Pat Lambe has his sights set on an All-Ireland final place
EXPERIENCED Clonbur forward Pat Lambe is hoping his club’s All-Ireland Junior title dream can move a step closer to reality in Carrick-on-Shannon next Sunday when they do battle with Ballivor from Meath.
And, after enduring plenty of nightmares in recent years, the classy centre-forward feels a ticket to Croke Park would be the perfect remedy for the Galway champions.
“There’s a great buzz around the village,” the 35 years-old told The Mayo News.
“There are flags up outside houses and pubs and we seem to have created a bit of an atmosphere about the place. It’s great to finally have a bit of success.
“The last couple of years have been tough. We’ve lost four or five lads that would have definitely been starting and that was a big blow as we have such a small pool of players.”
But those that stayed have done the parish proud.
After marching through Galway (beating Headford 2-11 to 1-8 in the County Final), they went on to knock out Mayo champions Islandeady in the provincial decider.
Aided by three sumptuous points from Pat Lambe, the title went back to ‘Joyce Country’ on an 0-11 to 0-9 scoreline.
“Our main aim this year was to get back up into the Galway intermediate championship,” explained the former county minor and U-21 star.
“We managed to do that, so everything else has been a bonus.
“We’ve had some real battles along the way. I suppose our toughest match in the county came against the Aran Islands. They brought us to a replay but, luckily, we came out the right side of it. Then, in the Connacht final, we came up against a really good Islandeady side and we dug out another win so things have been going well.”
A slight worry for Clonbur manager, Stephen Joyce, may be that his side haven’t played competitively since that provincial final back in early November.
“It’s been over two months since that game and that’s a long time to be off,“ admitted Pat Lambe.
“We’ve been training over Christmas but a few of the lads were away, which is understandable, and I just hope the lack of matches won’t count against us.
“Ballivor didn’t play their Leinster final until December and are likely to be that little bit sharper.”
So does Lambe have his homework done on the Meath men? “To be honest I know very little about them. They’re from Meath so we’re expecting a tough, physical battle. We don’t expect to get anything easy.
“We aren’t concentrating too much on Ballivor. We are trying to get our own house in order and if we can manage to do that then hopefully the result will follow.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Clonbur were sitting proudly at the top table in Galway.
Indeed, when Pat Lambe began to ply his trade at adult level back in 1994 as an eager 17 year-old, the prospect of relegation seemed about as far away as a recession.
But times changed and Clonbur collapsed with the Celtic Tiger.
“We never saw ourselves as a junior club but we just couldn’t cope with the loss of players. We lost lads to Australia and America and, I suppose, that was a significant factor in our demise. The likes of myself, Gerry Coyne, Padraig Walsh and Shane Holleran have all been around a while and I suppose the fact that we have been through our fair share of lows gives us that extra bit of motivation.”
The absence of injured full-forward, Padraic O’Neill, on Sunday will also be used for inspiration and if Pat Lambe, Eoin Joyce and company can click again, then Croke Park will be invaded by Clonbur’s travelling army of supporters next month.
All will be revealed on Sunday.
Fixture All-Ireland JFC semi-final
Clonbur v Ballivor
Sunday, January 22
Carrick-on-Shannon at 2pm