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Top of his class

Sport
Brendan Prendergast


Top of his class

Interview
Mike Finnerty

mikefinnerty@mayonews.ie

THE finer details of Sunday’s match are ingrained in his mind. He knows what his routine will be and what job he will have to do. And he is sure he won’t be nervous. It’s just not in his nature.
Brendan Prendergast takes his football very seriously. Just ask any of the centre-forwards that have come up against him for confirmation.
The 26 year-old is one of the primary reasons why Tourmakeady are preparing for an All-Ireland Intermediate Championship semi-final next weekend. A series of man of the match displays from their impregnable number six has been one of the hallmarks of their historic season. He has been immense when the chips are down.
He is also unfailingly modest; but his drive and ambition shine through nonetheless.
“The reality is that you don’t tend to get too many chances to play in an All-Ireland semi-final with your club,” he told The Mayo News last week. “We now have a chance to play in Croke Park and are just sixty minutes away from that.
“I don’t tend to get too far ahead of myself but this is the chance of a lifetime. I’ve never played in Croke Park. I togged out there as a sub with the Mayo minors ten years ago but only got out on the pitch during the warm-up,” smiled Prendergast.
Life outside of football has led him to Charlestown; to St Joseph’s secondary school to be precise.
He is now in his second year of teaching woodwork and technical drawing here and, of course, dabbles a little in training school teams.
He believes in doing the basics right, always has. It is a philosophy that has served him well during his career and came in handy a few times this season too.
 “We know it’s going to be hard and tough against the Ulster champions but we’ve had nothing easy anyway in the championship.
“Parke put it up to us in the county final, the Connacht final was tough, wintry conditions, but we came through it okay.
“It was very difficult against Ballinamore but I don’t really mind those type of conditions. They are the days when you have to the basics right. I suppose in a way you concentrate even more. I practised the basics a lot when I was young and it stands to you on days like that.
“We’ve been working hard for the last three or four years and there’s a great confidence among the players this year. We’ve been winning a lot of games in the last ten minutes and that builds confidence.”

WHEN all this adventure is over Brendan Prendergast and Tourmakeady will have filed away a lifetime’s worth of memories. Days when time stood still and bonfires blazed around the village to welcome home county and provincial champions.
Highlights? There have been a few he admits.
“Beating Belmullet in the quarter-final definitely springs to mind, we took that match by the scruff of the neck. Beating Ballintubber in Tourmakeady was nice too but the county final was our main objective. That’s been the highlight so far.
“We had a few real worries in the second half. We were seven points up early on, then two down with twelve minutes to go, but I just knew we wouldn’t lose. I don’t mean to sound cocky but I just knew.”
Less certain is how Pat Burke’s team will cope with the demands of life in the top tier of club football this coming season.
The Mayo league begins in four weeks with Tourmakeady operating in Division 1. The senior championship also looms large on the horizon.
Brendan Prendergast takes one look at the future and says that he knows exactly how he feels.
“Personally I’m looking forward to it but I know that it will be a big test too for all of us. We’ve been on the go non-stop for a while now and it’s important to get a break before we start into the senior league and championship.
“A lot of teams that come up from Intermediate tend to go straight down again so it’s vital that we consolidate our position for the first year or two.
“I believe that there are three or four teams, the likes of Crossmolina, Ballina and Shrule/Glencorrib, that will always be in the shake-up. Everyone else is around the same level, there’s not much between anyone. It’s vital that you get a foothold though in senior football and establish yourself from there.”
Prendergast’s form with his club has not gone unnoticed by the new Mayo manager. A prodigious underage talent, he played in the All-Ireland U-21 final of 2001 against Tyrone and also featured briefly on John Maughan’s radar a few seasons ago.
True to form, he is forthright about the current situation.
“Johnno brought me in a couple of times over the Christmas and I played in a few trial games but I’m concentrating on the club at the moment.
“I’m going to be 27 in March so realistically this is probably the last-chance saloon for me. But I’m in good form lately and it was nice to get rewarded with a call. If I got a chance I’d give it hell for leather. You’re either good enough or you’re not.”
That straight-forward approach goes some way to explaining why Tourmakeady supporters have such respect for their centre-half back.
On and off the field his no-nonsence, uncomplicated style has won him admirers. He is quick to point out that the feeling is mutual.
“The GAA is huge in Tourmakeady. It’s a rural area and the supporters are fanatical. Social life really revolves around fooball.
“The players know each other very well too, we’re all around the one age, we’ve played a lot together and we get on well.”
The next class is calling in Charlestown. Time to get back to work. But the clock is ticking down to that match, a date with destiny.
“I’ll be getting into my zone about 72 hours before the game,” he explains. “We’re staying up the night before the match so I’ll be packing my bag and getting organised a few days before. I won’t be nervous though. I enjoy the big days.”

FIXTURE
ALL-IRELAND IFC SEMI-FINAL

TOURMAKEADY V Ulster champions
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 18 AT 2.30PM
BREFFNI PARK, CAVAN

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