By Stephen Grealis
Joint-captain Niall McManamon will have the privilege of leading his team out onto MacHale Park against Ballina Stephenites alongside Oisin McLaughlin, something he says is a dream come through.
He wasn’t born in 1991 when they last played in the senior decider but Westport joint-captain Niall McManamon is only looking in one direction, and that’s forward to his side’s clash on Sunday with Ballina. He’ll have the privilege of leading his team out onto MacHale Park alongside Oisin McLaughlin, something he says is a dream come through.
“It’s a massive honour for me, something I never thought would happen. To just play in one is great but to lead the team out, well that’s just even more special. It’s just making me look forward to the occasion that bit more.”
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for Niall and his Westport teammates, and it all centres around those final few moments of their semi-final win over their local rivals Castlebar Mitchels. Having lost out at the same stage in each of the two previous years, it was a relief to McManamon and co when they got finally took the extra step.
“I think we would have taken anything to get over the line and into the final. The last two years, they were both really hard to take. We always backed ourselves to get over Castlebar but not with that much drama! I suppose considering the game, we had to give people their money’s worth and thankfully we got over the line as a result,” joked the corner-back.
It may be a novel final paring but these two teams are no strangers to each other, having met at the quarter-final stage last season. It was Westport who came out on the right side of the result by a single point then, however, Niall McManamon doesn’t believe that it will give Westport any psychological advantage this weekend.
“It’s a totally different ball game next Sunday, the weather that day was shocking and it didn’t allow for great football to be played. We got the win that day but it’ll have no bearing on the final, neither side have been in this position before, nerves could play a part on the day, who knows.”
But Niall is also quick to point out that the depth within the Westport squad is something to behold and that far from just the fifteen or twenty players used on match-day being integral, that every player in the squad is pushing the other on, which makes a difference and ups the levels to another gear. The Coveys listed 42 players in the match programme for their Round 2 fixture against Ballintubber and 39 for the semi-final against Mitchels.
“There’s so much talent in this squad, the players we don’t always see in games, the fight they are putting in during training is frightening and it pushes everyone on, because you know if your level drops off someone will just come into your place.
“We’ve got three lads out currently with cruciate injuries but it’s a case of the next man steps up and you know and you can trust him that he will do the job. It’s not just the depth but the quality we have in this squad, we wouldn’t be where we are without them all.”