Dunboyne captain Cathal Finn says that it's vital that everuone is focused for Sunday's SFC final according to JIMMY GEOGHEGAN.
Finn suggests that his team did more than just secure a place in Sunday's SFC showdown when they defeated Simonstown Gaels in the semi-final a few weeks ago - they also wiped out the bitter, demoralising memories of losing out to the same opposition in last year's championship campaign.
It was in the 2017 quarter-final that the two teams met and for much of the game it looked like Dunboyne were going to cruise to an impressive victory.
After all, they led by a whopping 11 points early in the second-half. Then the wheels started to fall off big time.
Dunboyne ended up losing, 2-16 to 4-12 with the second-half collapse leaving them mortified and bitterly disappointed at how they conceded such a strong position so easily.
In this year's quarter-final the reverse happened. This time Simonstown led at the break (0-7 to 0-3) and looked like the team who would secure themselves a place in the final. That half-time advantage could even have been more but the Gaels were denied when Mark McCabe's penalty was superbly saved by Dunboyne netminder Cian Flynn.
Instead of folding Dunboyne found their form in the second-half. Ironically they ended up with the same score as the 2017 game only this time they won (2-16 to 0-8) and copperfastened a rousing victory.
“We played a very good opening 30 minutes in that game last year, we were 11 points up but then in the second-half Simonstown just mixed it up, they upped their game big time and we just couldn't deal with it.
Eventually they ended up getting four goals and we had no answer, the game just passed us by,” recalled the Dunboyne skipper who is employed as a mechanical design engineer.
“It took us a long time to get over that defeat, but I think we rectified all that when we beat Simonstown the other week, I think we can say that we've left 2017 behind us now, we've moved on.”
Referring to the early stages of this year's semi-final the Dunboyne manager Ciaron Byrne, afterwards hinted that his players may have “forgotten” the game-plan. He also made reference to “a chat” that unfolded in the dressing room during the half-time break.
So what did go on in the sanctuary of the Dunboyne dressing-room? “Yeah there were words said, all right,” agrees Finn. “Those words weren't just said by me or the manager, plenty of lads had their say. Basicially we all felt the same, that we needed to up our game a lot and we did.
“We were happy with our second-half performance. It was probably the best 30 minutes we've played in all our championship campaign. It just wasn't a full 60-minute performance and we'd be hoping to rectify that in the final and keep playing good football from start to finish.”
One thing that might have taken the gloss off that comeback against Simonstown - just a little for Finn at least - was the fact that he wasn't on the field of play. He had departed the scene after just three minutes with a hamstring injury. Now he's facing a race against time to be ready for the showdown with Summerhill.
He says that the semi-final came just a little bit too early for him in terms of bouncing back from the injury. A few more days rest, he feels, might have made all the difference.
Intensive treatment will, he hopes, allow him to play on Sunday in what is a huge day for Dunboyne, no matter what way you look at it. Dunboyne haven't reached too many finals in recent times with Finn recalling how the team's ambitions have been thwarted at the quarter-final and semi-final stages in recent campaigns. Somehow they haven't been able to take that extra step.
He thinks back to the 2015 semi-final loss to Navan O'Mahonys as an example of how a promising but young Dunboyne team were simply defeated by a more experienced, polished outfit. He was hoping the Dunboyne players could push on in 2016 and '17 and fulfil what he regards as their full potential but that didn't happen either.
That reality has sharpened Finn's appreciation of the fact that getting to a final is not easy. Because of the way the Meath championship is structured he insists that reaching the final is an achievement in itself but not an end in itself. Once there, he wants to make the opportunity count.
“The long break during the summer without championship games can be difficult for a player, the way the Meath championship is set up you have to peak three times if you are to be successful. You have the early stages in April and May when a good start is important, then you have the latter stages of the group phase, then you have the knock-out stages.
“It's tough to be able to keep yourself right and peak at just the right time, it's a real balancing act, but it is what it is. It's all part of the challenge.”
Before the Dunboyne players leave the dressing-room on Sunday Finn will say his few words as captain. He doesn't think it'll be anything too emotional or deep.
Instead he'll be urging the players to keep focused, stick to the game plan. That worked against Simonstown - eventually. It might just work again.