Itâ€™s nearly twelve months since Sean Connollyâ€™s were on the verge of being relegated to the Junior Championship, now they are preparing for the Intermediate Final against Carrickedmond on Sunday.
For manager Colin (Dolly) Dalton the transformation is down to the players and the commitment theyâ€™ve put in in the last few months: â€œItâ€™s thanks to the players for the commitment and effort they have put in. It makes the manager and management teamâ€™s job a lot easier when you are organised. Itâ€™s a great turnaround,â€ he told the Leader.
Dalton is well known and respected in the county. There is no denying how much his club means to him: â€œIâ€™m passionate and love the game and am absolutely delighted to be in the final with Connollyâ€™s. We are happy to be in the final and looking forward to it. Iâ€™m so proud. Itâ€™s great to be involved with your team and to get to a county final. The lads respect you and thatâ€™s something I like.â€
It has been a whirlwind few months for Connollyâ€™s and Dalton; from setting up the new management team to now getting to the final: â€œAt Christmas I got a great management team together, we sat down and then met the players individually. We started training at the end of February and took it from there. I wanted the team to work hard and be set up properly. We said weâ€™d take the league first and then the championship. We said it would take time and as we went on we started building momentum,â€ Dalton said.
Looking ahead to Sundayâ€™s game Dalton admitted his side are very much underdogs: â€œCarrickedmond are hot favourites. We need to improve our performance and have to bring extra to the game if we are to beat them. They are a great team and we know itâ€™s going to be a massive battle. We are looking forward to it and hopefully weâ€™ll give a good account of ourselves; thatâ€™s what I want.â€
The man in the opposition dug-out is just as passionate about his club as Dalton is and both wear their hearts on their sleeves. He has a lot of respect for Eugene McCormack: â€œHe was an outstanding footballer and brilliant as manager for Longford; getting to the Leinster U-21 Final and beating Dublin along the way. He is a top manager; I look up to him for the effort and passion he has.â€
It has been 25 years since Sean Connollyâ€™s won the Intermediate Championship and Dalton would dearly love to bring the cup back the Ballinalee; the cup named after a good Connollyâ€™s man â€“ Gerry Hennessy: â€œIt would be great if we could win the Hennessy Cup. Gerryâ€™s son Pascal has been involved with the club for the past 20 years. He is a very passionate man just like his late favourite. Itâ€™ll be a proud day for the Hennessy family to see the Connollyâ€™s in the final. Hopefully we can do them proud.â€