ST BRIGID’S are back on the AFL1 title hunt this Sunday when they face Na Fianna in the play-off semi-finals at Russell Park (12.30pm) as they look to retain the title they won last December on a freezing night in Balgriffin.
They do so without the services of Paddy Andrews who has had a recent hand operation to sort out a long-standing injury sustained on Dublin duty during the summer.
Kevin Bonner is also out following a groin operation but selector Martin Cahill says the panel is in decent shape with intercounty stars John O’Loughlin and Emlyn Mulligan key influences of helping the Dublin 15 side tick.
They had Laois man O’Loughlin’s services in their first meeting with Na Fianna all the way back in April even though he departed early but it was one of Brigid’s strongest wins of the campaign, 3-15 to 1-17.
“We were going pretty well at the time,” he told GazettSport. “It’s not often you get the county players for your league games but we had for that game – even though he was sent off! – and we won out there which was a great win. They were going great at the time with a couple of goals at crucial times in the second half.
“They are a strong outfit and Paul Caffrey is managing them so, whenever he is involved, you know they will be a serious outfit.”
O’Loughlin played a key role for the club’s hurlers in winning AHL2 on his return from Laois duties and he has the potential to power the football side, too.
And Cahill said he cannot praise him enough.
“You get what you see from John. He’s a great county player with Laois, one of their most prominent players, and he stands out a mile at club level.
“It’s what you want because it is not always what you get when players finish with their county for the year. Maybe the last thing they want to do is club football or hurling but he never shies away from matches and he can’t play enough. It’s great to have someone who has bought so much into the club from outside.”
He says the same is true of Leitrim star Mulligan who was one of the key performers in last year’s league final.
“Emlyn had a stop start season last year with injury but he is a quality player and one of the top forwards around. When he’s playing well, we seem to play well. Again, he bought into the club ethos.”
Cahill says the side have been ticking along well in training, normally a tricky feat at this stage in the year with championship hopes over for another year. But the panel is working well and looking forward to another push for silverware.
“We’ve kept going because we knew for a while we would be in a league playoff. We finished top in the end and we had figured we would be here. If we are going to be in the playoffs, we might as well do it properly and try and win it.
“It was a decision management made and the players are more than happy to go for it. We’ve trained away at least once or twice a week all the way through. It is hard once championship is over but a league is a nice thing to win.”