The long and winding road to County Final day

The long-serving Shane Daniels will lead Éire Óg on county final day, 14 years after he was part of the historic breakthrough for the Townies when they landed the millennium county final. Joe Ó Muircheartaigh reports.

UP on Clonroadmore a few of the sages who support the team sit on the high stool, passing the time by testing their general knowledge about the Townies and county football final day.
“Who played in goal for the Faughs in ’95,” is one question kicked across the counter. “Skinner,” comes a swift reply, but it’s knocked back straight away.
“Skinner was injured that year, ’94 was his county final year.”
“James Hanrahan then,” comes the second offering.
“Right, but he wasn’t the only one, someone else went in goal that day as well.”
It takes a while, a long while. Finally, Tony Honan, who was the Faughs’ manager from that year and selector Pat Fitzpatrick set the record straight.
“It was Alan Malone,” says Honan. “James came out near the end and Alan went in,” confirms Fitzpatrick.
However, even Honan and Fitzpatrick can’t answer the next goalkeeper conundrum. “Who was sub goalie to James Hanrahan when we beat Doonbeg in 2000?”
It was Shane Daniels, then just out of minor ranks and making his way at senior level for the first time under the guidance of the management team spearheaded by John Hickey, Dave Loughman and Noel Normoyle.
“I never played a game in goal for the seniors,” admits Daniels, “but was sub keeper that year against Doonbeg, before playing full-forward in the final the following year”.
So began Daniels’ stellar senior career that makes him the Townies’ longest serving senior playe after Donie Lyne who is there 17 years. Part of the panel for 15 years, in his 14th year on the team as he chases down a second county medal.
“It’s hard to get there, very hard,” says Daniels, “but sometimes it comes quickly and did for me. After winning the minor in ’99  my first year in the squad was 2000 when we beat Doonbeg in the final and it was great to be part of it.
“There were some great players on that team – lads like Barry Keating, James Ruane, Brian MacMahon and Peter Cosgrove, so coming into it was great. Us younger lads like Brian Fitzpatrick, Eoin Glynn, Mark Kelly and myself helped them as well because of all the underage success we had, winning a couple of minors and an Under 21. Winning is a good habit and we brought that with us into the senior squad.
“Back then, getting to finals in 2000, ’01, ’04, ’06 and ’07, you’d get used to it and expect it. You’d presume that you be reach them most years, but it’s now seven years. We had a few poor years and you’d think that that was it and there was no way back. It’s been an awful long road.”
Along the way there were some disappointing times: the quarter-final replay defeat Cooraclare in 2010; flirting with relegation in ’11, before the real process of rebuilding began in earnest when James Hanrahan returned as manager in ’12.
“For a few years you’d think there was no way back to a final,” admits Daniels, “but since James Hanrahan came back in there’s been a belief that we should be in county finals and challenging to win the title. He brought that with him and we’ve been building up for the last couple of years. It’s great to be back.
“It’s not the difference this year really that has got us there – it’s the difference since James, Cathal Shannon and Paul Madden took over. They changed things up a bit – they kept some experienced players and brought in a lot of young fellas and have been bringing them in ever since.
“The young lads have freshened the whole thing up big time and it has brought everyone on. Everyone has upped their game a bit and we’ve been getting the results on the back of that,” he adds.
The defeat to Doonbeg in ’12 after a quarter-final replay and then to Cratloe in last year’s semi-final were big blows, but according to Daniels they’ve only helped shape the team for this year’s big push.
“All you can do from a loss is take the positives out of it and try and build on it for the next year,” he says. “That’s what we’ve tried to do, some hopefully looking back on last year’s game against Cratloe and this year that we’ve taken something from them to help us on Sunday.
“To win again in 2006, an awful lot of hard work went into that. It’s the same the last few years – we’ve put in a huge amount of work to get back here so when the chance comes around in a county final you just have to take it.
“We know how good Cratloe are. They won last year and have breezed through it this year. They’ve great players and we know what to expect from them. We have to play very well and get a bit of luck on the day.
“It’s huge for the club. It’s been seven years since we were there. For the panel that we’ve had and for the players that have come through the club it’s been much too long. It’s a huge day.”
Just to grasp that day.
Carpe diem, Townie style.


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