Glen gaze at the final step

All-Ireland Club SFC final
Glen v St Brigid’s
Sunday, Croke Park, 3.30pm (Live on TG4)

By Michael McMullan

A WALK through the overjoyed Glen fans, collectively basking in the glory of eventually seeing off Kilmacud Crokes, told it all.

There was plenty of joy and colour amidst the green flare smoke but there was hardly a player in sight.

Danny Tallon was passing himself by conducting an interview but the rest, they were in the cocoon of the dressing room.

Freezing fog and a 14-day turnaround until a season’s showpiece hour is a combination a cold or flu could lurk on.

Aside from that, perhaps more importantly, it gave the Glen camp time to pour out a collective focus of “nothing is won yet” and make sure the perfect tone was set on two weeks of the most important training sessions they’ll ever have.

There was the sight of Jack Doherty not able to put weight on an ankle turned under Brian Sheehy’s tackle that should’ve seen him red carded.

A moon boot was his best friend in the days that followed. He joined Ryan Dougan in the race against time to make themselves available for Sunday.

Dougan’s tightening hamstring may just have been discovered in time. Just ask Paul Mannion how hard he is to shrug off. The game changed on Dougan’s exit.

With free-scoring St Brigid’s trio Ben O’Carroll, Ciarán Sugrue and Bobby Nugent needing watched, Malachy O’Rourke will be hoping for a full deck.

The pain of defeat last year will be something to help keep the Glen focus in check this week. Getting to an All-Ireland final is a milestone. Nothing more. Silverware is the only currency, especially for a club with the ambition the Wattys have.

Glen have played 13 games to get to Sunday. St Brigid’s, without the extended group stages the Derry winners have to negotiate, booked their ticket to HQ with just 10.

They are two teams with a similar approach. Moving the ball with the foot is the first option and if the space is tight, it’s all about minding the leather.

Glen have scored an average of 1-12 and conceded 1-8 across their seven knock-out games. If you take St Brigid’s 7-15 to 0-7 quarter-final win out of the equation, their scoring average is much the same, 1-11 to 1-7.

The relevance of taking it out? Well, it was a proper hammering against North Roscommon, an amalgamation of junior and intermediate players – a failed experiment by Roscommon CCC.

They came in at the quarter-final stage with no preparation done and Ben O’Carroll’s 4-3 helped tear them asunder.

In the St Brigid’s defence, Glen will be hoping to ask serious questions of Brian Stack who was very much in the All-Star conversation after a season with Roscommon that saw him keep tabs on many of Ireland’s top front men.

Ronan Stack, their sole survivor from St Brigid’s 2013 All-Ireland win, and Ruaidhrí Fallon try their hand at getting forward.

That’s where Eunan Mulholland and Ethan Doherty come in. Scotstown failed to tie down both and that was Glen’s avenue to control the game.

With a tally of 7-27, Ben O’Carroll will take plenty of watching. It could be a job for Michael Warnock with Conor Glass doing what he always does, filtering back when needed.

This time last year, he was running on a half tank of gas after shaking off the grogginess of illness.

The triumvirate that contains Glass, Ciaran McFaul and Emmett Bradley is on an inter-county level. They’ve enough to get forward and back. More importantly they have the choreography to get the timing right.

Glen will need to target the fast start. Remember the move for Danny Tallon’s majestic goal in the first minute of last year’s decider.

Corofin and Castlehaven can tell the Wattys a thing or two about chasing St Brigid’s.

Both teams squandered chances that could’ve left it tighter. Castlehaven pinged a shot off the bar when the game was in the mix.

In the Connacht decider Gary Sice missed frees he would burl for fun and it was St Brigid’s decommissioning of Bernie Power’s kick-outs that ended up buckling Corofin in the final quarter.

Sunday comes down to a few factors. Glen need to forget their win over Kilmacud ever happened and bring an intensity like there is no tomorrow.

It’s about getting the key players to deliver. They will need St Brigid’s chasing the heels of Ethan Doherty and Eunan Mulholland.

It’s hard to see them not at least breaking even at midfield, so it’s about getting Danny Tallon enough ball to test Brian Stack.

The hurt of last year…well those are only words. St Brigid’s are coming in with a group of players absent of any baggage and an average age to suggest they’ll be back.

When Malachy O’Rourke managed Loup to Derry and Ulster glory 20 years ago, he chatted about keeping things amber.

Cool and reserved. When Brendan Cawley throws in the ball, that’s when the light goes green.

Reading these jottings, Andy Merrigan is as far away as ever but if Glen can maintain their record of always putting in a big performance on final day, they could be making history on Sunday evening.

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