Paul Hunt took over as Éire Óg manager at the start of last year. He says he was certain that the potential to have a good season was evident in the panel. Paul points out that the influx of several talented young players in the past two years has been crucial to their progress.
“The quarter-finals had been a stumbling block for the team in recent years. When we took over, the ambition was to go a step further and see where it brought us –and here we are in the final.
“We have been lucky in that we have had a number of talented U-20 players. We have six of them on the starting team this year. They re-energised the team. Then some of the older lads put in an extra effort and that has made the difference”.
Éire Óg are unbeaten this year and Paul agrees that they have produced a performance every time it was needed during the course of this championship.
“We won our three games in the group stages and that’s the first time we have done that. We weren’t playing that well but were doing enough at the same time. Then in the knockout stages we didn’t play our best again…we got a bit of luck, firstly against St Brigid’s with that penalty, and then against St Croan’s when we got a late goal.
“We won those arm wrestles this year which we were not winning in the past. You need a bit of luck in any championship run”.
Club captain Denis Barron is out with a long-term injury and James Lavin is also out at present, but their manager will have the rest of his panel to call on.
“Those lads are a huge loss to us but thankfully the younger players who have come in have done very well. We have a great spread of younger and older more experienced players and it’s working out well”.
It’s been a very exciting time for the Éire Óg club. Their U-17s recently won the Division One title (alongside Michael Glavey’s) and their U-20s contested this year’s U-20 Division Two final last Sunday (again amalgamated with Glavey’s).
“The fact that we were in that U-20 final meant that it wasn’t ideal preparation (for this weekend), but we just have to get on with it. There is a great atmosphere in the club at the moment with the success at underage level this year.
“We played St Dominic’s in the group stages last year in Knockcroghery. That was a good match. They were very unlucky in the final last year but we will be going up to Hyde Park on Sunday to win it. We will give them the utmost respect and will try to get our match-ups right and to get our own house in order for the match.
“There’s a great buzz around the villages of Gortaganny and Loughglynn. It’s 1993 since we won it and 2004 since we were in a final so we are saying to the lads ‘this is a chance that may not come along often’. It could be 10 or 15 years before it happens again so we have to make the most of it on the day”.