage and the tempo was changed in our favour.
‘We made a few changes, JP went to full-forward, Cal Kelly went to corner-back which is not his preferred position and he still scored a goal from corner-back. He’s been fantastic this year, he’s been struggling with a hamstring injury for the last few years, but he still puts in a massive effort and to get a goal like that, Cal got one in 2016 (against Ballinacor in the IFC final), that’s the reason why we’re here.
‘Ciaran (Hyland) spoke at halftime about turning up and being leaders and I think that Darragh Fitz, Andy Maher when we needed people to drive forward, Stephen Hurley, John Paul Hurley was involved in 3-2 in the second half.
‘We knew that if we could get within a couple of scores of Blessington that we would beat them. We said at half-time that if we got to within a few scores that we would beat them because they would have come back and filter back and that’s what they did,’ said Damien.
Damien Redmond is nothing if not honest, refeshingly so. Any suggestion that his team have enjoyed a very impressive year is quickly shot down.
‘We’ve been consistent, that’s the word we’re using. We haven’t been brilliant.
‘Against Kiltegan we had a great first half, against Tinahely we did enough. It’s all about getting the win, get through games, it doesn’t matter how, whether it’s one point, 10 points or 15 points. It’s about getting to a semi-final to give lads rest and more importantly to give Ciaran and a few other lads carrying injury that gap of five weeks to recover. That was the aim. And even against Rathnew, even though we had an extra player, any day you come out with a point against Rathnew is a good day,’ he said.
The biggest difference for AGB this season is the fact that some of those key younger members of the panel are a year old and a year further dopwn the line of physical development. The likes of Darragh Fitzgerald, Chris O’Brien, Cal Kelly, Andy Maher, Tom Maher, Cathal Kelleher, all so much more confident and capable at this high level of club football.
Redmond also reflects on how that batch of players got started out and when the tide ultimately started turning for AGB.
‘The group is brilliant. We met up for a chat this morning and there were one or two lads speaking up that normally wouldn’t speak up.
‘The biggest thing about the club at the moment is the aspect of family.
‘ This means the world to these people. Jimmy Healy said to me that he never believed that he’d ever see his son playing in a Senior county final. And I reminded him that he might not be,’ joked Damien (sort of).
‘It’s unreal. We filled the Old Ship last night with players and supporters and family and you could feel the buzz. I’ve been getting messages from people that you wouldn’t see at games. The buzz has been unbelievable.
‘It’s all about the money the club put into the club, when Darren Magee started as a full-time coach. He was there for two or three years and he got everything going. That’s where our team began, the likes of Darragh Fitzgerald, Cathal Kelleher and them lads. The likes of Paul Maher, Brian McBride and Eugene Bentley, they kept all those teams going over the years, they won a Féile as well. These lads don’t know how to lose.
‘The town was growing back then; it was starting to expand,’ said Damien.
Redmond is no fool. He knows the strengths possessed by Casey O’Brien’s men.
He understands the attacking power of tommy Kelly, the creativity of Paudge McWalter, the power of Dean Healy, the intelligence of Conor Ffrench, but he also trusts in the talents and strengths of his own group and while he says he’ll have a plan for Tommy Kelly he also says he’ll be getting his guys to try and play their own game and use that to stop St Pat’s getting their first double since 1961.
‘To be honest with you, if we just play our game and get into the game earlier than we have been, we have speed, we have pace, we have lads who can shoot, nobody likes to be up against a team like that and we’re something similar to St Pat’s, we’re footballing teams, there’ll be no dirt or anything on both sides. It’ll be a pure football match.
‘They’ll have players that they’ll have to watch on our team, and we’ll have to mark three or four of their players tightly. The beauty about this year is that we haven’t spoken about any team. Against Blessington Ciaran marked ‘Whacker’ (Patrick O’Connor) but that was it.
‘We’ll just need to get the timings right, like when we’re going to warm up, the small things that can effect teams, the parade, the national anthem, it’s things like that they will be a bit more experienced on.
‘There’s no pressure on us. I don’t feel like there is any pressure on us,’ he added. .
AGBs Chairman John Murphy, secretary Jimmy Dunne, senior captain Ciaran Hyland and Senior players Christopher O’Brien and Darragh Fitzgerald were presented with a new AGB training top by Dick Walsh, general manager of Arklow Bay Hotel during the championship.
AGB manager Damien Redmond.