Team physio Lucia Tyrell gives Gavin O'Hagan a bit of treatment Picture: Willie Donnellan
When it comes to taking frees, attitude is almost as important as ability so with Gavin O’Hagan taking over the duties this year, its refreshing to see that the Glencar/Manorhamilton clubman is more that set in both departments.
Just consider his response when asked about his placed balls duties with a Leitrim team hoping to win the Lory Meagher Cup in Lancashire next Saturday: “You have to score the frees but if I miss them I know there is a great freetaker behind me in Clement. I don’t feel huge pressure taking the frees.”
Pressure was not in evidence in the crucial win over Fermanagh as Gavin scored the last three points of the game to give Leitrim the necessary scoring difference to advance. But again, it wasn’t a scenario Gavin even contemplated!
“I knew I had the ball in my hand and I knew it had to go over the bar, that was as much as I thought about it. I had the space, we worked hard all day, I was the one in that position but if it was anyone else in that position, I’m sure the result would have been the same thing.”
Unlike many of his Leitrim team-mates, Gavin is a hurler first and foremost, the love of the game fostered by the work of Micheal Dolan in Manorhamilton: “I play a bit of Junior football but hurling has always been my main sport.
“Micheal Dolan was a teacher in sixth class, he introduced it to us and he drove it on the whole way up. He kept us a core group of us going, he is the reason we are all here and he drove the whole thing on. The love of the game keeps us playing, we got plenty of games underage and that helped too. The bug of winning dictates everything.”
Playing for Leitrim and Cluainin It is not without challenges admits the sharpshooter: “The footballers get the crowds, the glamour is there over the last weeks but for the likes of Clement Cunniffe, he is 18 years at it, there is no glamour, it is a slog every year.
“I’m based at home and it is two full hours to get to training. We have to leave home at twenty to six to get to training at 8pm. There is a car load of us, it passes the evening but it will be 12 o’clock tonight before we get home.”
Asked if sees himself playing as long as the experienced Cunniffe, Gavin laughs: “No I don’t think so but you never know. Come next January, everybody will be on to you to come training again and it’ll be a while before that leaves me.
“When you’d be at home saying it is a struggle to head to Mullingar this evening but what else would you be doing? You go up there, get good training in and you’re happy going back down the road again.
Looking ahead to the final, Gavin admits there is a different feel to two years ago: “Last time was ‘we’re going to Croke Park’ it wasn’t we’re going to a final. This year we’re going to win a final.
“We’re delighted to be back in the final, it has been a long two years, there have been ups and downs over the two years so it is great to be back there and hopefully we win it this time.
“Revenge to got for last year’s League final too. We know their dangermen, we mark them tight and hopefully we do the business upfront. It is a team game, there will be 20 men used, there is a panel of 35 there and no doubt everyone wants it so much.
“They are tough but beatable. We played a month ago, there was a lot of controversy but we made our own silly mistakes, we gave away a lot of stupid frees that day that if we cut that out and be a bit more clinical upfront, we messed around with a lot of ball upfront, there is no reason why we cannot win.”