Dunlavin have come a long way af­ter tough times

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - SPORT -

DUNLAVIN has known its share of tough times in re­cent years, on and off the foot­ball field and Sun­day’s Darcy Sand In­ter­me­di­ate Foot­ball fi­nal against Kil­macanogue presents a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity for a sport­ing suc­cess to pro­vide a mas­sive boost for a proud foot­balling com­mu­nity.

Dunlavin last ap­peared in a fi­nal in 2017 when they were heav­ily de­feated by Hol­ly­wood in the fi­nal, con­ced­ing five ham­mer-blow goals.

How­ever, all that paled into ut­ter in­signif­i­cance when the club and com­mu­nity lost one of their own when Louis Caplis died in tragic cir­cum­stances.

Pri­or­i­ties and what’s im­por­tant in life were firmly ar­ranged for the com­mu­nity on that ter­ri­ble day but it is per­haps a sign of what is truly won­der­ful about or­gan­i­sa­tions like the GAA that Louis’ col­leagues have tight­ened their bonds, em­braced each other and their com­mon sport­ing goal and turned in a year of foot­ball that has them 60 min­utes away from Se­nior foot­ball.

We meet team cap­tain Sean Phe­lan and man­ager Jon­athan Daniels in the lovely Dunlavin GAA club­house and we speak for al­most an hour and, sadly, only a small per­cent­age of that cov­er­sa­tion can make it into and interview but both men are can­did and hon­est and open about where this team have came from and where they hope it’s go­ing.

‘This is the time of year when pitches are wet, the wind is blow­ing and you love train­ing be­cause if you’re train­ing at the end of Septem­ber, start of Oc­to­ber you’re train­ing for some­thing re­ally im­por­tant.

‘It’s a real good time. It’s easy to mo­ti­vate your­self, peo­ple around you,’ be­gins Jon­athan Daniels, for­merly the man­ager of Kil­macanogue for three years, win­ning the Ju­nior ‘A’ ti­tle with them.

Dunlavin cap­tain Sean Phe­lan re­flects on where the team have came from since that fi­nal de­feat to Hol­ly­wood even though nei­ther he nor Daniels were in­volved back then.

‘Nei­ther of us were part of the squad that year. I had prior com­mit­ments with col­lege. It was a case of start­ing from scratch again, what we’re good at.

‘I think when Jon­athan came in he asked us what were the val­ues, the ethos, what we thought we were,’ he said.

Jon­athan Daniels said that when he started with the team he was look­ing for play­ers to be hon­est about where they were.

‘When I came in, it felt like a tran­si­tion. I felt I was go­ing to take over a very dif­fer­ent team. When I came in, from that county fi­nal, def­i­nitely 10 play­ers had moved on for var­i­ous rea­sons. When we came in first I wanted to find out what were the val­ues of the team, what did they be­lieve in. I thought it was quite in­ter­est­ing, we were in this room and we asked the play­ers what do you think other teams would say about Dunlavin,’ he said.

‘What we were look­ing for in that con­ver­sa­tion was hon­esty, and that peo­ple were able to look each other in the eye and have an hon­est con­ver­sa­tion, and go, ‘right, we felt that peo­ple looked at us as a re­ally good foot­balling side’, and that’s all they thought.

‘So what do we need to add, what other mov­ing parts do we need to add?

‘When I came in I found that the ex­pec­ta­tion in Dunlavin is very high, on the ground. You’re com­ing in and you have fel­lows with dou­ble Mi­nor medals, there’s no short­age of un­der­age medals, no short­age of good pedi­gree so the ex­pec­ta­tion is very high. When I came in you were deal­ing with 10 play­ers that had gone from a county fi­nal. You get to a fi­nal and you take learn­ings from it. I don’t think you take much learn­ings from con­ced­ing five goals. Af­ter con­ced­ing five goals, a lot of peo­ple want to park it and move for­ward,’ he said.

Last season, Dunlavin com­peted in Divi­sion 1 of the foot­ball league but Jon­athan Daniels feels that the team have been much bet­ter served by play­ing in Divi­sion 1A which is a much closer re­flec­tion of what In­ter­me­di­ate cham­pi­onship is like rather than get­ting a false im­pres­sion by play­ing the top foot­ball teams in the county.

‘I think that when you’re play­ing In­ter­me­di­ate cham­pi­onship, I don’t think play­ing Divi­sion 1 foot­ball serves you very well. It’s a dif­fer­ent type of foot­ball and you get a false im­pres­sion of where you are,’ he said.

