Promising Naas busy planning for the future
By Cian O'Connell
These are exciting and encouraging times for hurling in Naas. On Sunday they will contest Kildare Senior, Intermediate, and Minor deciders in Newbridge.
A decade of graft will be reflected during a busy couple of hours which brings satisfaction for Tom Nevin, who is Chairman of the Adult Hurling Committee in the progressive club.
Nevin has hailed the work being carried out throughout the juvenile ranks in Naas. The Naas minor team have reached the Kilkenny League Final defeating Ballyhale Shamrocks at the penultimate stage. Ultimately it means the future appears bright. “The numbers we have playing is a testament to how well we are going,” Nevin says about Naas putting three adult teams on the pitches of Kildare in 2017.
“I do remember a few years ago we struggled and it is only a few years ago when we were struggling to field teams. This year we have great numbers playing, they are great club people these young lads. Their club is their home. Any time we play we get back to the club, they are great lads.”
The decision to play at Under 16 and minor level in Kilkenny was a tough, but necessary decision according to Nevin. “Our Kilkenny project is working brilliantly because at the moment we are at a juncture where we have a couple of underage teams that are really, really good,” Nevin explains.
“I was down at the game between Naas and Ballyhale, who had a couple of Kilkenny minors on the team. It was an absolute cracking match and Naas beat Ballyhale. It was a minor league match, I think O'Loughlin Gaels were the only team to beat Naas in the group.
“Our minor team in the Kildare County Final on Sunday has no player involved in the Kilkenny project. Effectively it is our Under 16/17 team playing in the Minor Final.”
Facing the most accomplished outfits in Kilkenny is hugely beneficial for Naas. “There is fantastic work going on at underage level, for our lads, particularly for this bunch of minors, it is huge because it is keeping lads hurling,” Nevin says.
“In Kildare we consider ourselves a football county so if a young lad is 50-50 and you have no competitive matches within your county they are obviously going to choose football.”
So Nevin is delighted that those who have moved to Naas during the past couple of decades have boosted the club on and off the pitch.
“Most of the people in the management group are from hurling counties,” Nevin states. “Hurling people are so passionate about it. We had an Up for the Match the night before the All Ireland Final, we had a fantastic panel.
“These people can't promote hurling enough. Damian Lawlor, Jackie Tyrrell were there with us, the hurling community is a very giving community for people trying to promote the game.”
That is precisely what Naas are trying to do with Nevin stressing the importance of a regular games programme which they are supplying. “We have fantastic people involved in the juvenile section, it started with Liam Greene when he was involved, the enthusiasm and the work in the schools with the blitzes,” Nevin remarks/
“The level of interest is high, all during the summer Brian Murnane, who is Chairman of the juvenile section, they kept it going. The people are full of enthusiasm about it.
Underage and the work that has been done, that is the reason where we are where we are now.”
Another key contributor to Naas’ resurgence is former Offaly hurler Donal Franks, who is forging a favourable coaching reputation. Sunday represents Naas’ second senior decider appearance in three years as they search for a first title since 2002.
“Donie came up three years ago,” Nevin says. “When I took over as Chairman, I spoke to the previous management, one of the recommendations was to get an outside manager where he comes in with a blank canvas.
“Definitely we have lads playing senior now that may not necessarily have played if an outside manager hadn't come in. He came in and gave everybody a fair crack. In big towns people are inclined to get a picture of a player, whereas he now has 40 lads training.
“We have no problem fielding Intermediate or Junior. We have 25 regularly turning up for Junior games, we nearly have too many subs. There is a huge love for hurling around Naas.”
Several dual players are involved and while the schedule is hectic, but an exciting and emerging team is being constructed. “Yeah, absolutely, it is a very young team,” Nevin admits.
“We have one lad in his 30s, four minors could take part on Sunday. We will have a lot of 19, 20 year olds. One of the Championship games our Intermediates played the eldest two 21 year olds that day.”
In the 2016 Final Celbridge were too crafty for Naas, but valuable lessons were learned. “We were beaten by a very good Celbridge team last year,” Nevin acknowledges.
“Celbridge were five points up going into injury time against Carrickshock, they conceded a few goals and Carrickshock went on to win the All Ireland. That was a good Celbridge team.”
Naas overturned them in the Semi-Final in Kildare, now they want to take the crucial next step on an interesting journey.