Sean O'Leary focused on Kilcummin's Croke Park assignment
By Cian O’Connell
With momentum generated and excitement increasing Sean O’Leary, the promising Kilcummin wing back, is thrilled that the Kerry club will be afforded the opportunity to perform at Croke Park.
Naomh Eanna will provide formidable opposition, but the beauty of the AIB All Ireland Club Championships will be evident at GAA headquarters on Saturday.
Throughout a lively campaign Kilcummin have cleared many awkward hurdles to reach the Intermediate decider with O’Leary, an All Ireland minor winner in 2017, acknowledging the character demonstrated along the way.
“Our first game in the whole Championship back in April, we only won the game by a point,” O’Leary recalls.
“We had a man sent off with 20 minutes to go so it could have been all over back in April. We beat Templenoe in the County Semi-Final by a point, that went down to the wire.
“Nobody gave us a chance in that game. We had a huge test in the County Final then against Glenfesk we were up 10 points in the first half, we ended up going down one point, we came back to win by six.
“We went down to Kilrush in the first round of Munster, a huge battle again in tough conditions, a gale force wind blowing across the field on a narrow pitch. We won the game and we had a tough battle against Fermoy in the Munster Final.
“We won by eight or nine points, but that wasn't a true reflection of the game at all. They missed two penalties in the first 20 minutes of the game so the game could have been all over. We played Two Mile House and that game was a huge battle, only a one point win, we had a man sent off with 10 minutes to go so we've had some serious battles.”
That steely resolve is why Kilcummin, under the stewardship of Willie Maher, have enjoyed such a productive campaign. “We all have great respect for each other and for our manager,” O’Leary states. “We are just willing to go to the grave for each other.
“We know the challenge that faces us is probably going to be the biggest one we face all year. Naomh Eanna will come in with a bit of form, they had a huge win in their semi-final. So we are expecting a huge challenge, one we can't wait for.”
Former Kerry goalkeeper Brendan Kealy supplies a wealth of experience and knowledge according to O’Leary. “Brendan is such an asset to us,” O’Leary admits. “He brings huge knowledge from his past experiences. In training when he is talking it is the proper truth that is coming out of him. He speaks from experience.
“As a back from opposition kickouts he tells you where you should be standing, he has his own routines from kickouts where we would have our own tactics. He has been a huge asset to the team.”
O’Leary has enjoyed success at underage level with Kerry and will be involved with the Kingdom Under 20 outfit again in 2019. “We had a great win that September against Derry,” O’Leary states about the 2017 victory. “It was a huge occasion, something I will never forget. Unfortunately we lost to Kildare in the All Ireland Under 20 Semi-Final by a point in the Gaelic Grounds.
“I'm Under 20 now again this year and hopefully we can take that one step further by getting to Croke Park again this year.
“You saw Dara Moynihan and Diarmuid O'Connor making their debuts. Both of them have impressed so there is a great buzz around the place. They are coming off winning teams, the Kildare last year stood to a lot of us because we hadn't really tasted defeat with Kerry up along.
“The next thing you are in the Gaelic Grounds and you suddenly lose so it was a huge learning curve for us. Against Two Mile House it definitely stood to us.
“We were level with 20 minutes to go, I'm not letting what happened in July happen again by losing to a team again. That was the worst feeling ever so it drove me on in the last 20 minutes, that defeat in July. That had a part to play.”
Around Kilcummin there is a great buzz presently so O’Leary is eager to ensure the team remain focused on the match, rather than dwelling on the occasion. “It is unreal, it is class, it is something I've never really experienced before,” O’Leary acknowledges. “When you are with the minors only every third person would know about it, where now everyone in the whole parish is behind us.
“Buses are being organised, people are trying to get accommodation for the night. It is unreal. Seeing all the signs around the village, the flags, it is class, unreal.
“It is great for the supporters to come here, but we can't let that distract us. It is a game of football whether it is in Kilcummin GAA pitch or Croke Park. It is fantastic for all the crowd to come up to enjoy the occasion, but we know we have to play a game.”
O’Leary is primed to feature in many more for Kilcummin and Kerry.