Claregalway have proven their mettle
By John Harrington
The two weeks that Danny Cummins and his Claregalway team-mates have had to prepare for Sunday’s AIB Connacht Intermediate Final against Michael Glaveys of Roscommon have felt like a real luxury.
That’s because they had less than 24 hours to prepare for the provincial semi-final against Sligo champions St. John’s.
After defeating Williamstown in the Galway County Final on Saturday November 4, they found themselves in the difficult situation of having to lace up their boots again the following day for the clash with St. John’s.
“I suppose at the time it was weird because you're just concentrating on your county final and getting out of it,” Cummins told GAA.ie.
“Then we won that and it was a strange feeling because you want to celebrate and go mad. We kind of kept it together and didn't do anything too mad on the Saturday night.
“As a team we all went back to the Claregalway Hotel, had a bit of food, played FIFA, lads had a few pints who wanted pints. Watched the Liverpool v West Ham match that was on.
“We all just stayed together for a couple of hours. The two physios were there looking after us all, and it was a nice way of doing it, in fairness.
“It was hard to stay away from the bar now for a lot of it. The last time we won the Intermediate was in '02 so all the stalwarts from '02 were out in the front bar giving it loads.
“So you'd be coming in and out to them and having the craic with them but we headed up around half eight or nine o'clock as things were escalating.
“We met up the following morning then in the Hotel, had a bite to eat, and then headed for Sligo.
“Yeah, it was well worth it now. Once the final whistle went on Sunday, two games over, two wins, it was a mad 48 hours I suppose after that again.”
Claregalway trailed St. John’s in the Connacht semi-final for much of the match, but a second-half goal from Cummins turned the tide in their favour and they held on for a 1-12 to 1-10 victory.
It was a remarkable achievement that bore testimony to the physical conditioning as well as the mental toughness of their players.
“I'll be honest, I actually thought it would be tougher,” said Cummins.
“I suppose the way the game transpired we were chasing for a lot of it. We were three points down at half-time and had a bit of a wind with us and were escalating up a small bit and looking forward to the second-half.
“Once we got the goal with 12 minutes to go, the buzz of that. I couldn't get over the crowd that travelled as well. They were roaring 'Claregalway' in Markievicz Park. I've never experienced anything like that at all.
“And then the last ten minutes, you're just feeding off adrenalin. It was a magic feeling to be honest. Once the final whistle went, all of a sudden the body shut down.
“Everything started cramping and I could hardly get to the dressing-room afterwards once the whistle went.
“Throughout the game, it didn't really bother us. Management in fairness to them, they rotated a lot of players a well.
“It was a lot different a starting team on Sunday than it was on Saturday. Lads they knew couldn't lost longer than 20, 25 minutes were held for the last 20.
“So, in fairness, they deserve a lot of credit, the backroom team for the preparation that they put in. The lads who came into the game in the last 15 minutes did an awful amount for us.”
Claregalway were relegated from the senior grade in Galway down to the intermediate four years ago, but since then they’ve done a lot of work developing a new generation of talented young footballers.
They also won the Galway minor ‘A’ Championship this year, so they’re very much a club on the right track again.
They have the benefit of a large and growing population in the area, but Cummins points out that counts for little if you don’t work hard to maximise its potential.
“I suppose one of the frustrating things leading up to the final is that you hear people saying Claregalway have to be a senior club with the resources they have and this and that,” he said.
“That was said a small bit around. I wouldn't be one for reading much in the lead-up to a big game or listen to a lot that's said, but hearing that ticked me off a small bit.
“Because the work the club has put in for the last couple of years on the youth and with the infrastructure that has been built and the new pitch we have, it's not down to population, we've put in serious work and you're starting to see that come to fruition now.
“So when people say we should be doing this or you're expected to do that, it annoys me. Because as everyone knows in this game you're entitled to nothing until you go out and do it.
“So that was a small bit of a flame under as well for the weekend, not that much was said about it. It didn't need to be said.”
Sunday’s Connacht Final against Michael Glaveys will pit Cummins against his friend and work-colleague, Andy Glennon, who has been a star man for the Roscommon champions this year.
Not surprisingly, there has been a good bit of banter this week around the office ahead of the match.
“He works in the next row in my office in Boston Scientific, that's how close we are together,” says Cummins.
“So the craic in the office when I came back in last week was awful funny. A few of the auld lads were knocking great craic out of it.
“I'd always be chatting to him (Andy) about football. But the conversation this last while has been limited to nights out and women rather than anything to do with football, that's dried up for the next week or two!”
After a frustrating, injury-hampered year with Galway, Cummins is getting a great buzz out of the club campaign.
He operates as a play-maker with Claregalway rather than an out-and-out finisher, and that change of scenery has refreshed him.
“Personally I had a bit of as stop-start year with Galway with injuries and that was frustrating,” he said.
“But I've really enjoyed the club football. I've a bit of a different role with the club, position-wise. I'm out and about. It's just been very, very enjoyable.
“And obviously the old cliche of playing with your clubmates as well, it's just right good craic.
“It's easy to say that when you're winning games, but this is the most enjoyable year we've had with the club. With the mixture of young and old we have on the panel, it's just been mighty craic.”