JAMES Stephens captain Jackie Tyrrell had two souvenirs of Sunday’s senior hurling county final victory. The Walsh Cup was one, but a jersey with its collar almost ripped off was a strange one.
You could almost hear the relief in Tyrrell’s voice that his team-mates went on to see off the Shamrocks following his second half dismissal.
“It’s a credit to the lads that we won the game,” he said. “I have to thank them, because I thought I had lost the game for us – I owe them all a drink for that!”
Down to 14 men, the Village drove on after Tyrrell’s dismissal. Every player stepped up a gear, something the captain was keen to praise.
“They’ve been doing that all year,” he said. “Tomas Keogh was superb. Unbelievable the last day, he came up the field and scored a point on Sunday - incredible. Everyone responded, but that’s what happens when lads get sent off; some teams step it up more than others.”
The thoughts, he admitted, weren’t so positive after he received his marching orders five minutes into the second half. It was a body blow for Tyrrell, who believed he had cost his side the spoils.
“I’d only be sent off once before; when that happens things start flashing before you and you think ‘Jesus, I’m after losing this game for us’,” he said. “I didn’t realise that Colin Fennelly had been sent off as well until the linesmen was trying to put me up in the stand and said he’d send Colin up as well. I asked ‘was Colin sent off?’ and he told he yeah. It was only then that I knew he had been sent off as well.”
As for the incident that led to his dismissal, Tyrrell was straightforward.
“I had been booked already, but we won a free and I probably lost the run of myself,” he said honestly. “I didn’t intend to head butt Colin but our helmets clashed – I deserved to get sent off. I don’t know whether he showed a second yellow – I just saw him (the referee) reach for his card and I knew I was gone.”
Emotions were the key word of the week. Seven days on from seeing the title get snatched from their grasp, Tyrrell admitted that the team toned down things in their build-up to the replay.
“The key to everything was they we had a meeting back at the club in Larchfield after the drawn game,” he said. “Emotions were high in the dressing-room after the game but we said we wouldn’t get hung up on the game and would move on from there.
“We had a puck-around on Wednesday, did little in the way of training – you’d achieve nothing with a hard training session – then we had a meeting on Saturday to refocus the minds.”
It was an approach that clearly worked.
“Lads were so tuned from last week that it was just a matter of getting that focus again,” he said. “I felt that we just wanted it more than Shamrocks – you could see it in the body language and the challenges. At half-time the breakdown from the breaking ball read 25-11 in our favour. That showed just how much more we wanted to win the game.”
And that desire helped the side, even after they watched the Shamrocks make the faster start.
“Last week they were 0-8 to 0-4 up and at other stages were five points clear, so I knew we had to crawl our way back into the game,” the captain said. “I had no doubt that the lads would respond positively.”
Eoin Larkin’s goal just before half-time helped do just that. It was just one part of what Tyrrell believed was an exceptional performance.
“Eoin was unbelievable all over the field,” he said of his clubmate and inter-county colleague. “His points, hooking and blocking and work-rate was something else, while his goal was the icing on the cake.”
And the captain clearly put a high price on Sunday’s win.
“For me, it’s better than the All-Ireland,” he said. “This is my third senior county medal but it’s streets ahead of the others. We knew that if we got the result here it would be that way – I’m not sure what it was like in the 1970s and 80s, but it’s better than any other final I’ve played in with the club. It’s a credit to the selectors and the preparation they put in for the final.
“It was brilliant, a sweet feeling,” he finished. “It was a great win for the Village, probably one of the best victories ever.”