St Michael’s footballers just one game from Croke Park

It has been impossible not to be anything except hugely impressed with the conviction, determination, never-say-die attitude, and style of play that St Michael’s have shown on their voyage to this Sunday's All-Ireland club Intermediate semi-final against B

Pat Regan's team have been playing an exciting, dynamic brand of football with a real emphasis on kick passing and moving the ball at speed. They were hugely enjoyable to watch last season and all Galway supporters will wish them well this weekend in their quest to reach the All-Ireland final.

Team captain Greg Rogan enjoyed 2008 immensely and he is hopeful there can be another victory or two in the coming weeks to really put the icing on his club's season.

Rogan, who is a former Connacht colleges' provincial winning captain with St Mary's College Galway under the guidance of Liam Sammon and Michael Lee, knows tthis weekend will be a stiff test for his side.

"Our regular full-forward Micheal Feeney has returned to Australia for the coming year and he is a massive loss for Sunday. He was a terrific target man for the team and all of us will have to work even harder than we have been doing to compensate for his loss if we are to advance to the final."

Rogan knows how difficult Ballyroan-Abbey will be - they have three current Laois squad players and won the Laois senior championship three seasons ago.

For St Michael's to do so, the DCU masters graduate in Finance is hoping niggling injuries that some of his teammates are suffering from the past few weeks will not impede their progress this Sunday.

"To be honest, we have our fingers crossed that some of our key players will be 100 per cent for Sunday. Eddie (Hoare ), who has been one of our most important players all year and is a vital cog in the midfield with Pat Regan (junior ), has been struggling with an ongoing back injury.

"However he is a real battler and hopefully he will be able to play for us this weekend. With the bad weather we have been having and the heavy pitches, it is tough on someone's back if it is acting up, so we have to be realistic and everyone on the panel knows that they might have a role to play to get over this game. "

Rogan knows these opportunities don't come around too often and need to be grabbed. "It is the biggest game in the club’s history and we won't be leaving any stone unturned to try to get to the final in Croke Park on February 15. Every team needs a bit of luck to win big games and hopefully we will have a bit of it on our side this weekend."

Barry Cummins is the club’s PRO and he told me yesterday there is a great buzz in the club before this All-Ireland semi-final.

"2008 was a marvelous year for St Michael's. We won the league and championship in Galway and had a great win in the Connacht final down in Kiltoom. So we are going all out on Sunday to try to keep that momentum going. The game is now fixed for Pearse Park in Longford which is a fine pitch which should suit our style of play. The club is 17 years trying to get back to the senior ranks in Galway, so 2009 will be a big one for the footballers in the Galway championship too."

The management team of Pat Regan (senior ), Peter Curran, and team trainer and selector John Ruane, knows the quality of opposition they face this weekend is a step up in class, and as Cummins pointed out, the Laois champions are in effect a good senior outfit.

If Micheal Feeney was around and lining out at the edge of the square, and if Eddie Hoare was in top condition, I would be a lot more confident about St Michael’s prospects of advancing. Nevertheless, a team has to play the cards they are dealt and in guys like Robbie Hannon, Frank Daly, Alan Glynn, Peter Ruane, Conor Hoctor, and Greg Rogan they have the nucleus of a team that can win. Others like James Ruane and Frankie Duggan and other lads on the fringes will be pushing for starting jerseys for this game and who knows who will come out of the pile and be a man-of-the-match contender. It is all shoulders to the wheel for this penultimate effort.

I expect they will be really up against it this Sunday as the Ballyroan-Abbey club is a recent amalgamation of two neighbouring clubs, Abbeyleix and Ballyroan.

Only three years ago, in 2006, a large number of Ballyroan players were part of the Ballyroan Gaels squad that won the Laois Senior Football Championship. Ballyroan Gaels were a temporary amalgamation of the two clubs before the move was made permanent in 2007 and Ballyroan-Abbey GAA was formed.

Belief is a great thing and St Michael's have plenty of it at the moment. Assuming Eddie Hoare can play for most of the game and have a steady influence on proceedings around the middle, thrn you have to give the city side a genuine chance of reaching the All-Ireland final.

They have improved as they have gone along and they proved all last year that there is a great attitude and sense of unity in the panel. They will need that to be in full flow this weekend if they are to get to play football in Croke Park. Anything can happen at this time of year and often the side with the most will-to-win and real self-belief pulls through.

If it comes down to that, then St Michael's have every chance.

*At the time of going to press, the game is fixed for Pearse Park in Longford at 2.30pm. However with the weather conditions as they are, you would be advised to check the definite venue on Sunday morning prior to setting off.

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