‘You’re play­ing your best 15, you’re not get­ting a chance to give other lads game time. Be­ing in Divi­sion 1A gave us that op­por­tu­nity this year,’ aded Sean Phe­lan.

‘We couldn’t go to those top five teams and play our young guys in de­fence. You’d be mark­ing a re­ally top for­ward,’ said Jon­athan.

Sean re­flects back on where the team have came from since the de­feat to Hol­ly­wood.

‘I think the unit of the team now, ev­ery­body started fresh at that stage.

‘It’s just been a con­stand jour­ney, ev­ery­body to­gether and we’ve stayed that small group and ev­erey­body hass got closer and closer. It’s about build­ing those re­la­tion­ships again, the core team, the av­er­age age is about 22 or 23, ev­ery­body is all on the one wave­lenght, they do ev­ery­thing to­gether and that has been a huge thing for us.

‘In terms of last year, we had a hard time to get over but I think we’ve come out the other end of it and I think it has served us, not only hav­ing the team so close to­gether, bt the club and the town around you, sup­port­ing you, just know­ing that you’re do­ing it for yourslef and for ev­ery­body else, the panel is just that much stronger.

‘It was cru­cial re­ally, and not just the club but the GAA com­mu­nity. Com­ing up through the town on the day of Louis’ funeral and see­ing all the dif­fer­ent jer­seys up along, that’s some­thing that me and the lads and the town it­self will never for­get. It just goes to show that the GAA can have such an im­pact on peo­ple’s lives. Re­spect for each other,’ he added.

Sean Phe­lan is a 25-year-old teacher and this is his first cap­taincy of any Dunlavin team at any level de­spite win­ning two Mi­nor county medals.

He says it’s the big­gest hon­our of his foot­balling ca­reer to date.

‘Prob­a­bly the big­gest hon­our I’ve re­ceived. Apart from win­ning the two Mi­nor cham­pi­onships, I don’t think there’s any­thing else. I sat in the stand 10 years ago and I al­ways felt hard done by at un­der­age level not get­ting the cap­taincy and then I seen in 2009 when they won it that that’s my dream now and when Jon­athan said in Novemn­ber of last year, from then on that;’s my role and I’m go­ing to di it the best I can,’ he said.

Jon­athan Daniels says that what he was look­ing for in a cap­tain was some­one that all the play­ers would look up to and in Sean Phe­lan he found the per­fect match.

‘It’s young group of­play­ers and you’re al­ways look­ing fro one player to stand out from that grop. You’re not look­ing for the big­gest talker, you’re look­ing for that one per­son who the playrs will look to and re­spect at dif­fer­ent times sdur­ing the year. He’s the glue that keeps them to­gether,’ he said.

Jon­athan Daniels knows Kil­macanogue foot­ball just as Kil­macanogue foot­ballers know him.

He says in a per­fect world he’d rather be play­ing an­other team be­cause of the friend­ships he holds with so many peo­ple over in the shadow of the Su­gar­loaf.

‘In the per­fect world I’d pre­fer to be play­ing some­one else and it’s purely be­cause of the con­nec­tion be­cause I have a lot of good friends over there. I’m still in reg­u­lar con­tact with lots of peo­ple over there. I’ve a lot of re­spect for them.

‘You only have to see what they’ve done over there, the fa­cil­i­ties, the peoiple around them, it’s phe­nom­e­nal. I have a mas­sive amount of re­spect for them. But we want to de­liver over here. I have huge connnec­tions over here. My fam­ily are from here. My brother played in the 1997 fi­nal for Dunlavin,’ he added. .

The Dunlavin boss says that he’s ex­pect­ing a pure game of foot­ball on Sun­day given how sim­i­lar the teams are to each other.

‘I 100 per cent agree. It’s two teams that want to play foot­ball, there are no dark arts, I think it’s go­ing to be an open game of foot­ball. They’re hugely ath­letic, they’re quick, and if you match us up we’re prob­a­bly quite sim­i­lar. I think it’s go­ing to be re­ally in­trigu­ing,’ he said.

Ac­tion from Dunlavin’s semi-fi­nal against Kil­coole. Jon­athan Daniels will be hop­ing for an­other fine per­for­mance from his charges.

Dunlavin man­ager Jon­athan Daniels with cap­tain Sean Phe­lan at the club­house last Fri­day evening.

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