Killygarry All Ireland Winning Under 14 squad: Conor Bates (Capt), Brian Bogue, Emmett Blaney, Padraig Burns, Kieran Burns, Sean Dunne, Emmanuel Galligan, Darragh Gannon, Matthew McKenna, Conor Mulvany, Breifne O’Brien, Blaine O’Callaghan, Luke O’Dea, Sean Keady, Brian Sheanon, Ronan Smith, Shane Smith, Arturs Timofejevs, Conor Walker. Coaches: Simon Fay, Declan Gilsenan, Padraig Gannon, Enda Mulvany
MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS………………
Still laugh about that phone call last April. “Do you want to enter the county Feile on Easter Monday?” The immediate answer was an empathic NO. A few poor performances in challenge game and the opening round of the U14 league were the reasons for the negative response. Two minutes later we were in the hat. Reluctantly. What started as a request to take the final place in the group stages of the county competition, ended in St Conleth’s Park, Newbridge on July 5th in All Ireland victory. The rollercoaster ride there was an unforgettable one for those involved.
Back to Easter Monday…….9.30am and the four clubs competing (Killygarry, Drumlane, Redhills and Denn) arrive in Milltown to compete in the local group qualifier. With Drumlane playing at home and coming down from Division 2 for the lower division qualifier everything looked stacked against the visitors to progress to the county finals. However, Killygarry ambushed the locals in the first game and progressed all the way to the final with two more wins. Once the boys hit the wide open spaces of Kingspan Breffni Park, Killygarry booked their passage to Kildare and the national finals with an easy win over Knockbride on a scoreline of 4-16 to 1-03. It was on that night the idea that we might have a very good chance of doing well began to blossom.
The Ulster Feile in Derry was a learning curve and a steep one at that. Killygarry were beaten in a semi final by Clogher from Tyrone, but the 12 a side competition and nature of 15 minute halves made it great preparation for Kildare. Back home the confidence was growing as the team’s league campaign continued. They remained unbeaten and often grasped victories in the closing quarter of game. This was the case in the league final against Denn in early June. Down by six points early on, Killygarry plugged away to lead by two at the break. A close second period saw the sides level in the last two minutes but Killygarry prevailed with a late point to take the title………their “never give up” mantra coming through again. Preparations for the All Ireland Feile then stepped up a few gears. Full turnouts at training and no quarter given or taken. Places on the bus were at stake and nobody wanted to miss out. Words of wisdom from Andy McGovern, Seamus Lynch and Nicholas Walsh were taken on board. New kit arrived. Training tops with names on the back!! Tracksuits. Jackets. Sports bags.
But the message leaving for Kildare was that they weren’t going on holiday and they were to focus on the real job in hand.
As the destination of Kildangan neared, the atmosphere on the bus changed (as did the music!!). Game faces appeared and while the welcoming party did its job, Killygarry players prepared for the opening group game with the locals. A whirlwind start saw Killygarry lead by 12 points at half time and although Kildangan put up a brave show in the second period, Killygarry were comfortable winners, 5-09 to 1-04 That evening saw the squad take part in the opening ceremony in St Conleth’s Park, Newbridge, followed by the parade of all the teams through the town. In the back of everyone’s mind was the hope that the next time they would be in Newbridge would be Sunday morning for the final.
July 4th 4.30pm Venue: St Laurence’s GAA Park, Narraghmore
It seemed everyone from Caragh landed but Killygarry had their great contingent of supporters too, and boy could we hear them. A strong downfield wind was to have a bearing on the game and Caragh had first use of it. Throw in and it was apparent Caragh had an extra man on the field. No. It was two. No. It was three!!! “They have 15 out there”. Howls of protest along the line as the game was stopped after five seconds. A phone call confirmed it was a 12 a side competition. Caragh eventually withdrew their three extras. Not that it appeared to hinder them as they tore into Killygarry in the first half. Two goals in two minutes had the lads reeling but the defence regained composure and scoring 1-01 in the strong wind before half time was crucial. Half time Caragh 2-03 Killygarry 1-01. Second half saw Killygarry construct a ‘Red Wall’ in the Caragh half of the field and they picked their opponents off one point at a time. 14 of them in all. In a superb display Killygarry qualified for the final on a 1-15 to 2-03 margin. We had reached an All Ireland Final.
Evening dinner in Kildangan and a dilemma for the coaches. The local clubs had organised a disco for visiting teams. It would be rude not to go but the final was at 9.30 the following morning. Feile weekend is about meeting other players as well as participation. A curfew was imposed and everyone was home tucked up in bed by 10pm (we think!!!). A strange problem to face before an All Ireland final.
July 5 th
Well we made it back to St Conleth’s Park Newbridge. Opponents were Fenagh from Carlow. Big, strong, physical. Might be able to target them with width. Fenagh were two points up before Killygarry knew what hit them. Eventually Killygarry got some possession and Conor Mulvany’s left footed effort on the run got the scoreboard operators working. Playing expansive, two touch football, Killygarry got more into the game and Conor Bates popped over two quick points to put Killygarry ahead after seven minutes. Fenagh’s big midfielders were causing problems with their strong runs through the middle of the Killygarry defence. One attack led to a soft penalty which Brian Bogue saved.
Other attacks were thwarted by last ditch blocks from Luke O’Dea and Kieran Burns. Eventually the equaliser came but Daragh Gannon restored the lead on the stroke of half time. Killygarry 0-04 Fenagh 0-03. Fenagh set camp in the Killygarry half for the first few minutes of the second period and again Killygarry held firm to keep the lead. Clearances by Bogue and Padraig Burns saw to that. Killygarry’s first venture up field saw Emmet Blaney fire into the corner of the net from 20 metres and a Brian Sheanon point soon afterwards put the reds 1-05 to 0-03 ahead. The next few minutes saw Fenagh set camp again in the Killygarry half. Eventually the ‘red wall’ cracked when the Fenagh midfielders barged through and linked up to score a goal. More heroic defending followed Mattie McKenna, Mano Galligan and Kieran Burns breaking up Fenagh attempts to score. The last five minutes saw Killygarry break out of defence and with good passing and movement they began to nullify Fenagh’s power game. Gannon pointed to put three in it with three minutes to go. Galligan blocked a clearance and fired over the bar to put two scores in it. Then came the moment the title was clinched. Blaney took a quick free to Galligan on the half way line. The ball was fed down the wing to Mulvany who gathered and moved inside, before feeding the ball to the on-running Galligan. With three defenders sucked out to him he slipped the ball inside to an unmarked Sheanon who hit a low left foot drive that settled in the corner of the net. Game over. Gannon’s crutches go flying! Well almost. Sheanon struck another point in stoppage time to make it a final score of Killygarry 2-08 Fenagh 1-03