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Dublin: 15 °C Friday 14 August, 2020
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'They're a great bunch of lads and they've been very welcoming' - Mayo All-Star winner on Dublin club move

It was Chris Barrett’s first competitive game since September due to injury and the lockdown.

Chris Barrett fetches the ball under pressure from Colm Basquel.
Chris Barrett fetches the ball under pressure from Colm Basquel.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

CHRIS BARRETT’S DEBUT for Clontarf ended in defeat yesterday but the Mayo defender was just happy to get back onto the field after a lengthy layoff. 

Barrett’s transfer from Belmullet to Clontarf, where he lives, went through earlier this month and he lined out at centre-back in their heavy opening round Dublin SFC defeat to Leinster champions Ballyboden St Enda’s.

The 34-year-old missed Mayo’s league campaign through injury before the Covid-19 enforced shutdown.

“It was good to play, I haven’t played since last September so it’s nice to get out on the pitch,” he said.

“They’re a great bunch of lads as well and they’ve been very welcoming to me. I’m just [living] around the corner from St Anne’s Park so it’s the local club.

“Playing club football in July and August is a novelty, great for all the club players. It’s brilliant to get the chance to play in the height of summer even though this evening you wouldn’t think it.

“It’s pretty much the same,” he said of the standard in Dublin in comparison with Mayo.

“It’s a fast-moving game when you’re down at home and up here. It’s very close to inter-county level when you’re playing top teams like that.”

Clontarf enjoyed an electric start and led by six points after 19 minutes before Ballyboden took control and ran out 18 point winners.

“We put it up to them and scored a few good goals, Kev [Kevin Lillis] was excellent up front. We had the measure of them all over the park, we gave away a lucky enough goal in the first-half and in the second-half they just showed their strength.

“They’re obviously a seasoned team and experienced and they just closed it out very well. It’s disappointing the way it finished to be honest, I don’t think we were that far behind them. I think everybody is just happy to be out playing a bit of football. 

“They’re a big team but I just think that game will bring us on a lot. A lot of good footballers in our team that were probably a bit rusty as well having not played games in a while and maybe their game experience and know-how maybe just got them over the line in the end but I think that game will probably bring us on a lot more.”

Ballyboden fell at the All-Ireland semi-final stage to Kilcoo in January and had just three weeks of an off-season before preparations began for the 2020 campaign.

Manager Anthony Rainbow felt the lockdown helped instil some freshness in his team as they bid to claim back-to-back Dublin crowns.

“It has. If you look, we finished up on 4 January. We were back training probably three weeks later for the league which started mid-February and we were looking at championship then in April.

“And then the whole Covid-19 thing happened. I think probably the break has done us the world of good. We probably needed more than three weeks off, because if you look at it we’ve been going solid for the last two years really without a break.

“So those couple of months have benefitted the team and they’ve come back a bit fresher.”

anthony-rainbow Ballyboden manager Anthony Rainbow. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

One man who looked particularly fresh was Conal Keaney who turns 38 in September but was moving like a 25-year-old.

“He played hurling against Crokes [a week ago], he’s out again next Wednesday. He’s in incredible shape, and he kept us in the game in the first 15 minutes.

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“I think he kicked three points, and only for him we were in big trouble in the first 15 minutes today. He was incredible, absolutely incredible.” 

Ballyboden played challenge matches against Celbridge and Dingle recently, which didn’t “go well for us ” according to the Kildare legend.

“We were probably a small bit concerned after that but training went really well on Tuesday night and Thursday night and I knew we had it in the bank to last the 60 minutes.

“We certainly had the players on the bench to bring them off and strengthen things up if we’re in trouble the last 10 or 15 minutes as well.

“It was a small bit of a worry when we went six points down at one stage in the first-half but there’s huge grit and determination in this team and they’re fighters. I think you’ve seen that in the championship last year especially.”

Rainbow has found having full access to the county players in the lead-up to the championship extremely beneficial.

“Even last year we probably didn’t have Mick [Macauley] and Robbie [McDaid] as much as we’d like to have them, because of their inter-county duties.

“But they’re inter-county players, you can bring them in and after one or two sessions they’ll pick up things very, very quickly. They’re intelligent people. But having them over the last couple of weeks certainly was a huge benefit.

“So having them around for four or five weeks before you play championship is a massive, massive benefit.”

“And it’s going to be of benefit to the likes of Ballymun. They’ve five or six inter-county players. I look at my own county in Kildare – Celbridge are the same, they’ve four or five inter-county players, and we played Celbridge here two weeks ago and they’re flying at the moment.

“You look at it, Dublin finished up after the replay in September last year. I think Ballymun would have seen them for one or two sessions going into the championship.

“So definitely it’s a huge bonus for teams like them who have four or five players on the inter-county team, that they have them for the four or five weeks before they play the first round of the championship because you can do an awful lot more with them. 

Finally, Rainbow says the water breaks have become very useful for managers to get quick messages into players during the game.

“They helped us today. For the first 15 minutes we were just all over the place. Defensively we were all over the place and the water break killed their momentum a small bit when they have that momentum and it helped us sort of refocus and regroup.

“We pulled it back to a draw match at half-time and just kicked on from there.”

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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