Tuesday 6 December 2016

Edinburgh on the brink of history as Rosenallis await

Michael Verney

Published 02/12/2016 | 02:30

Dunedin Connollys manager Cormac O'Gara:
Dunedin Connollys manager Cormac O'Gara: "The GAA club is the first place people look to when they're leaving home, it was the first place I looked to." (Stock photo)

From humble beginnings in 1988 when the club's first set of jerseys were supplied by a Del Trotter-like 'wheeler-dealer', who said he'd acquire 15 green tops provided no questions were asked, Dunedin Connollys have flourished.

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Edinburgh's only GAA club, derived from the Scottish city's Gaelic translation mixed with a hat-tip to Irish republican James Connolly, who was born there, has gone from strength to strength since a chance conversation at an Irish dancing show.

Little did Belfast native Anthony Haughey and Father Eamon Sweeney realise what the fruits of their labour would produce nearly 30 years later as Dunedin Connollys welcome Laois side Rosenallis to their backyard for an All-Ireland club JFC quarter-final tomorrow.

And nobody epitomises what it takes to achieve such success more than Dunedin manager Cormac O'Gara, who is boarding a train from Glasgow where he works as a site manager, back to Edinburgh for a training session as we speak.

It's a challenging journey at times but one he's become familiar with in recent months as missing training is never an option. With a planned return to his home of Glencolmcille in Donegal next July, this was "the last throw of the dice" and it rolled in his favour.

Winners of nine of the last ten Scottish championships, they'd been consistently knocking on the door to win their second All-Britain championship without breaking through. And when John Mitchels of Liverpool were eventually defeated after extra-time, it sparked scenes of jubilation as grown men and women cried with joy.

O'Gara just stood alone taking it all in. Years of perseverance had paid off for the man behind Connollys' famous All-Britain success in 2009 and Napier University's famous British Universities win a year later.

It's hard for O'Gara to put into words what it meant to him but PRO Jonathan Foley has no problem outlining his remarkable commitment and dedication to the Dunedin Connollys' cause through think and thin.

"The game was something like you'd see in a dramatised piece of fiction. Obviously this was an all-club affair but the moment truly belonged to Cormac. Not many managers have done more for their club than he has for us," Healy said.

"He's been away with his work a lot, but has still been commuting back and forward for training and down through the years, the commitment he's shown has been widely admired. I was delighted to see him as happy as he was when we shook hands after the game."

As O'Gara set back on the road home in his car, his troops were soaking in the spoils of victory with some 'light' refreshments on the five-and-a-half-hour journey back to Scotland when disaster struck. Their bus broke down.

With a replacement two hours away, players and their partners ordered ten taxis to ferry the 40-plus bodies back home as victory had to be celebrated on home soil. There may have been exiles from Roscommon, Mayo and Longford aboard but they share a common bond, "a love of our games".

"The GAA club is the first place people look to when they're leaving home, it was the first place I looked to," O'Gara said. "It's somewhere where everyone shares a common ground, everyone is reunited there."

O'Gara's frequent-flyer miles were to be seen again as he made the trip back to Ireland to see tomorrow's opponents in the flesh and try to gain a competitive edge. And if Dunedin Connollys continue to follow the example of their inspirational coach, anything may be possible for them.

Irish Independent

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