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I played with some of the first 'Bruffians' and finished with some of the current batch over a 25-year period but I find it very hard to put it into words, to explain it to someone who is not involved.

In hope of answers, I met with the Bruff first team management - Micheal Leahy (manager), Eoin Cahill (head coach) and Peter Malone (forwards coach) - and team captain Cathal O'Regan to get their take on the Bruff phenomenon and to get a feel for where they see the future of the club.

Now, you have to keep in mind that all four men started their careers in Bruff. Eoin playing all the way through from Under-8 to Under-20, Peter starting at Under-13, gathering Irish Community Games medals.

They both garnered Under-16, Under-18 and Under-20 All-Ireland League medals along the way before moving on.

Eoin went on to end up as vice-captain and sometime captain of Shannon, is completing his Level 2 Coaching Certificate and came back as Bruff's backs coach last season.

Peter captained Garryowen, got a Munster Development contract under his belt and represented Ireland as the AIB Club International team captain.

They are laden with AIB League Division One medals, yet both have returned to where it all began and are involved with the Bruff senior squad this season as player/coaches.

Micheal is a former club captain, and after many years of service in the front row, moved on to manage the team successfully through most of the promotions of the last ten years.

With them again, this season, is the reappointed skipper, hooker Cathal O'Regan, whose career may have taken a different path. Bruree Community Games team first before moving to Bruff Under-10s, but again he has the Under-16, Under-18 and Under-20 All-Ireland League medals to show for it.

During the day, he serves in the Garda Siochana in Anglesea Street Station in Cork but along with his team-mates, he has an AIB League Division Three winners' medal under his belt.

This mixed group has come together for the first time in seven years, but this time around in a Bruff club in Division Two of the AIB League.

I first asked the newly-appointed coaches how they felt they are coping with taking charge of guys they have played with over the years?

Peter replied: "These guys are honest, hard working, fair and straight with us. They are a good, well-drilled squad... there's great balance of a well-varied attack coupled with an awesome defence.

"They find it easy to motivate themselves. Both themselves and the players that went before them have brought this club from Junior Division Two all the way to the second tier of the AIB League.

"With the fresh challenges facing the club in Division Two this season, new and local opponents in the likes of Thomond and Old Crescent, motivation is not a problem.

"I feel that there is very little difference between the top teams in Division Two and the lower half in Division One. And our aim for this season is the top half of Division Two."

Grinning, Eoin said: "They're well used to me bawling them out, but seriously these lads are brilliant. You push them and push them again and still they don't complain, everyone wants the same thing and they are all willing to do what it takes to get it.

"Basically the players want to be completely professional in their approach. Bruff has always been a club that others admired, we know that there are many clubs out there - both junior and senior - that want to emulate our achievements, the success we have had.

"The heart of our club is our underage, the homegrown players that have bonded and gelled into a unit over the years. It's almost scary how they can read each other's minds on the pitch. Everyone just knows where they are supposed to be and where everyone else is.

"It's unique as a club in that sense. How many other teams in the AIB League can honestly say that all but one or two of their players have been together for 15 years solid? There's not many."

At this stage, someone brought up the story about the interviewer from RTE. After the match in Naas last season, she asked who Bruff's foreign players were? The answer she got was: "Those two over there. Liam is from Abbeyfeale, the Kerry side, and Ger is from Kilfeacle in Tipp."

Turning the spotlight on Cathal, I asked how he felt about working with the new coaches this season? "Everyone is treated equally, there are no favourites here and with the new rotation systems everyone is getting a fair crack of the whip," he said.

"These fellows (Peter and Eoin) are the ultimate professionals. They bring a vast store of experience and knowledge back with them and even though it's a new departure for Bruff having two player-coaches, it may well turn out to be the system that people will copy in other clubs.

"We've always done things our own way and at our own pace. We want to consolidate our position in Division Two first.

"Where we want to be is in the top half of the table at the Christmas break. If we achieve that then we can examine the goals again at the Christmas review."

Finally I asked the team manager Micheal how the current batch of players measured up to those Bruff have had over the years?

He insisted: "There's no comparison. Look in the door there, when were we ever lifting weights like that? They're fitter, faster, stronger than we ever were, they put in a week's work into this. Mind you there's nutrition and diet training, individual programmes, we never knew any of that.

"Take Ger Collins there, he was in Australia for a year, came back home last night and here he is. Then Micheal smiled and as he walked into the gym to observe the pained expressions, he whispered: "We can't tell them that though, can we? Can't give them swelled heads!"

It is true, as I watched from the door and listened to the banter inside, I knew that there was no room in that gym for prima donnas. They would never handle the slagging...

- With thanks to Bruff PRO Richard Leonard

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21 June 2018
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