McElwee keeping Na Fianna heroes focused on future
NA FIANNA'S ascent in Dublin football was boosted by the success of their U21 footballers last Wednesday night, but manager Philip McElwee cautioned that it will still take patience and time to reach the summit.
The St Mobhi Road outfit made up for recent disappointments in the U21FC 'A' decider when they edged out Kilmacud Crokes in an exciting finale, after which McElwee was quick to emphasis that it's a case of 'a lot done, more to do' with regard the development of the talented crop of young players emerging on St Mobhi Road.
"It takes a lot of patience. It's part of the evolution of their development and it needs to be carried through.
"But the potential is there and it is up to the lads themselves now to move forward and take it a stage further," said McElwee, who is also a selector with the Dublin minor footballers this year, just as he was last year.
Preparing for finals in the grade is not uncommon on St Mobhi road as the Glasnevin men narrowly lost out in both the 2007 (to Ballymun Kickhams) and 2010 (Lucan Sarsfields) deciders, a fact that McElwee said was used to their advantage.
"We explained to them what had gone before and that stood to them," he said.
"When the pressure came on near the finish they dug deep.
"We finished the game well and, after weathering the storm, we got control again and came through very strong.
"I think after they (Kilmacud Crokes) got to within a point we kept our head and used the ball well and they didn't score again in the final seven or eight minutes. Then we got a late score which broke their spirit a bit."
Indeed Na Fianna appeared to be cruising at one stage, as they led by seven points entering the final quarter only to be pegged back by a late Crokes rally -- something that did not surprise the Derry native.
"Crokes are a very skilful side and we knew they would come at some stage and we had spoken about that.
"They have a lot of experience and class and there is only so long you can stay on top in a match.
"When we came under the cosh we made a few positional switches and that settled us again."
Man of the match Conor McHugh was particularly impressive for the champions.
His three points from play were merely a small part of his overall contribution to the victory.
McElwee was no doubt delighted with the performance of his corner forward but was keen to stress the importance of the platform created for McHugh to wreak havoc.
"The quality of ball he was getting was a big help to him," said McElwee. "A forward can be making runs all over the place but he can't do much if the ball doesn't come so it is important that credit is given to the lads out the field."
Preparation for the game was far from ideal. A two-month wait after the semi-final coupled with commitments of players to various other teams made things difficult. With that in mind, McElwee took the opportunity to praise both sets of players.
"Of course it was difficult," the schoolteacher mused.
"Other things are going on like college football and various county teams. We had to respect that and the attitude of the lads has been top class.
"But it was the same for both teams and Kilmacud Crokes had the same problems. I thought both teams deserved huge credit for the manner in which they played," added McElwee.
"It was hard hitting but very sporting, no badness whatsoever and it was a great advertisement. Kilmacud are great ambassadors for the game."