Lahardane's titanic achievement
By John Harrington
John Maughan might be performing off Broadway these days, but he still knows how to produce a hit.
The former Mayo, Clare, Roscommon, and Fermanagh manager recently added another notable achievement to his CV by managing Lahardane MacHales to their first ever Mayo Junior Football Championship.
They followed up the County Final win over Kilmaine with a provincial semi-final victory over Galway champions St. Gabriel’s, and on Sunday will play Sligo champions Ballymote in the AIB Connacht Junior Football Championship Final.
There had been signs of progress before Maughan took charge this year, but, according to club secretary Enda Coyne, the appointment of such a respected figure in Mayo football gave everyone in the club a vital lift.
“Three years ago we had a few lads over in America on the J1 and we hardly had 15 players at all,” Coyne told GAA.ie.
“We survived a relegation play-off the next year and then with Michael Lynn and Derek Sheridan in charge of the team last year we secured four cups but we failed to get out of the championship.
“Our Chairman Seamus Maughan then convinced his brother John to come on board this year and has added a lot of different things to it.
“He's worked a lot on ball-work and got a really good reaction from the lads who would be very focused, in fairness to them.
“For a Junior club to have someone like him in charge is massive.”
The County Final was one of those great days that will live long in the memory of every Lahardane supporter who was there to witness it.
Trailing by 0-10 to 0-5 at half-time against a fancied Kilmaine side, it looked like their day would end in disappointment.
But second-half goals from James Maughan and substitute Michael Coleman turned the game on its head and gave Lahardane a famous 2-11 to 0-15 victory.
“My in laws are from Kilmaine, the opposing team, and we were taunting each other all year,” smiled Coyne.
“At half time, even with rose-tinted glasses, I couldn't see a comeback.
“Everyone has been saying since, 'Ah, I knew at half-time we could do it', but it was very hard to see us bridging a five-point gap against the raging hot favourites. It was a great win.”
Lahardane village is situated on a scenic stretch of road between Crossmolina and Castlebar known as the windy gap that is bound on one side by Nephin Mountain and Lough Conn on the other.
It’s long been known as ‘Ireland’s Titanic Village’ because the area lost proportionally more people in the Titanic disaster than anywhere else in the world.
11 of the 14 people from the Addergoole parish who boarded the ship were lost at sea, and they’re commemorated today by the Addergoole Titanic Memorial Park in Lahardane.
The area has always had a strong footballing tradition and indeed is the homeplace of Archbishop John MacHale who gave his name to county grounds as well as the club.
But until Lahardane MacHales were founded in 1966 footballers played with either Newport or Crossmolina.
For much of their existence they were the poor relations in a part of Mayo where football is very much the fabric of society, but this year’s success has made years of hard toil very worthwhile.
“Crossmolina and Knockmore are at either side of us and then Castlebar are at another side of us too, so we're sandwiched between the three that are always getting to senior finals,” said Coyne.
“There's an awful lot of pride. Just for my father's sake, he would have set up the club in 1966 with another fella who has since deceased, Paddy Joe Loftus.
“For the likes of them there would have been some awful lean years. Now for all the young kids looking at this it gives them something to aspire to because we'll be competing in the intermediate now.
“We're in bonus territory now with the Connacht Final but I suppose everyone says that. It's great though to be moving up the ladder more than anything else.
“Junior football doesn't have the greatest ring about it. For once we'll be up competing with bigger fish.”