In this week’s column the Secret Junior Footballers sends his best wishes to Ballynanty Rovers as they play the FAI Junior Cup final this Sunday.
I would imagine there’s great excitement around Ballynanty way this week with Sunday’s massive game fast approaching.
Balla’s is a name that doesn’t trip off the tongue when Limerick Junior Soccer is discussed around the country but after this season’s heroics, it is sure to haunt the dreams of club members in Collinstown FC and Liffey Wanderers.
The boys in blue look to have a good mix of youth and experience and as far as building a junior soccer team goes, they seem to have got it right. Proper clubmen who stuck with the crest through thick and thin and young players who grew up watching some of them and are now on the verge of taking to the field alongside them in the national stadium.
Those same players, wearing the Ballynanty colours for god knows how many combined years have been rewarded for their loyalty with a place at the pinnacle of amateur soccer.
From the outside, they come across as a hard working team, tough and hard with the bite you need to be truly competitive. On the inside, the usual personality clashes have surely occurred and it can’t have been an easy job managing the players.
Do you just leave them off when they go at it hammer and tongs in the dressing room or do you take control? I played against Damien Conway a few times over the years and was always impressed with his approach to the game.
Like his team, he was tough and honest and to be blunt about it, he was one that you probably wished was on your team. His players have begun to set a trend in the past few seasons of upsetting the odds – and, let’s not forget, St Michael’s AFC last season - and have surpassed any expectations that anyone may have had for them.
This year’s St Michael’s are a different animal however and have created their own page in the record books by sprinting away with the South Tipp crown and more recently beating Limerick’s Geraldines in the Munster Junior Cup. Ballynanty will have taken note of all of this and probably tucked it away until the first 50/50 each player goes into. Can’t you just hear a flame haired midfielder whispering to a St Michael’s flying winger as he lies stricken on the ground that today isn’t going to be their day?
The club mightn’t be everyone’s favourites, be it in Bateman, LIT or Shelbourne Park that you’ve faced them but for me, they’re proof that you don’t need buckets of cash to attract players or win trophies.
You just need to be who you are, warts and all, and play for each other. You won’t see any of the Balla boys refusing to get on the bus until he’s paid. To be in an FAI Junior Cup final is a magnificent achievement for any club as players and managers with Fairview Rangers and Pike Rovers can surely testify. It can only be bettered by going out and winning it. Up Balla!