2019 All Ireland Club Senior Football Championship Semi Finals
All Ireland club semi finals. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail and all of that. You can watch all the video you want. Flipcharts, clip boards, GPS units. Food every night after training. Hydration, physio. A Guest speaker or two. Challenge matches and inhouse games. But when the ball is thrown in, well to paraphrase General Patton, no plan survives contact with the enemy. It is the strongest and most resilient that will survive. As Patton also said. Accept the challenges, so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory. It’s a great place to win and a cruel place to lose.
Two All Irelands, eight Munsters; 77 All Ireland medals won with Kerry; 13 Kerry senior football championships; 5 Kerry senior club champions, 2 joint All Ireland winning captains of Kerry in 2014 with Fionn Fitzgerald and Kieran O'Leary. And one Gooch Cooper. There’s no doubt the Gooch can still pull strings with the club. If the Mullinalaghta men can cope with Cooper they can get to Croker, but it’s a big if. Dr Crokes have the big names and big game experience. Against Slaughtneil a few years back they got ahead and managed the ball supremely. It’s the Dr Crokes way. Spurred on by the noisy neighbours in Beaufort, and Kilcummin last weekend, the Kerrymen will be looking this year to make it a Kingdom clean Sweep in Croke Park.
Until Gaoth Dobhair’s epic exuberant provincial club success, the Longford men from Mullinalaghta, the half parish on the Cavan border were the year’s ideal GAA club story, an unlikely tale of a minnow. A David versus Goliath story, winning against Kilmacud Crokes. The ultimate underdog. Arguably a Longford county team would never see daylight against a Dublin county team but Mullinalaghta are a tough nut in their own championship with repeated forays into Leinster this last three seasons. Now they’re in uncharted waters, their rise marked by bonfires and the usual rural celebrations. You know the sort, a letter from An Uachtarán and An Taoiseach, and an appearance on the Late Late Show. Yes, Captain Shane Mulligan and his teammates became Club legends overnight. Manager Mickey Graham had to work a double shift in the bainisteoir bib having also been appointed Cavan football manager. It’ll all be worth it if they can pull off an unlikely double and defeat their second set of Crokes in a row to get to Croke Park itself. More bonfires and messages from An Aras await.
Gaoth Dobhair. Seasons of Gaeltacht, misty summer days, Atlantic storms. Post match pints in Teach Mhicí, with the boom box in for another day boom booming. The famous pitch at Machaire Gathlán where you can taste the salt in the wind blowing in off Oileán Ghabhla. Brought up playing with the wind, whether you were with it or against it. And in the background, Errigal, dominating the skyline. Beneath it, the desolate and beautiful valley pinned with the Church at Dunlewey. The scenes there following the unbelievable tragedy that tore at the heart of the club with the loss of player Mícheál Roarty one of four young men from the Gaeltacht taken in an accident. The backdrop of scree down Errigal like a trail of tears. Men like Cassidy, MacNiallais, The McGee brothers, hewn out of north west Donegal and fitted into that green jersey. Men who know how to kick ball. To win. To party. And to mourn. There’s a time for everything and for everything a time. Corofin await. Gaoth Dobhair are ready.
Corofin. Singlehandedly demolished the new handpass rules before it had even been conceived, with one of greatest team goals ever seen in Croke Park. All Ireland Club Final against Nemo Rangers. 52 seconds, the ball gliding through the team, through 15 pairs of hand, and a kick pass. Michael Farragher fires the ball to the net for Corofin. Gary Sice, Ian Burke, Michael Farragher, Micheál Lundy, a sublime club football team that plays ball the way you want it played. Passmasters of Gaelic football. 9 Connachts and three All Irelands. The game could be special. With two attacking forces out in force.
O’Neills wishes all the teams all the best in the weekends Senior Club Football Semi Finals.