herald

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Roly's climb from pits of hell to heaven

Moorefield's win with 13 men delivers redemption for club and its veteran star Sweeney

Moorefield’s Ronan Sweeney in action against Celbridge’s Hugh McGrillen during the Kildare
SFC Final at St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge, Kildare on Sunday. Pic: Sportsfile
Moorefield’s Ronan Sweeney in action against Celbridge’s Hugh McGrillen during the Kildare SFC Final at St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge, Kildare on Sunday. Pic: Sportsfile

Cast your mind back to a different October and a very different dressing-room. "This time last year," says Ronan Sweeney, "I was in the pits of hell."

The Kildare selector is now 37 but still good enough to cut the mustard in a county final. On Sunday he collected his eighth Kildare SFC medal, courtesy of 13-man Moorefield's heroic resistance against Celbridge and the numerical odds.

Title number eight, of course, could have come a year earlier. The way Sweeney talks, it should have done so … but then he got himself sent off at a key juncture in the final quarter, and the plaudits went instead to their arch rivals and Newbridge neighbours, Sarsfields.

A long time to wait, 12 months?

"It is," he admits, "and I've thought about it nearly every day, to be honest with you. I have. I actually have a thing on my wall that reminds me every day, so I have to think about it!

"It's actually a newspaper cutting … it mentions that I let my team down. That's all it says. Ronan Sweeney's red card let his side down.

"So I just didn't want to let that happen again. Whether we won it or not, I didn't want to let the lads down again. So it's an extra bonus that you can have the trophy."

Redemption

'Roly' had been playing well before his red mist tangle with Gary White that day. But it wasn't just a case of chasing personal redemption. "As a group we were too," he outlines, "because I felt we left it behind us last year anyway. I thought we were by far the better team last year - and no disrespect to Sarsfields, they were worthy champions.

"I think we really let ourselves down last year. And we got back this year, we finished top of the table and won the league. And winning the championship now …"

Moreover, winning it the hard way. The irony is that the task on Sunday was far steeper still: instead of being one player down for the closing stages, they were two men short for two-thirds of the contest after rapid-fire straight red cards for skipper Daryl Flynn and David Whyte.

This double-whammy, after 18 and 20 minutes, coming just after the psychological blow of a missed penalty, prompted manager Ross Glavin to summon his most experienced player from the bench. Enter Sweeney. But what was he thinking?

"No panic," he reveals. "I really wasn't. It was like 'We can do this.'

"Look, if it was a real sunny day it mightn't have suited us with two men down. But on a wet day like that, you can play to the conditions, you can play to the referee and you can slow the game down much easier - which we had to, with two men down.

"Ultimately we worked unbelievably hard."

And this trait, he reasons, can still carry them a long way in Leinster.

There, be it against Rhode of Offaly or Portlaoise of Laois, Moorefield will be squaring off against a seriously battle-hardened provincial contender on November 12.

When we spoke, Sweeney wasn't sure how the suspension rules interlinking county and province would impact on Moorefield; suffice to say, unless their red cards are rescinded, Flynn and Whyte will miss that AIB Leinster club quarter-final.

But Sweeney - who nailed two penalties, against Rhode, when Moorefield won their solitary Leinster title in 2006 - says of the current group: "I really think they can achieve anything. There's an unbelievable belief in each other.

"There's no superstars, we're not looking to anybody individually to carry us over the line, there's always somebody different that gets us there. Kevin Murnaghan was man of the match (on Sunday), he was outstanding. The last day it was Eanna O'Connor, Adam Tyrrell. The time before that it was Aaron Masterson, Daryl Flynn.

"I think you can go an awful long way in the club championship, especially in these conditions, when you're just willing to fight for everything - for every scrap. And plus, don't get me wrong, it's not all about that, we have real quality too."

Sick

His manager has echoed that clarion call to the Moorefield troops. "We've been there a few times before," says Ross Glavin, "and I'm sick of people having the theory in Moorefield that 'we're in bonus territory now'. That's absolutely never been anything mentioned in this group since the start of the year.

"We've done what we had to do to win a county title. We've a more than capable team and squad to go on and beat any team in the country on any given day.

"So we're going to be targeting improving in training and getting better and getting ready for a Leinster quarter-final."

Promoted articles

Entertainment News