Donal McElligott on the attack for Mullinalaghta in evading the challenge of Clonguish opponent Darren Quinn. Action from the Leader Cup semi-final at Lynch Park last Saturday. Pic: Declan Gilmore
On the evidence of their excellent progress to the semi-final stage last season when they were eventually beaten by illustrious Dublin champions St Vincent’s, the element of surprise is no longer there as Mullinalaghta St Columba’s embark on another adventure in Leinster.
Providing the opposition in the opening round of the current Leinster Club Senior Football Championship at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park this Sunday (throw-in 2pm) will be the Carlow title winners Eire Og who beat Rathvilly 2-8 to 1-8 in the county final replay last weekend.
While Mullinalaghta manager Mickey Graham will be looking no further than the first hurdle, the general opinion is that the draw has been kind to the Longford kings in their quest to earn another home match against the Westmeath champions St Loman’s Mullingar or Tyrrellspass in the quarter-final a couple of weeks later.
However, Mullinalaghta certainly cannot afford to be complacent against Eire Og, powered by county senior regulars Sean Gannon and Eoghan Ruth.
Carlow football enjoyed a notable resurgence this year as they won against Wexford in the first round of the Leinster Senior Championship and then produced a brave performance in the defeat against Dublin in the quarter-final.
Subsequent wins followed against London and Leitrim in the All-Ireland Qualifiers which generated great interest in the county ahead of their Round 3B clash against Monaghan, who were very hard pressed to overcome Carlow (1-12 to 1-7) at Dr Cullen Park and had to rely on a late goal to get across the line.
So Mullinalaghta have been well warned ahead of their second consecutive Leinster Club campaign in the aftermath of their magnificent achievement in winning back-to-back Longford SFC titles as they prepare to face Eire Og, the 27 times Carlow champions who have also achieved a remarkable five Leinster Club SFC triumphs (the last in 1998) in their proud tradition.
After surviving a couple of lucky escapes against Killoe and Clonguish in their defence of the Connolly Cup, the pressure is off St Columba’s to a certain extent but they will still be expected to get past the first round in Leinster and particularly so with home advantage.
Backboned by Donal McElligott, John Keegan and brothers James and David McGivney who started for Longford in the All-Ireland Qualifiers against Louth and Donegal during the summer, livewire corner-forwards Rian Brady and Jayson Matthews are other vital cogs in the Mullinalaghta machine who should prove too strong for Eire Og.