James Murray: We can't let Croke Park dream distract us
BY SHANE STAPLETON
James Murray doesn’t know how Ronan Sweeney keeps the show on the road. The 37-year-old is still leading the line for Moorefield as they chase AIB All-Ireland glory, with Corofin providing the hurdle at the semi-final stage this Saturday.
Sweeney spent 13 seasons in the Lilywhite jersey and continues to be involved as a selector under manager Cian O’Neill.
All the while, he’s been a crucial part of Moorefield winning another county title, and reclaiming the Leinster crown after an 11-year barren spell.
Veteran Sweeney scored 2-3 in December 2006 when Rhode of Offaly were gunned down, before the Kildare champions eventually went down to Dr Crokes after a replay in Nenagh.
“Yeah he’s still a selector with Kildare,” says Murray ahead of their AIB All-Ireland semi-final clash with Corofin. “He has to juggle that and come training with us. He’s still the person who’s texting into the group ‘who is going kicking tonight?’
"He’s the person in the morning who has done a gym session and throws up a picture on the WhatsApp to show it.
“I don’t know where he gets the energy and still has three or four kids at home to look after. He’s unbelievable, so he is.”
The man they call ‘Roly’ isn’t the only player with links back to the 2006-07 outfit. Ross Glavin, Frank Hanniffy and Kevin O'Neill are now part of the management team while Daryl Flynn, David White, and the aforementioned sharpshooter are still lining out.
“I would have been 13 years of age,” says Murray of 2006. “There’s still five or six off that team that are still playing, and the three lads on the management team as well. So it’s great to hear their knowledge of what happened in 2006, and how their preparation could have been different coming into the All-Ireland semi-final. They’ve tried to make sure that we’re fully focused coming into this game and no stone is left unturned.
“Dr Crokes were the big team back then, (whereas) Corofin are the big team now. Did they 100% believe they were going to beat Dr Crokes? They said that they only fully believed they could win 40 minutes into the game when it was very close.
“It was a drawn match in the first game and then they lost in a replay. So they’re just making sure we’re fully aware that we’re coming into this expecting to win.”
All teams hope to evolve along the way. In recent seasons, brothers Eanna and Cian O’Connor transferred from Kerry up to the club, and their influence has changed how the side plays.
Indeed, their father Jack — an All-Ireland winning boss with the Kingdom — has lent a hand to the management side when it’s been needed.
“I suppose we don’t have too many household names, maybe Ronan Sweeney and Eanna O’Connor. But everybody just has that never-say-die attitude and teamwork, and it’s just a great bond at the minute. Everyone just loves going out training, and we work really hard for one another.
“The two lads (O’Connors) are gas, so they are. They’re the ones always up kicking and we’ve kind of adapted our style of play. We were probably more of a running team a couple of years ago but the two O’Connors, and Jack as well coming in, they've helped us keep our head and play heads-up football and kick it into the forwards as quick as possible.
“We feel that Jack is part of the set-up,” says the primary school teacher. “He comes down once or twice every month just to take a Sunday training session, and he’ll tell us where we’re going wrong and we’ll try to correct that during the week.
“It’s great if an All-Ireland winning manager of his status is telling us we’re doing things correctly as well, you know.”
Moorefield have had an amazing journey this year. They came from miles behind to beat St. Loman's in the Leinster final, and are now just an hour away from Croke Park. Still, Murray knows the size of the task this Saturday is huge.
“Corofin are after winning the last five Galway titles, the last two Connachts, and they won an All-Ireland in 2015. So they have a lot of experience in their team, they’re physically very strong, but in saying that, all the expectation is probably on them to get to the final. So there’s no pressure on us going into this game.”