Wednesday 16 January 2019

Locals reveal the secret behind the Mullinalaghta Leinster win miracle

Top dogs: Player James McGivney with his girlfriend Sinead Macken and dog Ted in Mullinalaghta, Co Longford, yesterday. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Top dogs: Player James McGivney with his girlfriend Sinead Macken and dog Ted in Mullinalaghta, Co Longford, yesterday. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

A mid-1990s boom in the birth of baby boys could be the secret of Mullinalaghta's success.

The tiny village in Co Longford served up one of the most impressive GAA success stories in recent memory on Sunday when they overcame Kilmacud Crokes to win the Leinster Football Club final.

Mullinalaghta GAA club has just 155 members, compared to the Dublin club's 4,800.

As sports fans wonder how this group of young men defied the odds to come out on top, it turns out Peter McGivney, father of centre-forward James, may have the answer.

He believes their success stemmed from the mid-1990s when there was a spike in the number of baby boys born in the village. From then on, it was just fate - and a lot of hard work.

"Ever since these lads learned to walk, they were put onto the pitch and have always proved they were a force to be reckoned with," said Peter.

"We could see that there were a good few talented lads at St Columba's NS and knew for years that we'd soon have a very strong panel down the line."

The village of Mullinalaghta doesn't have a shop or a post office and boasts just 447 residents. However, the locals managed to give their heroes a rousing welcome home on Sunday night - and the celebrations continued long into the next day.

Home are the heroes: Mullinalaghta players celebrate with pupils at St Columba’s National School in Co Longford yesterday. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Home are the heroes: Mullinalaghta players celebrate with pupils at St Columba’s National School in Co Longford yesterday. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Despite many a sore head, the team still managed to get up early to visit the local primary school, St Columba's.

Forming a guard of honour, around 100 children welcomed their heroes with cheers and cries of excitement.

Principal Frances Skelly told the Irish Independent that once she was informed the team were on their way, classes were brought to an immediate halt.

"The children spent the entire morning making posters for the lads and could barely contain themselves with the excitement.

"The hype around the town is extraordinary and I'm delighted that the children have these fantastic role models to look up to - it's a fairy-tale come true."

Captain Shane Mulligan was busy signing autographs for his young fans as he reflected on the historic game.

"It still hasn't sunk in yet," he said.

Fantastic

"All this attention and praise we've been getting has been so fantastic and it just goes to show that this is by far the best village in Ireland.

"But our success didn't come easy. We've been training and working so hard for this day and gave the Dubs a performance they'll certainly never forget."

Conan Brady, the team's corner back, has been commuting from Britain to play matches for the past eight years.

Speaking with a very hoarse voice, a result of the celebrations the night before, Brady said Sunday's result made his arduous commutes all worthwhile.

"Playing alongside my team during matches is always an amazing experience - I would never miss it," he said.

"I manage to get my training in with a local club in Leeds and then fly home again when we have a match.

"It's no bother for me because of how passionate I am about the game and the town."

Dan McElligott, who has five sons on the Mullinalaghta panel, said it has been an unbelievable journey for the team.

"I'm so proud of my lads, the school and this community. They deserve every bit of the attention they're getting, but they will never let it go to their heads."

Irish Independent

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