DURING the closing stages of the 2012 All Ireland Minor final, Lurgan man Seamus Heffron looked apprehensive and anxious; glancing at the scoreboard behind the Hill 16 end of Croke Park he must have thought the period of injury time allocated was going to take an age to complete, writes Eugene Creaney.
His fellow selectors brother Laurence Ennis and St. Paul’s coach Liam McCorry along with the fans yearned for the final whistle and with Armagh Minors five in front the Tom Markem cup it appeared was heading to the Orchard County, But glory for Ulster that day belonged to Donegal in the senior grade, and the Armagh Minors side left the Jones Road venue in tears when a dramatic injury time goal from Meath’s Trevor Giles put the kybosh on the Orchard County’s All Ireland Dreams.
Seamus Heffron might once again admit to being a little bit nervous as he looks forward to Sunday’s Ulster Minor Championship opener between Armagh and Cavan, his son Shay is set to line out in a pivotal defensive position for his county, an honour which he also enjoyed last season when he was the sole representative from the north of the County to play against Tyrone in a provincial first round tie. The Hefferon dynasty is steeped in gaelic football. Seamus, who is a native of South Derry, played for the Oak Leaf county for a period in the eighties, He would be well known for his success with St. Michael’s Grammar School as a coach, and apart from his role with the Armagh Minors, he was in charge of the county’s under 21 side which won their first ever Ulster title back in 1998. The Lurgan school teacher also had a spell on the continent with French Soccer side AC Cambrai, but Seamus for the moment is eagerly anticipating Sunday’s pending minor clash at Breffni Park.
Shea Heffron, you can say with a degree of certainty, is a chip off the old block, The Lurgan man has already represented his province at an elite level, captained St. Michael’s to McLarnon Cup success this season winning the man of the match award in the final, and recently he won a Colleges All Star Award which capped an outstanding year for the young Clann Éireann defender.
Like his father he speaks with grace and passion about the game, a quality which along with his undoubted talent could earmark the young Lurgan man for a big future in Senior Intercounty football. For the moment however Shay is solely focused on Sunday’s big game. His maturity allows him the luxury to balance his time with Armagh along with his ever growing popularity in GAA circles. The soon-to-be head boy of St Michael’s Grammar took time out from a busy schedule to talk to The Mail about Sunday’s big game.
Q: What’s it like to be representing your club on such a big day?
It’s a great feeling, the build up to the match is brilliant and the buzz surrounding the game beforehand makes it even better. I feel proud and lucky in any occasion where I have the opportunity to wear my county colours.
Q: What other players from North Armagh are on the squad?
James McDade and Declan Heaney both from Clann Eireann, Drew McKenna from St. Peter’s, Oisin Lenehan and Ruairi Loughran from St. Mary’s Aghagallon as well as Caolan Skelton from Sarsfields.
Q: How has the year been for Armagh Minors this season?
Up and down to say the least. The fact that St Paul’s, Bessbrook as well as the St. Michael’s lads came in so late meant that we have had to try to gel together as a team more quickly. We have been plagued with injuries this year and it is unfortunate, but we have got on with it and we won the Ulster Shield after a nail biting finish with Antrim.
Q: Has winning the McLarnon Cup helped your preparations for Sunday’s game?
It has in a way as I know now what way to prepare in order to win and I will just try to replicate that in the days coming up to Sunday. Although every game is different and it is important that I go out and do my best and hopefully everything will fall into place.
Q: Do you have any other interests outside the GAA?
I have played basketball with my school and have enjoyed it greatly. I like listening to different types of music and going out with my friends.
Q: When you look back on your playing days so far, which coaches inspired you the most?
There have been a number of coaches who have really had an impact on me as a player. Within my club Seamus McAtavey guided and gave me a lot of responsibility in my early years which helped to develop me. Kevin Creery has been a real source of inspiration and has given me a true sense of direction since primary school and also at club level until the present day. In school Davy Wilson and Collie Fagan have driven me to success this year and have helped to improve my performance. Finally, Liam McCorry’s motivational influence has been invaluable to me through the years.
Q: Are you apprehensive about Sunday’s game considering Cavan have won the last three Ulster under 21 titles.
No team in Ulster can underestimate Cavan at underage level because of the success that they have had over the past number of years. It will be a difficult task going to Breffini Park and as many people know minor football is extremely unpredictable but we have to believe in ourselves ahead of the game.
Q: What advice has your dad given you?
My dad always says to me to keep improving after every game and to do the simple things right.
Q: Do you feel that Armagh are outsiders for Sundays game?
To be honest I think the two teams are both on even playing fields. Cavan have beaten us in the league campaign by a point and the game could have gone either way that night. Home advantage will suit them but we believe we can win.