History repeats itself for Templenoe

Templenoe's rise through the ranks is reminiscent of An Ghaeltact's own twenty five years ago

Templenoe players, mentors and supporters celebrate their victory over An Ghaeltacht in Sunday’s County IFC Final in Austin Stack Park. Photo by Domnick Walsh/Eye Focus
Templenoe players, mentors and supporters celebrate their victory over An Ghaeltacht in Sunday’s County IFC Final in Austin Stack Park. Photo by Domnick Walsh/Eye Focus

Damian Stack

History has a funny sort of a way of repeating itself. It's rarely exactly the same - time moves relentlessly and remorselessly forward for one thing. More so it's that there are resonances of and resemblances to what's gone before.

As they stood near enough the halfway line watching Brian Crowley climb the steps of the stand in Austin Stack Park on Sunday afternoon, some of the An Ghaeltacht brain trust might have had reason to see something of themselves and their story in Templenoe's.

Once upon a time they were the shooting stars. From novice to junior to intermediate to senior. Even the time span in which they went from the lowest rung to the highest is eerily similar.

It took An Ghaeltacht just five years to go from novice football to senior football - 1993 novice champions, 1998 intermediate champions - and it's taken Templenoe a mere six - 2013 novice champions, 2019 intermediate champions.

Guys like Dara Ó Cinnéide - talisman and scorer-in-chief - and Pól Ó Cuinn - midfield partner to the great Darragh Ó Sé - know what it's like. The thrill of it, the feeling that anything and everything is possible.

Templenoe still have a little way to go to match the zenith of An Ghaeltacht's achievements - two time county senior champions, All Ireland senior club finalists - but after what we saw on Sunday afternoon Templenoe look better equipped to do so than any other intermediate champion we've seen in quite some time.

Templenoe have used their time in the intermediate grade wisely. They've improved year on year and, in hindsight, it was probably no harm that they didn't progress sooner than they did.

They're stronger now than they were when they lost out to Kenmare Shamrocks in the 2016 final and we mean that quite literally. Templenoe have matured over the last three and-a-half years. One time whippets are now men of steel.

Templenoe were able to dominate An Ghaeltacht on the scoreboard because they were able to dominate them physically. In the first fifteen to twenty minutes when the game was won, and to a large extent lost, Templenoe were able to win five successive An Ghaeltacht kick-outs - and all of those on breaks.

That just killed whatever hopes An Ghaeltacht had in the game, pinned them back into their own half of the pitch and kept them to sporadic attacks as Templenoe surged to a near insurmountable nine point lead.

Aside from a few wides from unpromising positions, Brian Ó Beaglaoich's effort at goal was their only real attacking intervention until they got up and running in the ten minutes up to half-time. It wasn't enough nor could it ever be enough. Not against a side as hungry and as good as this Templenoe side.

Probably it was never likely that An Ghaeltacht could be expected to match Templenoe for hunger on this occasion. Not after An Ghaeltacht beat them in the final two years ago. Not after Templenoe spent year upon year missing out to the eventual winners.

It's simply the case that this is Templenoe's time in the way it was An Ghaeltacht's all those years ago. Just look at the team sheet - that's some collection of quality footballers, there are no passengers on that team, nor could there be to reach the heights they have over the past fortnight.

Another little club on the western seaboard with a smorgasbord of talented footballers coming to fruition all at once. You even have a set of brothers with a famous surname. For An Ghaeltacht it was the Ó Sés and for Templenoe it's the Spillanes.

Who else would it be? The Spillanes are synonymous with the place. Of course it's not just the Spillanes - as we say there's so much talent on this Templenoe side - but it's still no surprise that the talisman of the side carries that famous moniker.

On Sunday he was the man of the match, pulling the strings, keeping the scoreboard ticking over and giving the An Ghaeltacht full-back line a migraine to beat all migraines. Killian Spillane finished the day with six points from play and two frees and contributed directly to both goals, none more so than the match-winning second.

"We were a few points ahead at that stage and Gaeltacht had opened up a small bit," he explains.

"I ran out, I knew there was a bit of space behind me, I saw the way the ball was bouncing and Brian [Crowley] was making a run at one-hundred miles-an-hour and I knew that any ball going in behind me was going to end up in his path so luckily it worked out well."

Spillane has been there every step along the way of this incredible journey. From callow minor when they won the novice title to last Sunday as a battle-hardened leader of men.

Such has been the sustained success for guys of his generation with Templenoe you do tend to wonder whether they get how special it is. For them it's simply the way things are, success just a way of life. Spillane though makes clear that he realises just how special it is.

"It's unbelievable," he says.

"Even my own age coming through, we knew that was a great crop of players coming and when I started senior we were novice and we were down in Division 4 and we just worked our way through the championships and through the leagues. We've been holding our own and we have to make the most of it when we can.

"We're absolutely delighted. I think it's our third final in four years and we lost the semi-final last year to Kilcummin who went the whole way to winning the All Ireland. We've been there or thereabouts and thankfully today we've got it over the line, it's been a long time coming for us.

"I suppose we got back a bit earlier this year, fellas got the head down and worked hard and stuff and I think we were deserved winners of this competition this year."

Spillane's own game seems to have kicked it up another gear in the last twelve months. He's moved to centre stage with his club and has dominated this championship in a way we haven't seen in a while.

"I'm playing with a bit more confidence," he explains.

"I'm a bit more direct. I'd a few things I needed to work on and I'm just trying to implement them really in these games. Being a bit more direct, a bit of pace, use my strength and stuff and that's the couple of key areas that I wanted to work on."

Spillane's journey isn't yet done. Nor is Templenoe's. Their ambition is far from stated and that's the thing that would have to remind you of An Ghaeltacht. Even after doing something that the club had never done before they still want more.

"It's a step up," Spillane explains.

"It's an intermediate title and we've never won one before, it's huge and hopefully we can keep going on and go the whole way now.

"The focus from day one was Kerry and we'll just have take it from here and keep improving on the things we have to improve on and look forward."

Never satisfied. Always restless. It's the recipe for success and Templenoe have it down pat. We're far from the end of the Templenoe story.