AGB won’t feel the pres­sure says boss

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - SPORT - BREN­DAN LAWRENCE

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.

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