Sunday, April 21, 2024

Final Preview: Tubber happy to be underdogs

By Randal Scally

Tubber are ready to revel in the underdogs’ role against neighbours Clara, according to their manager Padraig Farrell.

Despite producing a stunning performance to hammer Ballycumber in the semi-final and being perennial contenders for SFC ‘B’ honours, Tubber go into Sunday’s final as outsiders. Not that they’re complaining.
“It’s a great way to go into a final,” says Farrell, whose backroom team consists of Kevin Sheridan (selector), James Farrell (team secretary), Willie Colgan, Cathal Tone, Chris Daly (stats) and Rob Connor (physio).

“Clara have been favourites to win this championship since the start of the year and rightly so. They’re a big club who are more accustomed to playing in SFC semi-finals and finals. No-one gives us a hope, but we’re going to try and win it.”

Tubber have been there or thereabouts in the four years since Farrell returned to manage his home club. In 2018, they lost the final to Shamrocks, while Bracknagh and Durrow beat them at the semi-final stage in ’19 and ’20.

“We’ve lost to the last three winners,” he points out.
“Durrow beat us with a point in the fifth-minute of injury-time last year and went on to play in a senior semi-final this year. It’s our second final in four years and we’ll keep knocking on the door until it opens for us.”

Like Clara, Tubber qualified directly for the semi-finals after topping their group. The only blot on their copybook was a narrow loss to Walsh Island in the first round when a high wides and injury count proved costly.
“We kicked 16 wides against Walsh Island and the same amount against Gracefield in our second game,” the former Offaly U21 manager recalls.

“Fortunately, we got away with it against Gracefield. While we were very disappointed with our performance against Walsh Island, there was more to it than meets the eye. It was our only defeat all year. Our form has been good otherwise.”
The loss to Walsh Island came just a couple of weeks after the Westmeath-border outfit overcame Clonbullogue to claim the Division 2 League title. In a further pre-championship boost, their second team were crowned Division 5 champions on the same weekend.

“We usually use the league for experimenting, but this year we took it more seriously,” the Tubber boss explains.

“We blooded three minors in Pauric Robbins, David Colgan and Eoin Murphy which was like gold-dust to us as our numbers are very small. Pauric was on the Offaly minor football team last year and Eoin was on the county minor hurling team. Apart from Joe Higgins, Eddie Kavanagh and obviously Ciaran McManus – who has been a massive addition to us since returning from America and hates losing! – it’s a young team.

“We have a clean bill of health except for Nigel Farrell who suffered ligament damage in the closing stages of the semi-final. It would be huge for everyone involved if we could win this final and get up to senior.”
Padraig, whose sons Ronan and Patrick are part of the Tubber squad, believes it’s only right and fitting that the finalists have come from the two teams that won their groups. He also jokes that it’s difficult to find a form-line on the basis of some previous results.

“We lost to Walsh Island by a point in the first round and then Clara go and hammer them by 21 in the semi-final. On the flip side, we had a big win over Ballycumber in our semi-final after they had run Clara very close in the group stages. It’s a funny old game.”

Farrell won a SFC ‘B’ medal as a player in 1989 and would love to repeat that as a manager. During his first spell as Tubber supremo, he delivered an IFC title in 2006 and led his beloved club to a Leinster club final appearance against Confey of Kildare. Two years later, he guided Castledaly – where his parents hail from – to an historic Westmeath SFC success.

His impressive managerial CV also includes an IFC triumph with Raheen in 2014 and a Hastings Cup with the Offaly U21s in 2016.

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