Shane Mulligan surging forward for Mullinalaghta St Columba's in breaking away from Abbeylara opponent Brian Smyth. Action from the Senior Football Championship Final last Sunday. Photo: D Gilmore
For Mullinalaghta captain Shane Mulligan 2016 was a memorable year as he captained his side to their first county title in 66 years. On Sunday last he got to lift the Connolly Cup again as his side won back-to-back titles.
Speaking after the game the delighted Shane said: “It has been a different journey for us this year. It’s funny because you are defending it and still want to win it.
“There was a different pressure this year with us. It’s sweet to put back to back, it has never been done in our club.
“As a whole when you look back on the year we were dead and buried a couple of times but we are still here.
“We showed the experience we have gained. We played right to the final minute of every game. That’s what champions do, you hang in there.
“Thankfully at the end of the 2017 championship we are still standing and the Connolly Cup is going back to Mullinalaghta.”
As with every game there are winners and there are losers and Mulligan had some words of comfort and praise for the beaten finalists Abbeylara who came up short in the county final for the third year in a row.
“People will say what an achievement it is for us to put back to back titles but look what Abbeylara have done. They have got to three county finals in a row. It’s a testament to the players and the club there.
“We have played a lot of our football with the lads from Abbeylara, be it at school or with Northern Gaels. There is a good healthy rivalry there but we have nothing but the utmost respect for them. Northern Gaels was put in place to better the clubs and they have done that.”
Speaking about Northern Gaels he was quick to send best wishes to their Chairman David Sheridan.
“A shout-out to David Sheridan. He was one of the stalwarts of the club and is one of the reasons Mullinalaghta and Abbeylara are here today and I wish him all the best.”
Mulligan believes Abbeylara will be back.
“Abbeylara will be back. They are a hungry side. It took us a long time to get to where we are now. We got one last year and are delighted to get another one this year. I have no doubt they will be back and I wish them all the best.”
The Mullinalaghta St Columba's captain had experienced many lean years before the triumphs in 2016 and 2017. He said he cherishes every moment of county final day and loves everything about it.
“The whole thing is just brilliant. To have your family there today, to lead your team in the parade before the game and then to lift the cup after the match.
“These are fantastic experiences and they are moments that I will always cherish. They are that bit more sweeter for me because I’m in my twilight years of my football career. I spent 10/12 years with nothing so I embrace every moment of the success we are enjoying now.”