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Mickey Graham guided Mullinalaghta St Columba's to AIB Leinster Club glory on Sunday.
Mickey Graham guided Mullinalaghta St Columba's to AIB Leinster Club glory on Sunday.

Mullinalaghta's stirring success story continues

By Paul Keane

Mullinalaghta St Columba's manager Mickey Graham believes that their very own long-shot moment can inspire small GAA clubs all around the country.

The new Cavan manager presided over a famous AIB Leinster club senior football title success for the side from north-east Longford that hails from a half parish of less than 450.

No Longford club had ever contested a provincial senior final before let alone won one but a late 1-2 scoring burst saw Mullinalaghta come from behind to beat four-time winners Kilmacud Crokes.

Pundits gave them little chance of doing so but just like Gaoth Dobhair in the Ulster final a week earlier, they made light of their lack of tradition at the top level to claim a remarkable provincial win.

"The show goes on but I'm not going to worry about that at this moment in time," said former Cavan forward Graham, referencing his other job managing his native county which is in full swing right now.

"I just have to sit down and gather all my thoughts and let this settle in because this is going to be one hell of a party over in Mullinalaghta for the next week, and up to Christmas because this, for this club to do, is a fairytale.

"It's astonishing what they're after achieving and every club that watched this game on telly will say, 'You know what, maybe we could do that some day'. Because there's still hope in the underdog yet and for the smaller clubs."

The three-in-a-row Longford champions were level at half-time though it looked as if they may pay a high price for failing to take greater advantage of the strong wind behind them.

"We made an awful lot of unforced errors in the first-half," said Graham. "We were a wee bit annoyed with ourselves at half-time, that we needed to have more composure on the ball in the second-half.

Mullinalaghta St Columba's defeated Kilmacud Crokes at Bord Na Mona O'Connor Park on Sunday.
Mullinalaghta St Columba's defeated Kilmacud Crokes at Bord Na Mona O'Connor Park on Sunday.

"But we also felt that if we could keep it tight and if we didn't let them get away from us, come the last five minutes, 10 minutes, that we'd absolutely go for it.

"Because you might as well get beaten by 10 as get beaten by one and that was the mantra we were going to perish on."

Mullinalaghta trailed by three points in the 56th minute but pulled back a point before Rogers blasted home from the penalty spot and Aidan McElligott, who'd won the penalty, added an insurance score shortly after.

There was still several minutes of stoppage time to be played but Graham said he was confident at that stage that they'd hold out.

"When we got the goal, the dream became a reality at that stage," he said. "I think the boys realised that and they just seemed to find energy from somewhere in the last five or six minutes.

"That goal, I felt, was the catapult that we needed if we were going to win the game. And when you're up against the big teams like we were, it's a great time to get a goal, let me tell you."

Graham said it helped that pundits and commentators had widely written them off beforehand.

"There was absolutely no pressure on us," he said. "Nobody really gave us a chance. We were big outsiders - but it's a great way to be coming into a match. And we said, look, whatever happens, we were going to give it one hell of a go, we'd have no regrets. We said we weren't going to come and play within ourselves and go into a defensive shell and invite them onto us.

"At times in the second-half, it might have looked like we did exactly that but the work ethic of the lads overall, it was terrific. They just tracked runners left and right and I thought their energy levels were superb. I thought we wanted it more, to be honest. Maybe that's a bit disrespectful to Kilmacud."

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