Newcastle West captain Stephen Nix lifts the trophy after their 2015 Limerick SFC win
STEPHEN Nix has been here before and came out the right side to lift the Fr Casey Cup in 2015.
The Newcastle West captain has also seen the other side – losing county finals, semi finals and even battling relegation.
“That’s the thing about this championship - there is a thin line,” he explains.
Nix points to Sunday August 20 – Newcastle West against St Kierans in the final group game in Rathkeale GAA grounds.
Newcastle West were table-toppers but…..
“If we had lost our last game in the group we could have gone from top of the group to be knocked out and that just shows how competitive it is,” explained Nix.
The Magpies won 1-11 to 0-6 to cement their place on top of the group and progress directly to the semi final.
“We didn’t really know where we were when the group finished and then we had a long break because we topped our group,” he said.
All had started so well for Newcastle West with St Patricks and Ballylanders put to the sword.
Then came Ballysteen and Oola games and no in for Newcastle West.
"We had a good start but then a bit of a lull and a bit of a wake-up call and that led to a bit of re-jig and we got going again after addressing a few problems," said the captain.
”If you don’t sort out problems, you won’t improve and it was good that we found out those issues early-on in the year . If you go through a year without problems, you may not know where you are going. It was hard to know what happened but it’s hard to go through any year without hiccups,” said Nix, who is an injury doubt for the final after suffering a hand injury in Newcastle West’s Limerick IHC quarter final loss to Kildimo-Pallaskenry.
Nix offered some explanation for the mid-season dip in form.
”You are trying to plod along because you don’t want to peak too early and then we had injuries during the year and this and that and we were trying different ways of playing ball,” he said.
But the experienced defender emphasised the competitive nature of the Limerick SFC.
”That’s the thing about this championship - there is a thin line. You at the two teams in relegation - Rathkeale and Ballysteen and they are two very good teams and well capable of getting to a county final or definitely last four.”
He added: “In this senior championship, any team can beat anyone - it’s that competitive. There are no easy games and there are plenty upsets”.
Nonetheless, Newcastle West had achieved their goal – reaching the county semi final are group winners.
The opponents, were champions Monaleen.
”We were the first semi final and that’s always a bit easier because you only focus on getting over your match and not looking at who is in the final. Monaleen are a serious team and were county champions and it was a good match and good test to see where we were,” said Nix.
”We were happy enough with the match against Monaleen - we were moving well.”
All that after a 2016 that saw the defending champions dethroned all to easily.
”We are back after the disappointment of last year and this is where we want to be. Every team in the championship wants to be in a county final and we are just happy to be there now and try and win it,” said the captain.
”It’s one thing getting to a county final but winning it is a serious task. They don’t come around too often as we know and it’s a hard pill to swallow if you lose, so we want to be on top of our game and give ourselves every chance and leave nothing to chance.”
The Newcastle West run to the final has come under new management with Joe Lee as manager and Kerryman Martin Horgan as coach.
“It’s definitely refreshing when there are new men in and it you keep learning new things and that’s what it is all about,” said Nix.
”The lads last year felt that was as far as they could bring it - we got in the Joe and the lads, and they got a backroom team together themselves and Martin (Horgan) as coach. He brings a different aspect to what we were doing compared to the last few years. I think we have the balance right and he works at what we are good at and keeps it simple and doesn’t complicate it.”
Newcastle West have also being helped by the influx of some youngsters.
”There are a few lads very unlucky not to be even getting a run out. Fellas have upped their standards to get up from U-21 to senior. The young lads are really driving it - sometimes it can be the older lads keeping a team together but it’s the young fellas really setting our standards and driving it on so professionally. They know if they put in the work they have a good chance of getting to a county final or getting a medal,” said the captain.
What of Adare? ”I hadn’t actually seen them much but in that semi final they were a very impressive with plenty speed. They are young and they fear nothing. That’s why they are there, they go out and play ball and don’t worry.”