Captain Shane Mulligan
“Now we’re legends and we’ve left a legacy.”
Mullinalaghta’s historic AIB Leinster Club senior football championship triumph captured the imagination of the Irish sporting public and GAA.ie quite rightly hailed their incredible achievement as the top gaelic football moment of 2018.
It was the greatest win by a Longford side since the 1968 Leinster SFC Final win over Laois and in years to come, while the attendance at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park, Tullamore was 3,500, we’ll probably read somewhere that there were over 10,000 Longfordians present to savour the glorious occasion.
With that 1-8 to 1-6 win over the vaunted Kilmacud Crokes, Mickey Graham’s three-in-a-row winning Longford kingpins have given huge heart and inspiration to every rural GAA club, demonstrating what can be achieved with hard work, commitment, a solid structure and club vision.
Yes, it was the aforementioned attributes that underpinned Mullinalaghta’s success. It was no miracle. There was no magic potion. This was years in the making.
The opening line of this article are lyrics from Jayson Matthews’ Allez Allez Allez, an anthem that went viral after he lashed it out in the euphoric winners dressing room on Sunday, December 9.
For good measure, Mullinalaghta’s answer to Ed Sheeran also performed his ‘hit’ on Ryan Tubridy’s, The Late Late Show, as in the ten days following their breakthrough victory, media outlets everywhere latched onto their ‘fairytale’ story.
The squad also posed for photographs with comedian Pat Shortt backstage, and during the rollercoaster celebrations they welcomed RTÉ’s Ciaran Mullooly, Eamon Horan, Marty Morrissey and Brenda Donohue.
There was also a high profile appearance at the RTÉ sports awards where they rubbed shoulders with Johnny Sexton, the Irish women's hockey team, Rhys McClenaghan and Ray Houghton.
Indeed, the community of Mullinalaghta deserve enormous credit for the humble and honest manner in which they, firstly, accommodated and opened their doors to the media, and secondly, fielded questions and told their story.
It was fantastic to hear selector Paddy Brady, during an interview with Ivan Yates and Matt Cooper, on The Tonight Show, on Virgin Media One, say that no price could be put on winning three Longford senior football championship medals and a Leinster club medal.
His son, Conan, who has worked in Leeds for the past six years and flies home for matches, is an integral cog in the Mullinalaghta rearguard and Paddy described his son's medal haul from 2016 to 2018 as priceless, avoiding the temptation to delve into the travel costs he has accumulated.
“We weren’t going to die wondering” about what it was like to win a provincial club title, declared Leinster Final man of the match Patrick Fox, who put the shackles on Kilmacud Crokes danger man Paul Mannion.
“We always believed we could do it,” insisted Fox and it was that never-say-die attitude which ensured the Mullinalaghta dream became a reality.
Jayson Matthews’ words are well chosen.
Mullinalaghta have left a legacy but their odyssey of 2018/’19 isn’t over just yet.
On February 16, they venture to Semple Stadium, Thurles to face Munster champions, Dr Crokes of Killarney, in the All-Ireland semi-final.
It is once again the proverbial David v Goliath confrontation but that certainly won’t deter the men from the north Longford ‘half parish’.
The second semi-final sees Andy Merrigan Cup holders Corofin (Galway) take on Gweedore (Donegal).
It was a very special Christmas for the community of Mullinalaghta with the coveted Sean Connolly and McCabe Cups in their midst and their heroics lit up an otherwise forgettable gaelic football year.
Thank you Mullinalaghta and best of luck to them against Dr Crokes