‘Anything is possible’ – Mullinalaghta give hope to small clubs all over Ireland
MULLINALAGHTA HAD FIVE starters on the Longford team that went down by 19 points to Dublin in this year’s Leinster semi-final – Patrick Fox, Donal McElligott, David and James McGivney, and Rian Brady.
Kilmacud’s Cian O’Sullivan and Paul Mannion were key members of the Dublin outfit that day in June and would go on to land a fourth All-Ireland title in succession in front of 80,000 at Croke Park.
But O’Sullivan and Mannion – who boast 11 senior All-Irelands and five All-Stars between them – found themselves on the losing side to the champions of Longford on Sunday afternoon in front of 3,510 spectators in Tullamore.
Mullinalaghta’s victory as 5/1 outsiders over the south side ‘superclub’ was fairytale stuff and gave a lift to every small club in the country. And while their county has little chance of ever achieving a victory like it over Dublin in the Leinster SFC, Mullinalaghta showed that such giant killings are still very much possible on the club scene.
“To be honest that didn’t come into our mindset at all,” said Brady about the gulf between Longford and Dublin at inter-county level.
“You don’t think about that really. County scene, I suppose, is a little bit different. Club football is different. We always knew they had players like Paul Mannion, very strong players, and other players on the Dublin panel. But we believed in ourselves.”
The full-forward posted four points, three from play, and was a menace in the Mullinalaghta attack throughout.
“We knew we had good players there,” continued Brady. “We have lots of players on the Longford county team. We believed in ourselves – and thank God we got the result.”
Cian O’Sullivan tackles Aidan McElligott resulting in a penalty late in the game.
Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO
O’Sullivan performed well in the Kilmacud half-back line but hauled down Aidan McElligot for the all-important penalty that Gary Rogers drilled home in the dying minutes.
He was dismissed on a second yellow card and spent the final few agonising minutes prowling the sideline as his team-mates desperately tried to pull the game out of the fire.
Mannion made less of an impact and after showing well for possession early on, he was kept under lock and key by the excellent Fox, who was later awarded man of the match.
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Three wides – two in the first-half – seemed to dent the forward’s confidence and he was held scoreless from play by the tigerish defender Fox.
“You had lots of help there as well,” said Fox shortly after the final whistle.
In fairness to the boys, especially the half-back line, any time a ball came in….you probably saw a couple of times that he was out in front of me but Gary Rogers was behind me, Donie McElligott was behind me, they were doubling up.
“I knew it and that helped. But Paul is a super footballer. Mickey (Graham) just said to me, ‘Go out and do your best’. I knew he was going to get on ball and kick a couple of scores. It’s just down to it being a team shift, everyone goes out and tries to do their best in their individual battles. If we won nine or 10 of those individual battles we’d probably win the game and I think we did that.
When Paul was in the full-forward line I took him, when he went out to half-forward line, Donie took him. He spent most of his time in the full-forward line, we didn’t go out to change our game plan.
“You can get too hung up on what the other team are doing and take away from yourself. Myself and Donie had a word between ourselves and we said, ‘When he’s in the full-forward line it falls to me, when he goes out to the half-forward line, I pass him off to Donie’. We kept our shape and just played as we always played.”
They wouldn’t have believed it when they started back training last March, but Mullinalaghta are one of the four club teams left in the championship. Dr Crokes stand between them and a place in the All-Ireland final on St Patrick’s Day.
“Look, we’re not thinking about that,” said Brady. “We’ll probably go back and celebrate this for a while and we’ve Christmas then to come as well.
Anything is possible. It’s club football at the end of the day and there’s always big upsets in club football but we won’t think about that for a while. We’ll enjoy this and then we’ll get back into it whenever we’re back training.”
Fox took a similar tone: “I didn’t even realise that until I went over to the screen with the TG4 boys, I hadn’t a clue who we were playing.
“They’re unbelievable, they have All-Irelands behind them those boys, they have an unbelievable panel. It’s something to look forward to. We’re going to take this week anyway I’d say and we’re going to celebrate and enjoy the Christmas and knuckle down. Look, we’ll see what happens, we’ll give it a cut and see where it takes us.
“It’s unbelievable, we never even dreamed of winning this, we dreamed of winning the Longford championship. We never dreamed of winning the Leinster. When we got here we said we’d give it a rattle and we believed in ourselves but it’s just amazing.”
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