A FEAR of failure helped Pearse Og’s Gerard Smyth put in a man of the match display in his side’s Senior Hurling Championship victory over Knockbridge on Sunday.
‘Junior’ came into the game with 18 cup final defeats to his name at inter-county and club level, and if he ever needed a bit of inspiration not to make it 19, he didn’t have to look too far.
“I had 18 written on my wrist”, he revealed. “Every time I took a free I looked at my wrist and saw the 18. I think I missed more frees than I scored but anyway we did it in the end thankfully.”
The Louth star, who collected the man of the match award in the 2004 final, helped his side to a six point lead going into the interval but Knockbridge rallied and whittled the lead down to three early in the second-half.
“At half-time we knew they were going to come at us but we stayed calm. There have been three words all year: hunger, heart and desire that were mentioned in the dressing room. Nobody got overawed, we were reminded that we had a game-plan and there were still 30 minutes to go.
“I hit the post with a free in the second-half and Knockbridge started putting pressure on us and I was thinking ‘here we go’. It was probably my fault that we didn’t win by 10 or 11 as I missed a few in the second-half”, said Smyth.
“We stared dropping balls short and they got a goal early to get back to within three points but then Shane Callan and Donal McArdle started catching balls in the middle of the field and that pushed us on to the end.”
Pearse Og refused to panic and when David Mahony smashed home a fantastic 50th minute goal, followed by two Smyth frees, the Paddy Kelly Cup was destined for the Holy Family parish for the first-time since 2004.
“Dave Mahony does it in nearly every game we play, gets the ball, cuts in and buries it into the roof of the net. I nearly jumped off the pitch when that went in”, remarked Smyth.
The 25-year-old paid tribute to the effort put in by the club’s back-room staff and said that they plans were already being put into place for next season.
“There’ll be a lot of hard work over the winter. We’ll be back in the Tain League and the Leinster League in January and Barry Teather will be back to torture us at the end of the year. Barry’s fitness work and Brendan O’Neill’s hurling drills have been the difference this year.”