LAST weekend was an historic one for Kildare GAA with success at U20 level for the second time in six years and in this week’s Kildare Nationalist, in your shops now or online at www.kildare-nationalist.ie we carry a series of interviews conducted by our Reporter, Richard Commins, with Flanagan’s Young Lions after the match.
The thoughts of Joint Captain, Shane Farrell, Man of the Match Sean Hanafin, outstanding scorer, Callum Bolton, super sub, Ethan Mountaine and sharp shooter are produced below.
JOINT captain Shane Farrell felt that the “heartache” of last year’s final loss to Tyrone made it “even that much sweeter” to win on Saturday and made them hungry again this year to go one better.
Of course, the loss to Westmeath in their opening group game wasn’t part of the plan, but Kilcock man Farrell feels that the “resilience and character in this team is absolutely unbelievable. I remember after that first game Harry O’Neill coming into the dressing room and saying we were too good of a team to be knocked out now and since then the drive and ambition to go down to Wexford and having to win by six plus. And we did.”
He put the team’s calmness and ability to soak up Sligo pressure down to one man, Brian Flanagan.
“He uses three words coming out and one of them is always composure. That’s been driven into our heads every single week.”
How difficult had it been to keep that composure on a warm day with such an atmosphere?
“I suppose you can back any player on the pitch to keep their composure now. I don’t know if that’s through last years’ experience, it could be. Anytime Sligo got a few scores in a row it was just ‘lads relax, relax’, we know we can keep possession, that’s the really good thing about this team.”
Talk will turn to transitioning as many of this panel into the senior team in the future and Farrell, who must be one of the candidates to make that step up, noted that “in 2018 we won it as well and then this year again, so the future is bright for Kildare, but I won’t be thinking about that yet!”
MAN of the Match Seán Hanafin, asked about his positioning on the edge of the square explained that they “felt it was a chance to see what they would do with it. For the first ten or fifteen minutes it was going well. I don’t mind midfield or full-forward. I don’t mind either.”
As for the goal chance, he “thought it was in at first. I was a bit falling, a bit off-balance, I thought I hit the target. I had my hands in my head, I didn’t know what to say.”
Sarsfields forward Callum Bolton put their success squarely down to hard work.
“At half-time in the dressing room, five points up, we were like, ‘we can’t lose this now, there’s no way we lose this game’. The only way we lose this game is if we don’t work, we don’t put the hard yards in. There’s no way we weren’t doing that after last year.”
While their chance conversion rate was only just over 50% again, Bolton credited the team with “creating a lot of chances, a lot of possession. The team’s been flying, all year, the team’s just been flying the whole time.”
As for the feeling of winning an All-Ireland, Bolton described it as “brilliant for the county. We’ve been a few years coming up now with a few more lads coming through the system, so there’ll be a few more to come with this.”
Ethan Mountaine’s uncle Stephen Cluxton is well used to winning All-Irelands and he was expecting a congratulatory text from the Dublin goalkeeping legend, but how did it feel for the young Sarsfields man to win one in the white jersey of Kildare?
“Obviously what Stephen’s done is nice, but this is special.”
He felt that “coming in as a sub makes you more nervous,” but he trusted his pace.
“I just trusted myself and my skills that I’d do the job no matter what time of the game it was.”
He has thrived as an attacking wing-back in Flanagan’s system and is happy to fulfil that role.
“It’s funny as I’ve been playing everywhere at my own age group and then came up to the (Sarsfields) seniors and luckily got in there at corner back. I’d be more of a defensive player, but I love wing-back, that would be one of my favourite positions.”
He was really looking forward to bringing the trophy back to the club, remembering that “the last time Kildare won the All-Ireland, I think it was Daragh Ryan and Cian Costigan. I’m just very proud.”
Clane man Fanning had to put a few wides behind him before getting his shooting boots on.
“The conversion rate was a bit shaky in the first fifteen minutes, but we got there in the end. I missed the first two or three and the boys were saying ‘keep going, keep going.’
And that he did, finishing with three points to his name.
See this week’s Kildare Nationalist, in your shops now, for a Picture Parade of Photos from the All Ireland U 20 Final.