“Even when we play away in Mayo we have to travel an hour and half to most places, but this is a bit further all right.” Iorras Aontaithe manager Eric Reilly jested about his side’s trip down the country this weekend in the FAI Junior Cup, the 250 plus mile down from their home in Carne Nash to south Cork and their opponents Kinsale.
Wins over Dublin Bus and Pike Rovers in the last two rounds of the competition have propelled Iorras into the seventh round of the competition and left them as the last Mayo side in the competition. “It’s great that we are here now and ready to go, we have nothing to fear going down there at all. Putting out Pike Rovers who would have been one of the favourites for the competition in the last round has given us a great boost going into the game.” The game, notwithstanding getting to Kinsale itself, will be an arduous task, but everything has been taken care of for the side according to Reilly. “We are going to be heading off from Belmullet at 11am on Saturday and should be down there early enough in the evening which will give us time to have dinner and have a bit of a team meeting the night before the game. The game will kick off at 12 nooon on Sunday so it will give us time to head back home, hopefully we’ll have something to celebrate on the way home.”
But getting back to the football, Iorras are not here to make up the numbers and are looking to go all the way. “There are five or six lads in the side who all have FAI Cup medals already (In 2004 Erris United claimed the FAI Youth Cup ), so they have already shown that they have what it takes to be the best and they have come on in the last few years and are now very experienced players. We have a nice blend of youth and experience right through the side and everyone is ready for the game on Sunday. At the start of last season, we were struggling until we had a serious look at ourselves in July and since then we’ve lost once in the past 18 games.”
It’s been a long time coming
Since the win over Pike Rovers in the last round Iorras have been out of competitive action as a team, but it hasn’t stopped the hard work being put in. “Before the Pike game we got knocked out of the Connacht Cup, which was disappointing, but it was a good game to have under our belts going into that clash. Since then we’ve not had much hard football, last weekend though we had a good 11 on 11 session and the lads worked very hard, and we also had the few lads involved with the Mayo league side who got knocked out of the Oscar Traynor Cup at the weekend. But we are ready to go come midday Sunday. We’ve been going since January 21 last year so there’s no point stopping now.”
Both Brendan Nallen and Dave Reilly are doubts ahead of the game, with Reilly expected to make it, but Nallen a more serious doubt, although Aontaithe will be giving him all the time they can to make it. “Brendan is a top class player and we’ll give him time, 45 good minutes out of him even could be the difference between winning and losing so we’ll do what we can. But we have 22 lads going down all as good as each other and willing and able to do the job when called on, which is a big difference from the start of last season where we were trying to put square pegs in round holes some of the time.”
It’s one hell of a trip the men from the Barony are making and they will be doing their all to come home with the goods. “We’re going down there with nothing to lose, they’re obviously a good side to get this far, but we are also a good side who got here on merit and we won’t fear them,” was Reilly’s parting thoughts on the contest.