James McGivney pictured in action for Mullinalaghta St Columba's against St Loman's Mullingar in the Leinster Club Senior Football Championship quarter-final on Sunday last. Photo: Declan Gilmore
Unbeaten in the county senior football competitions since May 2016, Mullinalaghta are strongly fancied to extend that remarkable record when they take on Longford Slashers in the Leader Cup Final at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park this Sunday, throw-in 2pm.
Having already won the 2017 Championship and Division 1 League, all conquering St Columba’s are now just a step away from completing the grand slam of the senior titles in the same season which would be a wonderful achievement if it materialises.
And if Mullinalaghta manage to emerge victorious against Slashers on Sunday then the Connolly Cup/Leader Cup double will be done for the second year in succession under the guidance of their influential coach Mickey Graham.
Cavan man Mickey has made a major impact in the two seasons he has been in charge of St Columba’s, a glorious period for the club, but Slashers showed a lot of character and no shortage of resilience to beat Killoe in the recent Leader Cup semi-final at Emmet Park.
Carrickedmond clubman Eugene McCormack, in his second season as the Slashers senior manager, has blended together a good mix of experience and youth but he is only too well aware that his side will need to be at their best in the hope of causing an upset in the eagerly awaited final of this prestigious competition.
Taking into account that they failed to qualify for the championship quarter-finals this year, when they were pitched in a very difficult group against Mullinalaghta, Killoe and Dromard, getting to the Leader Cup title decider is considerable consolation for Slashers as they prepare to make a first appearance in Pearse Park in the 2017 season.
It is a repeat of the 2013 senior league final when St Columba’s, managed by Gerry Fox (Sean Connolly’s), got the better of the then county champions by the minimum of margins with David McGivney firing over the winning point from a free in the 59th minute.
That was a most significant success for Mullinalaghta who collected the coveted Leader Cup for the first time in 62 years but Slashers gained revenge a couple of weeks later when they overcame St Columba’s in the play-off for the Division 1 league title.
Ironically, Slashers have not succeeded in capturing the Leader Cup since 1991 and while they will make a determined bid to end that long wait on Sunday the indications are that Mullinalaghta, with their greater quality, are unlikely to slip up in their quest to complete the senior titles treble.
Prediction: Mullinalaghta St Columba’s