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Monday 18 December 2017

Sharry salutes 'outrageous' Heslin and 'unsung heroes' behind Loman's quest

St Loman’s senior footballer Paul Sharry. Pic: Sportsfile
St Loman’s senior footballer Paul Sharry. Pic: Sportsfile

Paul Sharry knows all about Leinster finals that slip inexorably out of reach until the opposition has disappeared over the horizon.

He was, after all, a Westmeath footballer who fought the brave first half fight before the Dubs accelerated to double-digit success in 2015 and '16.

Most neutral observers surmise that players such as Sharry have zero chance of landing a Leinster SFC medal any year soon - all because of that all-enveloping Sky Blue shadow.

But the club scene is different; it certainly became thus after St Vincent's were ambushed by Wicklow's Rathnew in this year's quarter-final.

St Loman's were on the other side of the draw but - having negotiated their way past Mullinalaghta (Longford) and Simonstown (Meath), in Herculean comeback fashion - they can now embrace their maiden AIB provincial club final, against Moorefield in Portlaoise this Sunday (2.0).

So, your best chance of winning a Leinster medal?

"That's true, that's an honest opinion on it," Sharry accepts. "I'd say it was the exact same for every team when Rathnew beat St Vincent's, the same talk going 'Jesus, it's a great opportunity now, a level playing field'.

"Say, for example, it was us against Vincent's in the Leinster final. Everyone would be saying they're red-hot favourites, whereas they might be saying ourselves or Moorefield are slight favourites, but it wouldn't be a major upset if either wins.

Fire

"It's a 50-50 game, in my opinion. We look at it as a winnable game, no more than they do too. It's after putting a nice bit of a fire under that championship."

Hard to argue with that assessment: BoyleSports can't separate our two protagonists, Paddy Power have Loman's as the most marginal of favourites.

If there is one reason to separate them, perhaps it's the X-factor provided by Loman's skipper John Heslin.

Sharry turns 29 next month whereas his club and county colleague is still only 25; but you still get the sense that he looks up to him as a real leader. And, of course, a brilliant footballer.

Take his solo-goal straight from the throw-in at this year's Westmeath SFC final against Tyrrellspass. The catch, the run, the one-two, the unstoppable finish … it's a YouTube moment thankfully preserved for posterity.

"That was unbelievable, wasn't it?" says Sharry. "We were only saying beforehand that our idea was to get an early goal. Tyrrellspass are a rival team, and if you give them hope it will turn into a fight of a game.

"So we came up with a few routines, ideas for throw-ins, how we are going to make space, and for a full-forward to be on their own in the first ten minutes. That all went out the window after ten seconds when he just went up the pitch and drilled it in."

Has he ever seen a better goal?

"No, that was outrageous. The only one that came close was when Denis Glennon got a goal against Tyrone in the Park ... that one by 'Hess' was outrageous, though."

Yet Sharry is keen to stress that Loman's are no one-man band.

"The unsung heroes are what give you confidence," he expands. "As in our full-back line - guys there that are unbelievably tigerish corner-backs and you wouldn't even know their names, but they've done so much work for us.

"You have to understand that every goal they stop going in, it's three points less that John has to kick ... that's what gives me confidence, those players back there that do so much unseen work, and then get the ball to John to kick scores.

Kickers

"John is 110 per cent one of the best kickers of a ball you're ever going to see, and you're nearly 100 per cent sure he's going to score when he has it, right or left. But we've good players to get him the ball in places where he can score."

Sharry has been so consumed by this club campaign that thoughts of Westmeath haven't even entered his thinking. He doesn't know a lot about new manager Colin Kelly but has only positive words about his predecessor.

Tom Cribbin endured a roller-coaster three years embracing two relegations, one promotion, a 31-point collapse to Dublin last June countered by back-to-back Leinster final appearances.

"I enjoyed Tom," says Sharry. "Like, you can tell why he was successful in business.

"I think it transfers from business into sport, that approach. He'd do absolutely everything under the sun to be prepared for stuff. Obviously sometimes it backfired; sometimes it went well.

"All I ask from someone is to give 110pc commitment to the job, especially if you are giving the commitment to it, and you couldn't fault him on that. He gave everything to the position when he was there, looked after us tremendously," he adds.

"I played football under some managers where it was just a nightmare. You would struggle to get yourself out the door to go training where, with him, it was always enjoyable to go."

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