I'd 'Giv' us a chance! - Minnows captain hoping something special can happen against Dublin kingpins Crokes in decider

AT YOUR BEST: Mullinalaghta’s James McGivney wants his side to deliver their best performance possible in Sunday’s Leinster final. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Conor McKeon

It became the cliché of the club championships right through the previous decade to this one: the tiny rural club done good, scrapping their way to glory despite their inherent smallness.

In 2002, Ballinderry won an All-Ireland senior club title with the footballing resources drawn from around 250 houses on both sides of the Derry/Tyrone border.

The following year, Caltra (population as per 2007 census: 351) kept the underdog theme running when they beat the An Ghaeltacht side of the Ó Sé brothers and Dara Ó Cinnéide.

And in 2009, Kilmurray Ibrickane missed the chance to write their own chapter into the club hampionship romance novel when they lost to St Gall's on St Patrick's Day.


Mullinalaghta St Columba's, Kilmacud Crokes' opponents in Sunday's Leinster final, might just 'out-small' them all.

FIRM GRIP: James McGivney of Mullinalaghta St Columba’s finds himself getting manhandled by Mark Fitzgerald of Éire Óg. Photo: SPORTSFILE

A club with a membership of 155 from a "half parish" (they share their church with the Cavan town of Gowna) with a population of around 350, Mullinalaghta are the both the smallest GAA affiliate in Longford and the first team from the county to qualify for a senior provincial final.

"There's only a church, a community centre and a school with 44 students and a football field," says James McGivney.

"And only for the football field, I'd say the majority of our team would've emigrated by now."

McGivney, who attained notoriety earlier this summer for the dangerous 'tackle' on Stephen Cluxton, which saw him sent off in the Leinster SFC semi-final between Dublin and Longford and forced Cluxton to miss his first Championhip match in 14 years, attended St Columba's National School.

There were seven in his class, four of whom were boys, of which he is the only one still playing football.

Yet, their presence in Sunday's decider against Kilmacud Crokes isn't totally unheralded.

In 2016, after winning the club's first senior county title since 1952, they knocked out a St Loman's side which would go on to win Leinster last year.

They then played St Vincent's at Pearse Park and stayed within swinging distance until the last ten minutes. And this year, they went to Tullamore and beat perennial Offaly champions Rhode in the quarter-final.

"We kind of surprised ourselves the first year against Loman's in the first round and (against) Vincent's in the semi-final," McGivney stresses.

The county titles have been monumental moments themselves, though.

More than half a century had passed since Mullinalaghta had last won a county title before 2016, during which time they'd bounced between the grades and flirted with extinction.

"The first year (2016), we drove by the graveyard we got out of the bus, said a few prayers, and brought candles over to relatives," McGivney recalls.

"Laid them on the grave. The priest said a few words. It was nice.

"Everyone was there. We got the bus back then to this cross - there is a cross in the middle of the parish - and there was a big bonfire there. We just wanted to stop off at the graveyard in memory of those lads who did win it back in '52. We just wanted to show our respects to them, that they were still being thought of as highly as they were now."

This Sunday, McGivney is both aware of the size of the task and unwilling to baulk at it.

"If you're there, there's always a chance," he shrugs.

"I give ourselves some sort of chance.

"All I'm hoping for, and I know the other lads as well, is that we produce the best possible performance we can, not to let ourselves, our supporters or our club down.

"We know if we perform to the best of our abilities ... you'd never know, something special might happen."