Manager Des Kelly told David Hennessy that his John Mitchel’s team have put in the work and there is no reason why they can’t progress in the All-Ireland for the first time.
Birmingham’s John Mitchel’s will take on Eoghan Rua of Derry in their All-Ireland quarter-final at 1pm this Sunday in Celtic Park, Derry. They were eliminated at this stage last year but manager Des Kelly believes this could be the year that John Mitchel’s progress and make an elusive semi-final.
Des told The Irish World: “I see no reason why we shouldn’t get past the next stage. I just take it game by game. We won’t look any further than the next game and hopefully we can come out of this game victorious. Then we can talk about semi-finals which we have never been to before. Everybody’s gearing up for it. We’re ready. It’s all on the day. We’ll see.”
Des believes the way his team have dealt with difficult circumstances will see them prevail across the Irish Sea: “Our semi final against Father Murphy’s was a very hard semi-final. We were expecting a tough game and we got a tough game. We fought hard. Our second half against Father Murphy’s was unbelievable. The hurling we played was absolutely magnificent. It’s a credit to the lads, the training and everything that went in throughout the year. It actually stood to them in the second half, training in the mucky, wet conditions. The lads just kept going and that’s what brought us through in the end.
“Then in the final against Fullen Gaels, the very same thing. We were a point up at half-time. I said it to the lads in the dressing room, ‘We are starting again. It’s nil-nil’. Against Fullen Gaels, you’re always gonna get a good tough game and in those conditions anything can happen.
“The training in the last couple of months really stood to us against Fullen Gaels. We went five points behind and we pulled our way back. We drew level and then we went five points clear, six points clear. It’s a credit to the lads, unbelievable. We’re going well and if we can just stick to that, stick together, we’ll give this Ulster crowd a good go and be victorious.
“That’s what got us through the year so far: It’s the work rate and never say die attitude. You could see there last Saturday (against Fullen Gaels). We were five points down, not one head went down. We pulled our way back point after point, got a goal. The lads know it’s never over until the final whistle blows.”
That Pairc na hEireann encounter ended in a comfortable five point win for Des Kelly’s side: “Credit to the lads, they’re doing the very same in training. I tell them to play as if you’re playing in a match. The same attitude goes into training as in a match.
“That’s exactly what is standing to us. It’s high quality training and that’s what’s to be expected at this stage. To get to an All-Ireland quarter-final, semi-final or even a final, it takes a lot of work. The lads are putting in the work and that’s why we’re there.
“I’m over here 14 or 15 years now and it’s the first time I’ve taken charge. I’ve been playing all my life and I was asked to come in and do a job this year. I was more than happy to step in and take over this brilliant bunch of lads. So far it’s all been working out, things are going well, hopefully it’s the start of my managerial career.
“Training is going very well and we’re gelling together. We’re working as a team, we’re working as a unit. No injuries so far touch wood.”
Des, from Ballinahinch in Tipperary, has been involved in previous All-Ireland quarter-finals for John Mitchel’s as a player: “Eight or nine years ago we came up against a Kilkenny crowd. We kind of knew we were going to get a bit of a trimming and we actually did.
“In the last few years now when we have gotten through, we’ve come up against either Connacht or Ulster which is a happy draw for us because obviously Ulster or Connacht wouldn’t be as strong as Munster or Leinster. There wouldn’t be a big difference between us and any of them clubs, I would think and a lot of boys would think that as well.
“But it’s still going to be a very hard game. Obviously, we’re over here and we wouldn’t be doing as much as those boys over there. This year we’ve been flat out, we’ve been going very well and that’s what is standing to us. Lads are going well, they’ve got a new manager in, they’re respecting me and I have that respect for them.”