Killoe on the comeback trail again
By Cian O’Connell
“When you are from the club, you just want to be able to go in to watch a county final in three years time, to lean across a barrier to look at these young fellas play under a different manager,” Thomas Donohoe says about Emmet Og, Killoe’s return to prominence in Longford.
Sunday’s county decider against Longford Slashers will examine the credentials and resolve of two proud clubs, but Donohoe is enjoying managing Killoe.
Having guided a highly regarded emerging crop to a couple of minor titles in recent years, Donohoe was happy to try to blend the youngsters with an established collection of Killoe footballers.
Ultimately it has been an interesting campaign, but Donohoe stresses the importance of remaining relevant of ensuring the future will feature solid Killoe outfits.
Mullinalaghta have set the standard high in Longford, but teams such as Killoe and Slashers have relished the challenge.
“It is important to bring them through,” Donohoe states. “When I finish up with Killoe -this year, next year or in three years time - you hope that there is a good strong senior team and that there is a structure too, that these young lads are brought through.
“Sometimes managers just come to look after whatever they are looking after, they don't think down the road. That is why it is really important.
“Sometimes clubs panic, maybe it doesn't work for one or two years they panic and get outside managers in, to bring in a big name. It isn't always successful either. It might be successful for a year or that, but down the road in 10 years time it isn't.
“They will come in, they will look after it for 12 or 24 months and you'll realise you have young quality lads that weren't brought along.”
Ensuring Killoe are in the hunt for honours consistently is precisely the mission Donohoe wants to accomplish.
“When you are a homegrown manager you are conscious about down the line and how a club is going to develop,” Donohoe adds.
“That is where I am at the minute. It is probably fairytale stuff for me, I won two minors, then I moved up with the seniors, so if we were to get over the line at 5 o'clock on Sunday evening personally it would be massive and for the club. It just would give everyone the signal that Killoe haven't gone away.
“For three years we have probably taken our foot off the pedal, Mullinalaghta did come to the fore with a brilliant group of lads. It would just prove that we are back again and that we haven't gone away.”
For Donohoe it has been a busy stint, but during the past few years he was struck by the dedication and drive of the teenagers in the locality. “I took it over as a bit of a rookie coming in after winning two minor Championships with Killoe in '17 and '18,” Donohoe explains.
“I was involved as a selector in '15 when we last won the senior so I probably had served my apprecenticeship to a point. I brought a lot of the minors along with me so I was just hoping to get the youth and experience together this year.
“A lot of people were saying to give it three years and if we got one Championship out of three years, but the way the things worked out it just fell into place for me.
“We got through our group stage, now we are in a county final. There is lots of quality. We have quality in Mickey Quinn, the McCormacks, Daniel Mimnagh - we have good county players there. We probably got the blend right with the youth and experience.
“So it fell into place and I even said in the local paper that the longer we stayed in the Championship the stronger we were going to get. We had guys coming back from America, injuries, stuff like that. All of a sudden you find yourself in a county final and it is great.”
Donohoe was adamant about the value and importance attached to ensuring the budding footballers were minded correctly. Integrating these players is critical for the long term future of Killoe.
“It is, when you are an internal manager you are conscious of the club going forward more than anything else,” Donohoe admits.
“You are always going to be around. Even though you mightn't be the manager of the team you will be in a set-up and I've kids coming along.
“You know yourself that an external manager might come in to get as much as they can from a group for two years, I won't say they don't care, but what happens down the line won't make a massive difference to them because they aren't living in the parish.
“We finished one group stage game against Edgesworthstown when we were very tight for players with nine minors, who won a Championship for me in '17. That was a massive achievement and we got a draw out of it.
“That gave them great experience. For a club that is very strong at underage going forward if you don't bring them through you will end up at senior in four or five years time in massive trouble.”
Now, though, Killoe are eager to secure senior silverware once more with Donohoe acknowledging the leadership roles being occupied by the decorated members of the panel.
“There is a bit of a fear factor with players because we won it last in '15. So players are thinking to themselves will we ever win it again,” Donohoe comments.
“Mullinalaghta came there for the last three years and other teams can develop between '15 and now. You wonder will we ever get back to the top table again so it is great for the older players. I'm talking about the likes of Denis McGoldrick,a married man, who drives from Dublin.
“He is probably conscious after winning in '15 will we ever get back to that again, will we ever get another medal. I always say to the lads that a lot of clubs in Longford have players with three Championship medals, but you are going into a different grade with four Championship medals.
“It is probably unique now if lads were to have four Championship medals. So it is key that them lads do get back to the top table because they deserve to be there. You have quality players Mickey Quinn and Daniel Mimnagh. Neutrals want to see them on county final day, to see Mickey Quinn, the McCormacks, and Daniel Mimnagh performing on the biggest day in the Longford calendar.”
Donohoe has witnessed the development and graft which has taken place far from Glennon Brothers Pearse Park. That is always the intended destination for Killoe players to parade their skills, but the first steps in their sporting journeys carry significance.
“The work is brilliant with underage,” Donohoe remarks. “It really starts in National School, we are lucky that they get good coaching in National School.
“Coming through, the National School is like an Academy so that when they come to play at Under 6s and Under 8s and Under 10s they have a lot of work done at that stage. It makes it easier for the trainers in the club because the work is done.
“The school has won a lot in the last 20 years, they have maybe won 17 or 18. It is coming through that - it is a system. The minors that won the last two years just didn't end up winning minors, they have been winning Feile's, Under 10s, Under 12s, so it wasn't by chance they are playing senior.
“They have earned their right to be playing and to be part of the panel. It starts at National School, but they have medals in their back pockets from every grade coming up. They just are quality young lads.
“You can have young lads in a club, but we have quality young lads featuring at inter-county Under 17 and Under 20 which means a lot.”
Donohoe has helped them on the path so far. The next test against Slashers will be worth monitoring.