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Dublin: 9 °C Saturday 15 December, 2018

With his Shamrock Rovers days behind him, Paul Sharry hoping to create St Loman's history

The Westmeath club are appearing in their first ever Leinster club football final on Sunday.

HAD THINGS TURNED out differently, Paul Sharry could easily be lining out for Shamrock Rovers these days.

AIB Leinster GAA Football Senior Club Championship Final Media Day Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Sharry was on the books of Cherry Orchard as a teenager before briefly making the step up to the Rovers first team as a left-back during Pat Scully’s tenure in charge of the League of Ireland club.

But Sharry’s his head was turned when Tomás Ó Flatharta and the Westmeath U21s came calling and he left his soccer days behind him.

“I would have put a good bit of time into soccer when I was younger, in my college years,” Sharry says. “I think when I was 18 to 20.

“Then Tomás Ó Flatharta was at me to come back to play football with Westmeath and you’re not going to say no to Tomás Ó Flatharta.

“I think that was just after Paidi left and Tomás stayed on and did the management on his own. I remember Tomás was at me and I said there was no way I was turning this down.”

By the time he was 20, Sharry had advanced to the senior set-up and Ó Flatharta handed him his debut in the 2009 Leinster semi-final against Dublin.

Paul Sharry kicks a point Source: Tom Beary/INPHO

It was a forgettable game for the Lake County, who received a merciless 4-26 to 0-11 hiding by the Dubs, but it was a significant day for Sharry to line out alongside his heroes from the 2004 Leinster winning side.

“(Tomás) asked me to go play senior and to play with Dessie (Dolan) and this sort of craic. Sure these were the boys, I was sitting down there roaring them on in 2004. There was no way I was saying no to that.

“This was the direction I wanted to go in GAA. If you’re splitting 50-50 between soccer and GAA, you’re not going to be good at either, you’re just going to be below. You won’t really progress.

“Whereas if you put 100% of your effort into one of them, you’ll actually advance and progress and get more out of it. So that’s the way I eyed it up and pushed towards Gaelic.

Paul Sharry with Shane O'Rourke Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

“I enjoyed playing the soccer, I still love to play a game of it every once in a while. I’m happy where I am with the football, I’m playing with lads I’ve know since I was eight years of old. I got to play with Dessie, I got to play with John Keane, I got to play with Gary Connaughton, I got to play with all these lads that are my heroes so I’m happy.”

Rovers loss has been Westmeath’s gain, while his club St Loman’s have benefited too.

They’ve won four county titles since 2013, a remarkable record considering they didn’t lift the trophy between 1964 and 2012. On Sunday, they’ll contest a Leinster final for the first time in the club’s history.

“It’s brilliant for the club, first ever time Loman’s have made it into a Leinster final. So it’s a huge achievement. For the underage to see what’s achievable in the club.

“Completely new territory, never been achieved before. But underage players can look at it and say ‘them lads are just ordinary lads after making a Leinster final, why can’t we do it?’”

John Heslin prepares the take a free Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

St Loman’s are ranked as slight outsiders for the provincial final against Kildare champions Moorefield, but they’ve an ace in the pack with Westmeath star John Heslin leading their attack.

“He’s quality,” Sharry said about his teammate. “The thing about it is that GAA is very focused on right now. GAA forgets yesterday’s game or what he’s done before.

“Last year or two years ago, he kicked 2-16 in a semi-final against Garrycastle. People forget that in a blink of an eye if he only kicked six points in a game. The bar is set so high.”

Sharry believes their run to the Leinster final has been aided by the stronger squad they’ve developed.

“Some lads came back (into the squad). Kieran Lynam and Conrad Reilly would be two of our first subs in at the moment.

Paul Sharry Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

“They’re probably going to press to start the next day and the issue with them was Kieran went travelling for a bit and Conor did the same taking a year off. You’ve two boys back who were starters for two years ago. It’s savage, that’s bringing huge strength to the team, which is brilliant.

“Then we have Ken Casey from Offaly, who’s in with Loman’s. He brought more strength to our forwards, he moved to Mullingar and just joined the club. We’ve another guy from Offaly as well, Gerry Grehan, a corner-back who moved in with us.

“Underage coming through now as well, we’ve good players coming up. It’s the main thing. We were good for the last few years but I feel we’re strong now, we’re after building that panel up.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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