A new college year is dawning for Barry Faulkner. But thoughts of Maynooth and the delights of a fresh term are far from the Dreadnots defender’s mind at the minute. A senior county final in Drogheda looms large.
Yet something is different this year compared to last year and even the year before - when Dreadnots last reached a county final. Their semi final replay win over Gaels made them believe once again. Winning games like that has been a major boost this year according to Faulkner.
“We’ve had a couple of tight games this year”, begins the 20-year-old. “They’re the type of games we would have lost last year. But we’re winning this year because we have the belief there. We know we have the ability. It’s all about applying ourselves and that’s what we’re looking at in the final.”
Some both within the club and outside have had their say on whether having a replay was good thing or a bad thing in the run up to a final. Faulkner thinks it is, for the most part, a good thing.
“Three weeks is a long time from one match to another. It can be irrelevant as well. It’s just all about the way you prepare. Three weeks can be a long time to be looking forward to something. You can build yourself up too much.”
With the Gaelic Grounds in Drogheda confirmed as the venue for Sunday’s final, Faulkner is delighted to be playing on a bigger pitch.
“Probably the bigger the pitch the better”, nods the Dreadnots defender. “Because we like to play a running game, so the more ground the opposition has to cover the better. If it’s a smaller pitch there are less chances to punch holes through them, as was the case with the Gaels (In The Grove in the first match). We were able to exploit them more in the replay because it was a bigger pitch.”
Although he wasn’t part of the Dreadnots set up for the final in 2012, those that still remain on the panel will have learned from the experience and Faulkner is of the opinion that the intervening two years have been kinder to Dreadnots more than St Patrick’s in some respects.
“Both teams are a couple of years older and I think that suits us better. We’re maturing as they’re getting on now, so hopefully it’ll suit us better that our younger players coming on.”
The game between the two sides earlier in the championship was hopefully be a sign of things to come in Sunday’s final. Faulkner hopes Dreadnots can push on and take solace form that performance.
“It was a tight game. It could have gone either way. They got the goals and we didn’t and that was the difference at the end of the day. It could have gone either way and I think that will be the same again. It’s just about who has the head for it and applies themselves right.”
Working with Colin Kelly has been a vital part of Faulkner’s development. In Faulkner Kelly obviously saw something and switched him from his preferred position. For some players that might have rubbed them up the wrong way, for Faulkner it has been a blessing.
“He gave me my chance and I’m grateful for that. I was always a half forward and he’s playing me half back and I’m enjoying my football a lot more. Personally I’m enjoying it because I’m playing a lot more and I’m playing in a position I love.
“But the way he has us playing is great because we like to run at teams. It’s not a defensive way of playing. Nobody likes the defensive way like the Gaels do. It’s not an enjoyable way of doing it.”
Whichever way you look at it, and the bookies will certainly agree on this one, Dreadnots are going to be the massive underdogs on Sunday. Faulkner is under no illusions. But past experience shows it might not be the worst position to be in.
“It probably suits us better. The games that we’ve gone in as favourites, like the semi final, I don’t know whether it’s uncomfortable or that, it’s just we seem to not give it our all. We seem to put in just enough effort to win. So going in as underdogs will serve us well.”