Ray Dempsey has been there and done it with Knockmore on the field back in their heyday.
A tough but skilful attacker who was part of great days for the ‘Parish of the Backs’ on the field - he has had his good days in management bringing the Mayo minors to two All Ireland finals in a row in 2008 and 2009 and now he has his home club back in a county final and looking for their first Moclair Cup since 1997.
His side got out of the blocks early on Sunday afternoon against Ballina and were able to keep the near neighbours at arms length down the home straight - the time that games are won and lost he believes.
“We got six points up at half-time but one half doesn't win it. The games are won in the last 10, 15 minutes.
“I thought the way we manoevred scores and were pulled down as they were heading for goal was very clever from the lads."
Knockmore have blended together a good mix of youth and experience into their side this year and are reaping the rewards but they have another huge test coming up in a fortnight he admitted.
"They are footballers. These fellas are adapting but the biggest test now is coming against Breaffy, a huge ask, hope we are ready for it.”
While their younger players have impressed it was one of the old stagers who put in a consummate performance against Ballina. Kevin McLoughlin linked the play together brilliantly and cut holes through the Ballina defence on numerous occasions - Dempsey was asked was it a conscious decision to give McLoughlin a free role in his side.
"Can't really tell you the answer to that question but Kevin is a class player. You can read too much into these things.
“These good players are very clever, good professional people, they just know how to play the game really at vital stages.
“It wasn't any formula from us on the sideline, it was just Kevin wanting to get on the ball and use his head. We have a lot of fellas that are good players and they keep expressing themselves.”
Having lost to Ballina in the group stages - it looked like Knockmore had given themselves a serious uphill task in the knock out stages having to take on Ballintubber the following week in the quarter-finals - but it could have actually been a good thing for them Dempsey said.
“The biggest lift we got was that we lost to them in the group stage. To be going in having beaten Ballina and having beaten Ballintubber, the lads might have been thinking it was going to happen instead of making it happen and today they just made it happen.”
Getting back to the big one
Getting back to a county final is something that is to be enjoyed he added saying: “Every club starting out was hoping to get a run in the championship. We were no different. These lads are working away very hard. We are just delighted to be back, lost a very good player in Adam Naughton got injured. The lads have seen this, you might be injured and you might miss out on a year, he has a serious injury. Just go out and enjoy it and play quality football and attack with your head and defend with your heart.”
Playing in front of a empty ground at such an important part of the season is no ideal - but the government had to make a decision, but it is disappointing for people all the same says Dempsey.
“Look, I know it’s very disappointing for players that their partners and mothers and fathers aren’t here first of all; those familiar voices that help you when you are in battle out there.
“But the government had to do a job and had to stop people travelling to Gaelic matches. But will there be more people here? There will probably be only 200 or 500, you won’t see them anyway.
As for diminishing the achievement of winning Dempsey doesn’t see it that way at all saying: “Does it diminish it….when you are involved in football it’d about trying to win.
“You don’t always win, but I suppose with the coverage through Mayo TV now and RTÉ helps to get the play out to people who want to see it.
“It probably diminishes it for the people who can’t come to it. It’s a big thing for people for people in your parish to come.
“It’s a social event at the weekend and change it up from working or whatever, so I feel more sorry for the supporters not able to get here than us not playing in front of the supporters if you know what I’m saying. I think that’s hard.”
Havng all hands on deck
Having a clear run at the club game without having to worry about players being pulled in different directions by different inter-county squads is something that has been huge this year according to the Knockmore manager.
“It’s a huge difference. The GAA has to look at this, because I do laugh about the grassroots of the game.
“There are men in Knockmore coaching these lads since they were 8 and 10, and then we turn around and we can’t pull them out of development squads and stuff to let them play with their clubs.
“That’s not going to keep working. That model that we have in place isn’t going to keep, because I don’t know why Knockmore people go out and coach kids to become very good footballers and then we don’t benefit from them. So we have to be careful.”
As for the current consensus that split season is the way forward - we need to tease it out fully before making that decision Dempsey belives.
“Well we have to wait and see, because there’s nothing else going on. It’s very easy to talk about this when the inter-county isn’t happening.
“So we have to wait and see when the inter-county and the club are both in the one calendar year. It’s like a new year because the county can’t start yet, so we just have to wait and see the two of them together and see what issues arise out of that.”