YOU have to lose one to win one is a well worn GAA adage. Perhaps it is said in the immediate aftermath of a defeat to soften the blow of losing a big game, like a county final, or perhaps, there is a real truth to it. Teams often bottle up the hurt, pain and frustration of defeat and turn it into a positive for the following season.
On Sunday, the Naas hurlers will arrive in St Conleth Park in a similar position to last year, as the form team in the county. Then, like now, they went through the Championship unbeaten while playing an attractive brand of hurling. Sure, they were up against a very good Celbridge side but everything seemed to be in place for Naas to put on the type of display they had shown all year. Instead, they looked a pale imitation of that team and on the day were comfortably beaten.
That is one thing they are determined to put right in this Sunday’s Senior Hurling final against Ardclough, they want to put on a display that accurately reflects their form this season.
“We felt we didn’t do ourselves justice last year so made a big push to be back there again and go a step further,” said captain and goalkeeper Cormac Gallagher.
“It’s one thing when you give it your all and you are pipped at the post and beaten by a point or two and the better team wins on the day but to turn up and not play to your strengths…last year we had been building and getting better with each game so it was disappointing to not show the real Naas on the most important day of the year,” he added.
Manager Donie Franks feels the team have learned a lot from that defeat last year.
“We didn’t play to our potential but in finals you aren’t let play either, we were against a very good Celbridge team, a very experienced team, most of them would have had five or six Championship medals. We just felt ourselves that we didn’t perform like we could.
“The heads are in a better place this year. The hurt from last year, and learning from it, was a big thing. There’s no point hurting unless you are learning and the lads have learned big time, in my opinion anyway. They are improving every time they go out.
“I think there is maturity there from last year, they want to push forward and mix with the best teams. During half time in the semi-final against Celbridge you just had a good sense in the dressing room that they were going to push on, and that’s what they did,” he said.
Naas could hardly be in a better place going into the final. They defeated Sunday’s opponents in the League semi-final, on their way to winning that competition, and then again in the group stages of the Championship. They also beat county champions Celbridge in the group stages and then again in the semi-finals.
“Anytime you can go unbeaten through the Championship it’s always good. Each game has brought challenges. We are used to playing the same teams each year, sometimes when you get to know teams so well it actually gets harder. To win all our group games and get through by beating the team that beat us last year… we aren’t there yet but we are going in the right direction,” said Gallagher.
Naas haven’t won a senior title since they retained their title back in 2002 and that’s a long time for a club of their size and tradition. Everything at underage level seems to suggest that they will be the team of the future but Gallagher wants the team to seize their opportunity now.
“It’s nice to come up the ages and win things like the Feile, minor and under 21 but you get to an age where they are put on the back burner and you think that senior is the most important and you just really want to win that one. A good lot of the lads playing on the senior panel, I’ve played with them coming up through the ages so it would be nice to win the big one with them.
“A lot of the team were very young the last time Naas won a Championship. For a club the size of Naas it is a bit too long to win a Senior Championship. That’s just the way it is though, we can’t do anything about the past, we just have to look forward and look at what we can do. We feel we left one behind us last year, obviously we were beaten by a better team. We are back now where we wanted to be at the start of the year, we’re very keen to put it right and hopefully get over the line this year,” said Gallagher.