What has been very noticeable about St Breckan’s recently is their footballing swagger. They’ve been enjoying themselves lately. Arriving in Miltown for the county intermediate final on October 16, they didn’t have much work on to liven themselves up. Although they were a senior club as recently as three years ago, they were afforded little chance of upsetting Clondegad.
An hour’s football later and St Breckan’s had altered a few preconceptions. They showed that they could still play highly skilled football and had adopted a game plan to suit their needs.
That day and against Clashmore in the Munster semi-final, St Breckan’s went with five forwards, which helps to create space for the inside line and opportunity for Denis O’Driscoll to pick up loose ball outfield.
This tactic definitely flummoxed Clashmore who initially didn’t send corner-back Seán Bourke after O’Driscoll but later recanted, spotting that the St Breckan’s man was the most influential player on the field in the opening quarter.
Gneeveguilla may not be quite as compliant and could opt to send their best attacking defender after O’Driscoll if he goes deep.
There is no doubt that St Breckan’s strengths revolve around their attacking leanings. Virtually all of their half-backs and both midfielders drive forward at the slightest hint of opportunity. Stephen Tierney scored a point in the intermediate final and in Waterford, while Raphael Considine, who was injured in the county final, also notched a point that day.
Although Pat Nagle arrowed over a succession of sublime scores from frees against Clondegad and from open play the last day, Breckan’s are not reliant on one man to score everything. That said, Nagle’s accuracy from frees is most helpful.
In Conor Cormican at full-forward, Breckan’s have another attacking gem in their line-up. His movement destroyed Clashmore and if he is supplied with early ball in the Gaelic Grounds, the Gneeveguilla full-back won’t recall November 28 with any degree of fondness.
The Kerry men rely upon full-forward Liam Murphy for most of their attacking strategy, while their midfielder partnership of John Paul Brosnan and Don Murphy is decent. Their tussle with John McDonagh and Shane O’Connor will be pivotal.
While Craig Flanagan has been very solid in goals for St Breckan’s, Gneeveguilla also have a steadfast number one in Patrick O’Riordain, while their primary man marker is Eoghan Lawlor.
Mike ‘Blonde’ Murphy, Fergus McAuliffe and Danny O’Connor are also amongst Gneeveguilla’s finest footballers.
To date in Munster, St Breckan’s have displayed no semblance of fear and have attacked each game. What has also helped is their growing support base, which stormed onto Fraher Field in Dungarvan last Sunday week. There is clearly a synergy linking the support to the panel of players and this is evident in the colour festooning Lisdoonvarna and Doolin this week.
As St Breckan’s prepare for what is the biggest game they will have played since the 1996 senior county final, their main ambition will be to ensure they maximise their potential.
As long as they play and don’t think too much about the occasion, Breckan’s have every chance.
The experience that Denis O’Driscoll and Neil Hawes bring to the dressing room will keep everyone grounded and concentrate purely on what their on field job entails.
A win on Sunday will send Lisdoonvarna, Doolin and Kilshanny into an orbit that their population may have difficulty descending from. But they can worry about that again. St Breckan’s are more than capable of pulling if off as long as they very simply keep doing what they have been at in recent games. They have what it takes to bring a first Munster intermediate title to Clare.
The game will throw in at 2pm on Sunday.