GAA Editor @BrianGBarry
Sean Gannon says Eire Og are prepared for Ballyboden's physicality
Last Updated: 04/12/19 10:00am
Twelve months ago, Éire Óg fell at the penultimate hurdle in the Leinster Championship, suffering a harrowing defeat at the hands of Mullinalaghta.
They certainly learned a lot from the loss.
"They were better than us on the day," reflected Carlow and Éire Óg star Sean Gannon. "But everything really went wrong for us that day.
"It kind of unravelled very quickly for us. But we were probably bullied to an extent. Physically they were very good, very strong in the middle. We knew that we probably weren't at that level last year, especially physically.
"So an awful lot of lads have been doing their own stuff - it's six days a week we're training now. Three days collectively, and you're getting to the gym three times, which has been unheard of. It wasn't going on. So we've bulked up and lads are bigger. It's helping us deal with that physical factor that was lacking last year.
"It's just [about] throwing into the WhatsApp group, 'lads I'm heading to the gym there now, anyone around?' And then a couple of lads would tag along. It's started that way and now you're talking 20-odd lads."
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What they learned from the Mullinalaghta defeat has stood to them this season, and they're ready to front up to the physical challenge that Ballyboden will bring.
"Dessie [Dolan]...couldn't get over how powerful they were," said Gannon.
"It's one thing that we pride in ourselves - that we're a powerful, big outfit as well. Probably not to that extent. They're probably physically a couple of years ahead of us. So be it. That's fine. We have other ways of getting around it."
They're full of confidence right now, after an eight-point win over Portlaoise in the semi-final.
"It was brilliant," Gannon beamed. "Coming in we were expecting to put it up to Portlaoise, but never getting to a final before with this generation of players you'd be kind of going, 'Jesus, can we do it?' But once we got over the line it was a sense of relief more than anything. The tears of joy in people's faces that I've known for 20-odd years and I've never seen them get emotional. After the game it was mad scenes, it was fantastic."
Of course, the club have a rich tradition, winning five provincial crowns between 1992 and 1998.
"A lot of us grew up watching the guys from the 90s," he reminisced. "Whatever it is about the Leinster Championship, in Éire Óg it means probably a little bit more because we have the tradition obviously, but it would be nice to quieten a few of the older lads as well!
"In '98 I was 10, I just remember going on the buses and the excitement of it. I probably didn't really appreciate it at the time, I was young. My mother used to bring me, I just remember goals - they used to always score goals and the roar, it was different to the points. I didn't really know what was going on I suppose but I remember travelling to Newbridge so often. You'd go down to Newbridge nearly every weekend, with replays and everything. I've fond memories of it.
"What you wanted to do was win a Leinster, that was with your club. It's mad and obviously winning one with Carlow would be great but there's just that expectation in Éire Óg that we want to get back there, we've been trying to get back there for so long and it just hasn't happened."
On Sunday afternoon, Gannon and Co will be gunning to realise a lifelong dream. They're fully aware of their underdog status, but that won't dampen spirits.
"Sure we've a better chance than anyone else in Leinster bar Ballyboden," he smiles.