BY DENIS HURLEY
SUNDAY will be historic for Éire Óg as they take on Kerry’s Templenoe in the AIB Munster Club IFC semi-final at their ground in Ovens (1.30pm).
Taking advantage of the fact that they have a stand, Éire Óg are able to host the game themselves and county Premier IFC-winning captain Goulding is looking forward to the occasion. However, at the same time, he is also keen to ensure that the team focus on the task at hand.
‘It’s very exciting that we’re at home,’ he says.
‘Hopefully there’ll be a big crowd, from Éire Óg and other clubs around, but the challenge is for us to perform.
‘There are more distractions than usual this week and it’s a big test of us, but what we did during the county championship was put a plan in place and stick to it and that served us well.’
Templenoe won the Kerry junior title in 2015, going on to Munster and All-Ireland glory and reached the intermediate decider in 2016 and 2017 before taking the final step earlier this year. They won the county championship in May and the lay-off didn’t affect them as they overcame Waterford’s St Saviour’s in the opening round of the Munster competition last week.
Kerry stars Tadhg Morley, Killian Spillane and Adrian Spillane backbone the team while Brian Crowley had a hat-trick against St Saviour’s and Goulding knows that they will present a stiff challenge.
‘Absolutely,’ he says.
‘They have a lot of Kerry senior and junior players and they play in the top grade of the league in Kerry.
‘Obviously, it’s a huge challenge but we’ve picked up a lot of confidence from the county final. It’s the same as any game in that regard, it we don’t perform we’ll be under pressure so we’ll be planning to play well.’
Éire Óg won the county championship with a 0-14 to 0-12 win over St Michael’s on the October bank holiday weekend.
‘We spent three or four days celebrating,’ Goulding says, ‘but we were back in training on Friday night and there was a good buzz.
‘Things have been going well since then, the U21s are still in their championship too so that was good to focus the mind.’
The victory, after three semi-final appearances in the four years since winning the IFC, came following a first-round defeat to Cill na Martra, which Goulding cites as a turning point.
‘After the Cill na Martra game, we had a look at what was going on,’ he says.
‘We weren’t applying ourselves and there was way more in the tank we needed to get out if we were more committed.
‘Over the summer, we spent more time with [coach] Paudie Kissane and we got our gameplan right and started to improve with every game, we got on a roll.
‘It was a mixture of things, we had more access to the U21s that we mightn’t have had in other years and we got better defensively.
‘When it came down to the wire against St Michael’s, we ended up playing our best football in the last ten minutes and that got us over the line.’
Kissane’s influence can’t be over-estimated, according to his former inter-county team-mate Goulding.
‘Obviously, from a strength and conditioning point of view, he had a great impact,’ he
‘We were probably a lot fitter than other years and, I know it’s a simplistic approach, but it was all about doing your job whether you were five or six points up or down.
‘We saw it against Bantry in the semi-final, we built a lead and then went away from the gameplan and got ourselves in the height of trouble, we didn’t stick to what we were supposed to do.
‘When we have commitment and belief to the system, everybody does their job and everything else takes care of itself. Everybody bought into that, it’s easy to say it now but it was definitely a huge help.’
Victory means they will be in the senior A grade for 2020 – still in the second tier, as they were, but playing with better sides.
‘I suppose there’s a lot of merit in the way the championship format has changed,’ Goulding says.
‘I know it’s still the second grade but the quality of teams we’ll be up against will be very good, definitely a step up from what we experienced last year. With the new structure, I think every team will find their level and be able to play at a competitive grade once things have settled.’