Friday 20 October 2017

'Fairytale' of Mullinalaghta proves that dreams do come true

Well wishes have come from as far afield as New Zealand and New York and a first senior crown and back-to-back wins on their maiden Leinster odyssey doesn’t come without blood, sweat, tears and dedicated bodies working behind the scenes to help shape the current crop
Well wishes have come from as far afield as New Zealand and New York and a first senior crown and back-to-back wins on their maiden Leinster odyssey doesn’t come without blood, sweat, tears and dedicated bodies working behind the scenes to help shape the current crop

Michael Verney

Round bales, cars, donkeys and telegraph poles are some examples of the lengths that the people of Mullinalaghta will go to support their trailblazing senior footballers with the small Longford half-parish smothered in maroon and white.

Well wishes have come from as far afield as New Zealand and New York and a first senior crown and back-to-back wins on their maiden Leinster odyssey doesn't come without blood, sweat, tears and dedicated bodies working behind the scenes to help shape the current crop.

None more so than Dan McElligott, a Kerry native from Ballymacelligott, who has played a huge hand in the development of the senior squad and has four sons - Ruairi, Donal, Aidan, Conor (another son Cian is not yet eligbile to tog out) - playing under manager Mickey Graham, who has provided the final piece of the jigsaw allowing them to express themselves.

The "coaching-mad" McElligott represented Monaghan's seniors before marrying a Mullinalaghta woman and transferring the Kingdom's "football religion" to the Midlands. Football takes precedence over everything, it never stops.

Always looking for an edge he began videoing games at an early stage with his wife Bernie playing a crucial role picking out snippets before assembling players, many of whom are now donning the senior jersey, in his front room for valuable tutorials.

"We don't go overboard on it but we've done it since schoolboy level," McElligott says enthusiastically.

"We would have recorded every match back then on borrowed camcorders but thankfully we have our own now.

"I could be up at night watching those videos and it's lovely with the lads involved that when I'm old and grey I can sit down with a pipe in my hand and watch all these games and have all these great memories."

While it's been proclaimed as an "overnight success", McElligott points to a Division 4 Féile title six years ago with Northern Gaels and Cnoc Mhuire, Granard's All-Ireland Vocational Schools Senior 'A' Football win in 2013.

And now they're reaping the rewards with McElligott believing "they're as skilful as any team in the country" ahead of welcoming Dublin powerhouse St Vincent's to Pearse Park for tomorrow's provincial semi-final.

Bonfires, fireworks and a cavalcade of cars followed ending a 66-year wait for a county title last month and with 14 direct descendants of that team among their ranks, there was a "special moment" when led by inspirational captain, they visited the graveyard where the majority rest with the winning spoils.

Pre-match talk in the McElligott house sums up the beauty of our games with regular calls of 'Mam where's me boxers? or 'Where's me gum shield?' while he admits he fears "the day will come I'll have false teeth and I'll go to reach for them and it'll be a gum shield I'll get instead".

As for tomorrow, McElligott has no intention for the "fairytale" of Mullinalaghta to come to an end just yet.

Irish Independent

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