Dr Crokes captain always had faith in his troops and they delivered

By Murt Murphy for kerrygaa.ie
""Never consider the possibility of failure; as long as you persist, you will be successful." That could well be the Dr Crokes motto after they struck for a late goal that saw them snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and take the Acorn Life County U-21 Football title for the first time since 1986.
Crokes were superbly led by their captain Kieran Ward and he spoke as well as he plays afterwards to the www.kerrygaa.ie
Did the captain ever lose hope with his side four points down and time running out
" Throughout the week and throughout the competition, there has been a belief instilled in this group of players which has come from James Fleming, Mike Buckley and our management team. We play the Crokes way; we never ever give up until that final whistle blows. We had to do it in every round so far against Laune Rangers, Kerins O'Rahillys, Kilcummin/Rathmore and again tonight. There is a belief instilled in all our players that until the final whistle, this Crokes side is never beaten and I think that we proved that again tonight"

u21bweb.jpgWhat was it like to captain a Crokes team that had ended a barren 25 year gap since their last victory at U-21 level
" It is a massive honour and a privilege for me to captain this side and to represent the entire squad as I went up to accept the cup. It's been a long time since we won the last one so to win this one was very special and it was won for all those great Crokes players down the years who went so close. But there are a lot of leaders on this team, not just one. They were all over the field, not just the starting fifteen but every one of the twenty five players on the squad and the management team. There was a belief among us that this year was going to be our year and there was a belief among us that this was going to be our year and we took it one game at a time and thankfully at the end, it turned out well for us"

Sometimes in victory the stars are remembered but Ward insists that this was all about the squad "It was a squad effort because football today is not a fifteen man game any more - it's a twenty or a twenty two man game. I don't think any side is going to win anything unless you have a group of twenty plus players who are willing to put their shoulder to the wheel. It is no good just having a good starting fifteen. You saw it tonight when unfortunately Brendan Falvey, who has been outstanding throughout the competition for us, got injured in the first few minutes and we had to bring on a sub at that early stage. But there is belief in the squad that no matter what fifteen Crokes players are on the pitch at any given time that we can succeed no matter what fifteen it may be"

Kieran Ward explains in many ways what is the Crokes secret and like it or lump - every Crokes side from U-12 up play the Crokes way - the captain explains " Look every Crokes player is comfortable and confident on the ball. We all share the same goals. We said before the game that we were all going to attack together and we were going to defend together. We defended out there as a unit and everyone bought into it. That is the Crokes way- the defence bought into to it- the attack bought into and thankfully it paid off because we are county champions right now. It's a proud moment for all the players right now and it a great night for the Crokes club"

While the late winning strike by Bryan O'Shea will go into the history books, the early strike by Chris Brady who has been playing the "ground football" with such great success all year, was just as vital "Chris is a fantastic player and he has great killer instinct in front of goal. Maybe he gets that from his soccer exploits because he is a deadly finisher and only knows how to get goals but he was denied a couple of times tonight by some great saves by Shane O'Leary. Its tough luck on St Kieran's who are a fine side but on these nights as Crokes know only too well, you have winners and losers and luckily for us we managed to be winners. It's a great night for Crokes and as I said it's an honour for me to captain such a great bunch of lads"

The captain explains that this is a very young Dr Crokes side and in fact Bryan O'Shea, the match winner has three more years under 21 "You see that's the beauty about this win. We have players all over the pitch who can do it. So if one lad is not playing up to scratch, someone else will pop up in another part of the field and do the business. Seven of the team that finished are minors and most of the team is underage again next year"
Like every Crokes player - Kieran wants to go on and play senior with the club " One you sample what is happening tonight you just want to be part of the Crokes club and you want to go on win more trophies and keep this great club on top of the tree. We also want to ensure that it will not be twenty five years before the club wins another Co U-21 title"

Unlike many of his team-mates Kieran Ward is not a "Sem graduate "as he went to the Intermediate School Killorglin with whom he played Corn Ui Mhuiri with and so came into contact with two legendary coaches, Frank Walsh (father of Donnchadh) and Brendan Twomey "Frank Walsh and Brendan Twomey were great coaches and we got to the Corn Ui Mhuiri final one year but lost by a point. But luckily I was on the right side of a one point victory today and I am sure that they will be pleased and must take credit for some of the skills they passed on to me"

Kieran Ward is definitely a leader and what a great captain he is, and it must be said that in all my time doing post match interviews, the Crokes captain was one of the best and most articulate young men I have spoken to- so a good communicator along with being a talented footballer - it must the Crokes way!!