In many ways, Mullinalaghta is just like any other rural club in Ireland. The team is picked from a handful of players, many of whom are brothers, and some will spend their time before and after games tending to their farms.
What is special about this club, however, is how they have defied all the odds to reach the Leinster senior football championship final where they will come up against Kilmacud Crokes, a team that is, in many respects, their polar opposites.
It’s hard to imagine a team from Stillorgan having to deal with the daily tasks of a farmer before they take to the pitch on what is one of the biggest days in the club calendar, as outlined by Mullinalaghta centre-forward, James McGivney.
“Before club games on a Sunday morning, at 10, or half eight, or whatever time, you have to be out on the field two or three hours before that to get your jobs done. Same with the football games on a Sunday.
“Before the Leinster final this year, me and my brothers will probably do around two hours outside that morning, go to the game, come back home and do another two hours in the evening time. We’ll go up then and enjoy a few pints or whatever.”
The success of the Mullinalaghta team is driven by, not just the commitment of the players, but that of the whole community and that sense of togetherness is what makes them unique, according to McGivney.
“There’s about 350 to 400 people. We’re a fairly tight-knit community, the families in the parish have been great. After every training, there’s tea and sandwiches, and that rotates around every family in the parish. That’s how united it is. It’s fairly unique in that way.”
“I’ve a brother, David midfield. There’s the two Rogers, the goalie and the half-forward. There’s two Mulligans, they’re on the half-back line. There’s five McElligots. Two of them are starting. There’s two Foxes, the full-back and the full-forward. There’s a lot of brothers on the team.”
“Lookit, if it’s a battle, you’re 100% sure there’s 14 lads behind you coming. That’s the one thing you have to give credit to. We’ve full trust in every single one of the members of the team.”
The players are in no doubt as to the scale of the challenge that awaits them. Kilmacud Crokes are hot favourites having battled their way through a competitive Dublin championship before overcoming Portlaoise in the Leinster semi-final last month.
For Mullinalaghta, this journey has been a work in progress. They won their fifth county title this year, their third-in-a-row, but Sunday will be their first Leinster final. It may be labelled as a ‘David v Goliath’ scenario but they know they deserve to be in the final just as much as their opponents and they are going out on Sunday to prove that.
“I remember the very first meeting Mickey Graham had with us three years ago, he said these opportunities come in cycles of years. He had one with Cavan Gaels and he said, “your opportunity is coming now, and it’s up to you to take it”.”
“We all bought into the cause that night and we worked really hard. Most trainings we came off the field, tight able to breathe, tight sleep at night, you’d be that tired rolling and twisting in aches and pains. We’re just starting to see the rewards of it now.”
“We know the odds are stacked against us. The bookies don’t usually get it wrong either and they’d have Kilmacud as strong favourites. All we can do is control what’s in our hands, and that’s getting the best possible performance out of ourselves. Hopefully we can do each other proud.”
Mullinalaghta and Longford’s James McGivney was speaking ahead of the AIB GAA Leinster Senior Football Club Championship Final where they face Kilmacud Crokes on Sunday, December 9th at Bord na Mona O’Connor Park.
AIB is in its 28th season sponsoring the GAA Club Championship and will celebrate their 6th season sponsoring the Camogie Association. AIB is delighted to continue to support Senior, Junior and Intermediate Championships across football, hurling, and camogie.