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Brennan chasing Sigerson dream

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ON THE BALL Stephen Brennan from Claremorris is pictured in action for NUI Galway during the Sigerson Cup earlier this month. Pic: Sportsfile

Claremorris native Stephen Brennan lines out with NUI, Galway next Sunday

Interview

Ger Flanagan

ONCE upon a time in the not-so-distant past, Stephen Brennan didn’t have much time for some of the men he now finds himself lining out with for NUI Galway’s Sigerson Cup team.
Through his All-Ireland winning years with the Mayo minors (2013) and under-21s (2016), and other seasons which weren’t so successful, the Claremorris man had no interest in developing friendships with footballers from neighbouring counties.
But all has changed in a few short years.
“Me and Donny [Donovan Cosgrove from Kiltimagh, an NUI Galway team-mate] were only talking about this last night, how growing up they [other Sigerson team-mates] were our biggest enemies,” he told The Mayo News. “We hated them all with a passion!
“But when you get to know people you become friendly and you find common ground. And they’re not that bad — even though most of them are from Galway,” he laughed.
“We see ourselves as a Connacht college. We’ve lads from Sligo, Roscommon, Mayo and Galway, so we see ourselves as the men from the West basically. A Connacht college competing against the big guns from Dublin, Belfast, Cork.
“They’ve more resources than us, probably better facilities, but it’s nice to represent the West of Ireland in the national competition.”
A fourth year medical student, Stephen Brennan is one of five Mayo natives in NUI, Galway’s Sigerson Cup squad along with Gerry Canavan from Mayo Gaels, Kevin Quinn (Ballinrobe), Patrick Loftus (Crossmolina) and Niall McManamon (Westport).
Brennan has tied down a corner-back spot on Maurice Sheridan’s NUIG team for the last number of seasons, and he even found time to get upfield and kick a point in their shock one-point victory over UUJ in the Sigerson quarter-final last Wednesday night.
Needless to say, the player speaks glowingly of Sheridan, the native of Balla and a former Mayo footballer who lined out in the 1996 and 1997 All-Ireland Finals.
“Maurice is a fantastic manager,” he offered. “He knows a lot about the Sigerson Cup himself because he’s played it with the college, so he knows what it takes and how to encourage lads.
“He, along with the rest of our management team, they played together and they encourage more of a club atmosphere. It’s all about giving people the freedom to play, to take on shots if they thing it’s on. There’s no pressure on us really and we’re given a lot of freedom to do what we want.”
The Sigerson Cup has struggled in recent times to convince people of its importance in the GAA calendar, but for Stephen Brennan, and everyone else involved in competing teams, it holds a special place in their hearts.
“When you’re in the bubble of the Sigerson you see it as important, but I know a lot of other people don’t regard it as a viable competition,” he admitted. “I don’t even know if the GAA themselves see it as important, and you can see that with the Kieran Molloy and Liam Silke situation again next weekend.
“This year I have an awful lot of college commitments, but I still find time for the Sigerson,” he said. “It’s very special, almost like playing for your club because we go out together, go for lunch together, we train together. It’s a big bunch of lads and we’re all friends.
“It’s different. You’re playing a higher standard, but it’s not that inter-county commitment. “It’s more loose. You can go out after games and have the craic, there’s less pressure compared to that inter-county set-up, but you’re still playing against some of the best players in the country.”
Brennan started last year’s Sigerson Cup final when NUIG were pipped by a single point by Stephen Coen’s UCD, and he wants nothing more than to sign off his time in Galway with the trophy.
However, first they have to focus on beating UCC in next Sunday’s semi-final in Mallow.
“It would be more special to win it now because we lost last year and we were so close,” he admitted. “A lot of us on the team are coming to the end of our Sigerson careers, so it would be extra special to top off our college career and our time in Galway.
“I’ve played with a lot of the lads for four years now and we feel like we’re on a journey but haven’t reached the destination yet.”

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