As he prepares to lead his club into the senior championship for the first time in 20 years, Monasterevan captain JOHN DEMPSEY reflects on an unforgettable season
It was a great feeling to finally win something, we were a long time trying to do it. A couple of years ago we went close but we threw it away and thought that maybe we had lost our chance.
A lot of hard work went into winning the intermediate championship. Pascal Kellaghan came in and that gave us the lift we needed to push the team on and get us there. He brought the commitment out of players, everyone bought into his vision and it worked out brilliantly in the end.
Lifting that trophy was the best moment of my football career and it was fantastic for the town as well. Monasterevan has always been a football mad place and the Kehoe Cup was the only trophy we had won in the last few years so to win a county title was brilliant.
I started playing for the club at under-12 level but I’m on the senior team for 20 years now. I went onto the panel when I was just 15 and I’ve played ever since.
The commitment was unbelievable. We were training three times a week, on the field two nights and in the gym and had a match at the weekend. At the start of the year we said if we put the effort in and got all our players back and everyone stayed fit then we had a chance.
Our main objective last year was to win the Kildare championship and anything after that would be nice. Once you’re in Leinster you go all out trying to win it. We had our celebrations after the county final and we put that to one side and said we would go for Leinster so to win that was fantastic. We got a brilliant bonus.
PREPARING FOR THE BIG TIME
Last year was such a long season and because of that we only came back training just before the league started. We didn’t have a prep game before we played Moorefield and it gave us a taste of what is to come for the season. The match showed us that this is a new year and we have to start all over again. We needed to intensify our training and increase the fitness levels. Everyone gave the commitment that we to go back and give it another go at senior level.
Pascal has eased us back into the training and hasn’t been overly hard on us yet. We’re picking up the pace coming into the championship though. We train Tuesdays and Fridays because a good few of the young lads on the team are in college so it’s great to have them back training with us on Friday nights. During the week you would be down a few with lads working in Dublin or away studying so on Friday the whole team is back home and we have a good team training session. It can be hard when you have a league game on Saturday because you have to put the effort in the night before but it’s the only time we get to do the extra work.
A GOOD MIX
There are just myself and a couple of others who have been playing for a while and we have a good mix of young players coming through. Wayne Fitzpatrick was one last year and Jake Kennedy has come on to the team this year, who wasn’t part of it last year, and so far he has made a big impact. It’s important to bring lads through from minors and u21s so we can keep adding to the panel. We need to keep doing that because we are losing one or two players who have to emigrate for work.
It doesn’t take long for the young players to settle in. We would know them from coming through the underage system and would often have the banter up at the pitches with them and watch them training so we would have a fair idea about them before they start playing senior football.
When I was 16 or 17, I remember playing senior championship but at that stage we were on the way down. (Monasterevan won the Kildare senior championship in 1978 but decided to drop down to intermediate after the 1992-1993 season) There was no intermediate championship in Kildare at the time and Monasterevan looked to go down because we didn’t have the panel to compete at senior level.
The Kildare championship is hugely competitive and this year our main priority is to stay senior. Ideally we want to win one of the first few games and not get dragged down into the relegation battle in our first year back. We would like to win a couple of games and get on a bit in the championship. It would be lovely to get to the quarter-finals maybe but the most important thing is not to get sucked into a fight against relegation for this year.
The more games you get playing senior football it improves the team. We gain experience from that and we can build on it. That’s good for the team and especially the young lads coming through. There’s a gap between the first couple of games so if we could win or first match that would relieve a bit of the pressure on us and we could go on and enjoy our football for the summer.
I’m looking forward to getting the chance to play senior football. The club has put in a lot of effort over the last few years. They are redeveloping the pitch and building a new clubhouse and attracted a lot of underage players so to be able to say that we are a senior football club is a huge thing for us. If you want to attract players to the club we need to do that.
SUCCESS BREEDS SUCCESS
For years we were stuck and happy playing Division One football and finishing in mid-table but we wanted to push on and win the championship and that has been a great boost for the town and the club. The ladies’ team are flying as well, they won their championship the year before us and out underage teams are enjoying success too. We are all spurring each other on.
I was at the juvenile awards night and I’ve never seen so many medals handed out. It was great to see and hopefully the future can be bright for the club.