IT’S often only when you retire and have time to sit down and reflect on your career that you realise what you have achieved, and perhaps what more you could have achieved.
There are many players who would have loved to have won the amount of county titles that Ross Glavin amassed in his career, and of course he was a part of the 2006 Leinster winning team, but there was always the nagging thought in the back of his mind that Moorefield should have achieved more provincial success during his time.
“It was a great occasion to win a Leinster Club Championship but as a club and with the group of players we’ve had, we’ve completely underachieved. There’s no doubt about it,” Glavin states bluntly.
So after being appointed as manager last year when it came time to sit down with the squad for the first time over 12 months ago he was delighted to hear the ambition that was present among them.
“It’s great to be in the position that we are in but from the outset it’s been a really player driven panel that we are involved in. They said as a group that they wanted to get to a Leinster final and achieve more outside of Kildare. There are people in around Moorefield who are sometimes satisfied with being the best team in Newbridge or being county champions. The players were the ones that wanted to push on and achieve more at a provincial level. We are in that position now and that’s all we could have asked for.
“The great thing about this group of players is that they set out their stall from very early on that they wanted to achieve more. Now, we didn’t go around talking about it, we worked hard and in training got consistently better. As each game went by we got a stronger spirit. Now we feel that if we perform on the day, and that’s our sole focus, that nobody can beat us.
“That 2006 final feels like an eternity ago and it’s great to be able to tell the younger players that since then Moorefield have underachieved. At times we’ve been satisfied with winning county championships. Me as a player, I can see now as a manager, that there were times when I was satisfied with winning county titles. When I look back now I can’t do anything about that but this group of players have a great chance of winning a Leinster championship. When you look across Kildare, there are not too many provincial medals around so this is a really big opportunity. It’s really hard to get here so when you are here you have to make the most of it,” said Glavin.
Aged just 32, Glavin still looks fit enough to take his place on the field but even as a player his leadership qualities meant you always felt he was a manager in waiting. His first job, when he led Ballyteague to the 2016 Intermediate Championship quarter-final, marked him down as a manager of some potential but what he has done in his first year in the pressure cooker of managing Moorefield is nothing short of remarkable.
It wasn’t simply a case of taking over a team and steering them in the right direction. Glavin, along with Frank Hanniffy and Kevin O’Neill, made a conscious decision early on to integrate the young players at the club into the first team. Moorefield is an unforgiving club though and they expect to be challenging for honours no matter what so it was very much a case of sink or swim for the young players and their inexperienced manager. Thankfully for all involved, they’ve blossomed in some style.
“The younger players are making it easy for us. We are giving them opportunities but they are earning those opportunities with the attitude they are showing in training and the way that they are performing in training. All we’ve done is given them an opportunity and it’s up to the player then to take that opportunity. At different stages this year, any amount of young and experienced players have taken that opportunity. There’s an awful lot of competition in the Moorefield panel and if you don’t take the chance when you are presented with it then it might not come around again because somebody else might come in and take it,” said Glavin.
It’s not just the young players who have developed under Glavin. If the ability to extract the best from the players available is one of the key indications of how good a manager is then Glavin is succeeding spectacularly. Niall Hurley-Lynch is scoring goals for fun while Eanna O’Connor, always impressive in his Moorefield career, has brought his game to a new level.
“Eanna has been hugely impressive all year. If you go back to almost the first time we sat down as a group roughly 12 months ago, he was one of the players most vocal about Moorefield achieving more than just a county championship. He’s been so impressed with what Moorefield has to offer. He and his brother are almost astounded by the number of players committed to Newbridge and who are regularly training hard to push each other on. Coming in from the outside, he believes that Moorefield have more than enough credentials that if we get it right that we can win a Leinster. It’s great to see him performing really well on the pitch but that can be said of a vast number of Moorefield players,” said Glavin.
He has shown too that he is not afraid to take on the advice of others and has been only too pleased to take on board whatever Kerry legend Jack O’Connor, father of Eanna and Cian, has had to say.
“From the outset when myself and Frank and Kevin sat down as the management team we would have discussed how we could get Jack O’Connor involved as much as possible. If you could trawl the 32 counties and identify one coach that you’d like to have a positive influence within Moorefield, Jack O’Connor would be number one on that list. We are privileged that he has been there to help along the way whether it be at training or with advice. He’s just pure passionate about football. He’s embedded into what we are doing and at the end of the day he has a vested interest in it because he just really wants to see his two sons achieving at the highest level with Moorefield,” said Glavin.
Throughout the season, Moorefield have dug themselves into some holes but the impressive thing is how they have always got themselves out of trouble. The Leinster semi-final was the third important game this year that they finished without their full complement of players but if people have a perception of Moorefield as a dirty team that would be something that would annoy Glavin. Indeed, their discipline in such a hotly contested game as the Rathnew clash is something that he takes pride in.
“That’s the frustrating thing about Cian’s red card that day. Throughout that whole game there’s no doubt that the opposition would have been the aggressors but no matter what was thrown at us we had that composure and discipline in our performance to not let us affect us. We just focused on our own game plan and on what we were doing. That is what it has been like throughout the year. We’ve worked hard in training to make it difficult for a referee to give frees against us because our tackling is so clean and so crisp.
“A good indication of sportsmen or women, whether in a team or individually, is when they are in adversity how do they react to the situation that they are presented with. We’ve had as tough a task as any team in any competition. To go down two key men in the county final and still have that drive and resilience, and that composure, to grind out a county final win was pretty remarkable. That just helped the belief to grow. In the Rathnew game when we got the red card it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference and the players on the field just shouldered the responsibility,” said Glavin.
Apart from the suspended Cian O’Connor and the pair of Adam Tyrrell and Ryan Houlihan, who are overseas with the Defence Forces, Glavin will pick from a full panel for Sunday final against St Lomas, something that feels Barry Keogh and the work he has done with the squad has really helped.
In the opposite dug out will be a familiar face. Luke Dempsey led Moorefield to county glory in 2013, when Glavin was captain, and 2014 and since then has won three Westmeath titles with the Mullingar based side.
“Luke is one of those people who gets on with most people. I wouldn’t have had any closer relationship as captain than any of the other players but he’s a personable type of guy who involves himself with each player and he’s a very nice person outside of football as well,” said Glavin.
How Moorefield deal with Lomans’ key man John Heslin could prove crucial in this game.
“It doesn’t matter who are you playing, you pay the oppositions key players a little more respect than some other players. He is one of those players that we will be focusing on but he won’t be the only one. He’s a different type of player because he can play inside but sometimes plays as an orthodox midfielder so it’s not as simple as doing a man marking job on him. But we have more than enough players within the squad capable of being aware of what the strengths and weaknesses are within their squad and working really hard to counteract that,” he said.
But their experiences this season means that Glavin feels that if Moorefield can do themselves justice with their performance levels then they are capable of being a match for any team.
“There’s enough belief within that panel, and the management have enough belief in the players, that if they do perform we’re more than capable of winning a Leinster Final,” he said.