Garrycastle's Doron Harte ... Garrycastle renew rivalry with Mullingar Shamrocks in the Westmeath SFC final this Sunday (Cusack Park, 3.45pm)
By Kieran Galvin
Doron Harte hopes the deep disappointment of losing the All-Ireland club final earlier this year can drive Garrycastle on in this Sunday's Westmeath SFC final against Mullingar Shamrocks (Cusack Park, 3.45pm).
For Harte, there is still a nagging sense of regret over Garrycastle's inability to close out the drawn All-Ireland final against Crossmaglen Rangers last March. Crossmaglen went on to emphatically defeat the Leinster champions in the replay.
"We've dug ourselves out of a few holes over the years - the Leinster final last year, the county final, going back to when we played Clonguish over in Longford (2009). All those kind of games will stand to us, but the big disappointment is we didn't dig ourselves out of it in Croke Park. It's still a major disappointment in my life that we didn't dig it out that day," said Harte.
"It's a long way back but at the same time, you take it one step at a time and Shamrocks is the next step. We'll be hoping that if we get in a tight situation, we'll bring everything that we've learned from those games to the fore and try and get over the line which we did last year (in the county final). We'd needed a lot of luck last year and we'd hope to perform a bit better on Sunday."
Garrycastle are attempting to defeat Mullingar Shamrocks in the county final for the third year in a row - and it will be the fourth decider in three years between the two teams, given that a replay was required last year.
"I suppose we know them inside out," said Harte, adding that he doesn't expect any surprises on Sunday.
"We know they bring a physical game to it and they're going to be hungry to win it. Ciaran Curley is taking a more central role and the likes of Paddy Joyce have been doing well for them. That's a couple of new dimensions that they will probably bring, but we'll be concentrating on ourselves and trying to get ourselves right."
Many members of the Garrycastle panel have six senior championship medals to their credit. How do they retain their appetite for success?
"We've always been winners - under 12, 14 16. This team has been winning titles; that's what's driving us," responds Harte.
"I don't know whether we want to win it for ourselves or to stop other people from winning it! At the same time, we definitely have a huge hunger for success. Even playing challenge games among ourselves, 15 on 15, there would be rows about who'd be winning and there'd be lads falling out. I think that's where the hunger comes from."
Former Galway star Paul Clancy was appointed as Garrycastle manager earlier this year in succession to Anthony Cunningham, who enjoyed huge success with the green and red outfit.
Asked about the difference in approach of Clancy, Harte said: "He was a fantastic player himself. When he came in, people saw he was young and fresh. A lot of teams seem to be going for that kind of a manager now; it's gone high tech. He's brought a new training element, all new drills and a gym ethos, which was very much optional in other years, whereas this year it's not been optional; it's a set programme. If lads don't want to follow it, then they won't get their game."
"When the first team sheet was read out, there was a lot eyebrows raised in our dressing room but that's definitely the way it's been and it's fantastic to see. Lads can't just turn up with two weeks' training and expect to get their name on the team sheet.
"I know the team is going to be hard to pick for Sunday, I wouldn't fancy picking it, but once I'm on it, I'll be happy enough!"
Harte believes the infusion of new blood this year has played a key role in getting Garrycastle back to another county final.
"When you have 15 or 16 subs coming up to training every night and fighting for places and getting games like they have this year - they might have been sitting on the line the last couple of years, Paul (Clancy) has integrated them this year - that has certainly thrown a cat among the pigeons, and older lads have to step up to the mark again," said the Coosan man.
"Those lads probably weren't going to keep training the way they were the last couple of years without getting games; it would be virtually impossible. For the last three years, they sacrificed themselves. Where we got for the last three years was down to them. When we came up to training games here, it was high intensity and high quality stuff. They needed an opportunity and they needed to see that if they trained hard, they could get a game. I think that was important in getting us back to a county final. Anthony (Cunningham) was fantastic but, at the same time, it probably was the time for a change and for a new man to come in and see fresh faces.
"The junior team from last year, Aidy (Aidan Dunning) did a fantastic job in integrating them. I think they were a bit unlucky to go down this year, after extra-time against Shandonagh. I think there were 36 players ineligible (for that team) after playing senior this year," added Doron.