IT’S taken Ene Fa’atau three years to get his side there, but now that they are in a Towns Cup Final, he wants them to enjoy it and more importantly, win it.
The New Zealand native, with Samoan heritage has been player coach of Dundalk Rugby Club’s first for the past three years. This year, under his tuteledge Dundalk finished second in the league, behind champions and arch-rivals Boyne. But this year, they have gone a step further in the Towns Cup as they finally made the breakthrough they longed for, reaching the final by beating Tullow 17-10.
It ends an 11 year wait for a final appearance, something Ene is aware of, even if he was not around at the time.
“From what I’ve heard, it’s been a long time coming”, he said.
“It comes down to the commitment the boys have put in this year. There’s a lot more commitment since the first year I’ve been here and it’s a good reward for the boys.”
Now that they are in a final though, Ene wants them to enjoy the occasion.
“Tullamore have beaten us in the last two semi-finals. We’ve never been in this position before. The boys are very excited, I’m excited as a coach and to be able to play in a Towns Cup Final, there’s a lot of prestige and emphasis placed on the Towns Cup. To make the final is a massive achievement, especially for some of the local boys. The work they have put in this year has put them in good stead.”
It looked as though an all Louth affair was on the cards, as Boyne were playing Tullamore in the other semi-final, but Ene and co were just concentrating on themselves rather than worry about who they got in the final.
“The end of the day, we can only control what we can and who we come up against. We were lucky enough to get Tullow in the semi-final but we are just trying to focus on ourselves. We just cannot wait to get out and play.”
Thankfully, Ene has reported a clean bill of health coming into the game and now he is focused on getting his side ready for what lies ahead, the pressure of playing in a big final.
“Everyone is pretty much fit, some boys are walking around with bumps and bruises from the last game. There’s no injuries but we are looking forward to getting out, playing football and enjoying it. We have not been in this position before so we want the boys to soak it in and enjoy it and every minute that passes, enjoy the moment whilst it lasts.”
One thing the player coach does know is that making a good start is vital if the side want to have any chance of lifting the trophy at the end of the game.
“Pressure is all part and parcel of making these finals. We haven’t been here before as I said, so it’s a new experience, but new experiences is what grows a bit of character and puts you in good stead for years to come. It will be new for us but at the same time, I want the lads to enjoy it and not shy away from it, embrace it with a full head of steam.”
“We know what to expect from Tullamore. We played them at home and beat them and played them in Tullamore and lost. We are just concentrating on ourselves.”
After seeing his side progress over the years, Ene, who used to play for De La Salle Palmerstown in Dublin, thinks that a trophy would be a fitting way to reward the commitment of his squad.
“It’s what the boys deserve. I remember, back in pre-season, the hard work the boys were putting in and even throughout the season, some of the work the boys have been doing has been fantastic. The fitness work too that they have undertaken, over the last two months under Eugene McEntaggart, our trainer has been brilliant.
“But it’s what they deserve and I want them to take the next step and to the next level.”