Claiming provincial glory the zenith for classy Mullinalaghta

Liam Caldwell

Reporter:

Liam Caldwell

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newsroom@longfordleader.ie

Mullinalaghta St Columba's

Captain Shane Mulligan

Winning the AIB Leinster Club senior football title was the zenith for Mullinalaghta St Columba’s, a club that has a long history, having been founded in November 1889.

It was originally called the Mullinalaghta Leaguers, starting with a membership of 45. One of the local priests, Rev M Corcoran, was it's first president while another, Rev D Grey, was its first treasurer. The first 50 years of the club saw very little success although for most of that time it played in the senior ranks reaching the 1919 league final, and losing to Clonguish.

They did win an intermediate championship in 1931 (this competition was only played for 3 years) and in 1938 won the minor championship. The club’s first senior success came in 1945 when they won the league (Leader Cup).

“This was the beginning of a great era in which we reached eight consecutive Leader cup finals, winning 5-in-a-row, 1947-51,” says John Reilly, the club’s historian.

Between 1948 and 1952, Mullinalaghta reached the senior championship final for five successive years, winning in 1948 and 1950. The loss the 1952 final replay to Colmcille and that year’s Leader Cup final marked the end of a golden period for the club. From 1953 until the late 70's the club endured a lean period, a junior final appearance against Ballymahon the only highlight until 1977 when they won the junior championship, defeating Ballymore.

“Although competitive at intermediate level, reaching finals in 1980 and 1984, the 80's proved to be an unsuccessful decade. But the 90s got off to a great start by winning the intermediate championship, beating Ballymahon in a replay. That team had been together for ten years and by 1994, after retirements and emigration, we were forced back to junior. However, within two years we won the junior championship beating Shroid in 1996,” recalls John Reilly.

And John credits a few significant decisions taken in the 80s which were starting to pay dividends: “Firstly, the reorganising of our schoolboy football in 1983 after 10 dormant years, and in January 1984 we formed an underage club with our neighbours, Abbeylara, calling it Northern Gaels. This gave us access to compete at underage level with a proper coaching structure to prepare the young footballers for competitive senior football.

“Abbeylara and Mullinalaghta combined have played in three county finals and had 7 players on Longford senior team that got to last year’s Leinster semi final. In the past decade Northern gaels have won 4 minor championships, an All Ireland U14 feile [2010] and a number of U12, U14 and U16 titles. It’s also worth noting that the Mullinalaghta Ladies football was founded in 1998 and they and the Abbeylara ladies play as a team.”

In 1987 Mullinalaghta officially opened their present grounds, The Laurels, in Derrycasson where the club has been resident since the early 1940s. Since then a second training pitch, a walking track and a larger clubhouse with gym facilities have been added.

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Outlining the road to the club’s current and historically high plateau, John states that “our on-field successes continued into the naughties with an intermediate championship win in 2000 over Dromard and in 2007 over Kenagh”.

“From 2007 onwards steady progress was made in the senior ranks. In 2013 we reached our first senior final in 61 years beating Longford Slashers in the Leader Cup final. The following year we reached the senior final but were well beaten by a very good Killoe team.

“That experience stood to us in 2016 when we reached the final again and winning it for the first time in 66 years by beating our neighbours, Abbeylara. Reaching the Leinster semi-final that year, losing to the mighty St Vincent’s of Dublin by 7 points, having been level 8 minutes from the end, proved to these players that they could live easily alongside that kind of company. Two more final victories over Abbeylara in ‘17 and ‘18 made Mullinalaghta three-in-a-row champions, and as the first Longford club to reach and win the Leinster club final, has ensured this fabulous bunch of players immortality and we are proud and delighted that Longford people everywhere are sharing this journey with us..Mullinalaghta Abú! Longfort Abú!” concluded John.

We, in the association, feel it is no exaggeration to say that their huge achievement is the biggest thing that happened in Longford GAA since the sixties success of the county seniors. They’ve gone from being hardly known outside county Longford, and perhaps a few surrounding counties, to being famous all over the country.

The Longford Association in Dublin is proud to celebrate their remarkable achievement by presenting Mullinalaghta with our principal award on Saturday, April 6 in The Red Cow Moran’s hotel.

Our wish now is that as many of our patrons as possible from Longford and Dublin, join us to appropriately fete Mullinalaghta, and to also mark the association’s 65 years bringing focus to everything Longford and bringing Longford folk together in Dublin.

Dinner will be served at 8.30pm; music by Paschal, Davy and Liz. Many thanks to John Reilly for compiling this comprehensive history of Mullinalaghta club