It all came down to this. To lessons learned. To the heartache of previous defeats. To the desire not to be beaten in the final a second straight year, or a third straight time this season. For St Brendans boss Liam O’Connor there was no shortage of motivation.
r information either. That old chestnut that you learn more from a defeat is undoubtedly true and O’Connor had his young men well-primed for what awaited them on the John Joe Sheehy Road on Friday evening.
“We have played Ballyduff twice already this year and they beat us very well down in Ballyduff in the first round of the county league and then they beat us in the final of the county league,” he recounted.
“I suppose now every time you are beaten, you have to learn. We went away and we learned but that said, we have a great bunch of players. Eleven of the team who played there this evening is underage again next year.
“So they were playing above their age. But look, Ballyduff are a great team as well from a great club and we knew we would have to get everything right to beat them. Just after half time when they got their goal and brought back to a one point game, I said we are in trouble here.
“But we responded well [with two quick goals] and the one thing I said to the lads here is they have great character, no doubt about it, they have character in spades.
“They were beaten again and again by Ballyduff, but the one thing was they never quit. They put their shoulder to the wheel, they were mad to learn and learn they did.”
The resilience of this bunch of young St Brendans players speaks of their huge character and is a great sign for their future in the rough and tumble of North Kerry hurling.
“The one thing I kept stressing to the lads during the week is that if its character that is required, if we are there with a shout, we will win it because I knew that our fellas were hungry,” O’Connor continued.
“In fairness to Ballyduff they have won the last three so maybe they didn’t have the same hunger and that is not to question Ballyduff or anything. But I suppose we were here last year and we felt we were two years too early but we gave a good account of ourselves.
“Those players have driven on and hopefully they will drive on to bigger things in years to come as well.“
Clamping down on Ballyduff’s mercurial inside forward Luke Rochford (to a certain extent at least) was critical to the outcome the Ardfert manager believed.
“In the league final Luke Rochford got 2-3 against us and he got the man of the match,” he explained.
“I suppose as I said earlier you just have to learn. Now Adam McDonagh [the late Bill Kirby’s grandson] marked Luke in last year’s county final and he did a good job so we brought Adam back, we sacrificed him as a forward and he did a super job but on top of that we brought back Hugh Lenihan as a sweeper and I thought the sweeper worked really well for us in the first half as Luke Rochford was not as influential as he was in other games.
“I think Evan Boyle deserves an honourable mention as well as I thought he was very good but we crowded him out as much as we could. We put Harry Wallace on him and just told him to just stick with him the whole time and he did.
“We just crowded him out but a special talent likes Evan, you are not going to contain him all the time, you hope you can limit his effectiveness. We knew that there would be times when Ballyduff would be on top and we just had to weather that storm and dig deep and deeper.”
For the St Brendans club, for hurling in Ardfert, the win was significant.
“We haven’t won a minor county since 2013, so you need to be winning with the future in mind. I suppose my fear coming in today was if we were beaten this year, following on last year’s defeat, then that could enter our psyche,” O’Connor noted.
“We can hurl going forward with abandon, but the big there is, if you noticed all the young lads there from Ardfert on the field afterwards celebrating. This gives us a great boost because when you are ten years old and you see a Keelan [Best] or a Liam Óg [O’Connor] or a Tiernan [O’Sullivan] hurling like that you want to hurl as well.
“But we have wonderful people involved in the club as well and I would like to thank Ger Hussey our chairman and Michelle Walsh our secretary for all the work.
“I would really like to thank our Juvenile secretaries Marie Meade and Caroline Casey because nothing was a problem to them and anything we needed, they did their best to get it for us, but look we are delighted with the win and it was overdue.”