A partially hidden Philip Charles (wearing blue hat) gives his Cloone team a pep talk during the second water break last Sunday in Avantcard Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada Picture: Willie Donnellan
It just had to happen - 20 years on from lining out with Fintan McBrien and his Aughavas teammates, Philip Charles is plotting the downfall of his home club when he leads his new club Cloone in the 2020 Vistamed Junior A Championship Final in Avantcard Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada.
Monday's announcement from the GAA that all club games were suspended indefinitely put a hold on the meeting with his former colleagues but there is no doubting the pickle Philip Charles finds himself in as he plots Cloone's path to the Junior decider.
A rueful smile and a laugh greeted the question of mixed emotions for the Cloone manager as Philip told the Observer: “It is almost 20 years nearly to the weekend, Fintan led us out that time. It was a great year for us, we had a great team, great memories but management does that, life does that.
“I live over in Cloone now, my kids go to school in Cloone and all the rest but if it was anyone else playing Aughavas, I’d be right behind them. It is difficult, my family is steeped in Aughavas. My sister is the current treasurer, my mother is a former treasurer, brother obviously played, I played myself, my father was a chairman when we won it so this week is going to be strange but it is all part of the buildup.”
Certainly, the banter will be fierce this week between these two old rivalries but Philip is relishing it: “We have a big week this week, Aughavas are in the same boat and its going to be a big week for both communities. Both teams are in the same boat, in Aughavas’ case, they probably have younger legs and our lads won’t mind me saying that.
“We have a lot of experience in the team, a lot of miles on the clock and a lot of lads who were carrying legs going off. It is all about managing it now, it’ll be horses for courses this week for sure but it is all about preparing for the final. There is nothing like it, it gives a whole lift to the community.
“Aughavas have a young fit, fast side, we’re the other side of the coin, we have lads coming to the end so it is probably youth versus experience maybe. I know the young lads in Aughavas, I play soccer with them over the winter and they won’t fear playing Cloone, not a bit of it.
“Fintan is a good coach, he will have them well primed and it is probably who wants it more on the day, who gets the breaks and it will come down to that.”
Looking back on the semi-final, Philip was proud of the resilience his team showed after going down to 14 men: “As I said to the lads, we just dug it out there in the end. It probably wasn’t pretty to watch but it was never going to be pretty.
“Conditions didn’t suit anyone but that is a Manorhamilton team with a wealth of experience and when we went down to 14, we had to rejig things a bit but the lads stuck in there and as I said to them, I couldn’t be prouder. To win a final, you have to be there first and every game takes on a life of its own.
“We were never going to come over here and steamroll Manorhamilton, they have too much talent. Beano McDonald, what a player in the middle of the park. I don’t know what age he is but we had several lads on him in the middle of the park, I just said to him at the end that he is a credit to his club.”
Indeed the manner of the victory will inspire confidence in the Cloone ranks: “We really, really had to dig it out, lads used all their experience. There were times there thinking was it gone, we have it. You don’t question these lads because they come and come again .”