Footballer Jack Carney of Kilmeena, Mayo, pictured ahead of one of #TheToughest showdowns of the year, which sees Kilmeena face off against Gneeveguilla of Kerry in the AIB GAA Football All-Ireland Junior Club Championship Final this Sunday, February 6th at 1.30pm.
Footballer Jack Carney of Kilmeena, Mayo, pictured ahead of one of #TheToughest showdowns of the year, which sees Kilmeena face off against Gneeveguilla of Kerry in the AIB GAA Football All-Ireland Junior Club Championship Final this Sunday, February 6th at 1.30pm. 

Underdogs Kilmeena ready to bare their teeth


By John Harrington

Kerry clubs have been a dominant force in the AIB All-Ireland Club Football Championship, winning five of the last six finals, and Gneeveguilla have been hotly tipped to make it six in seven on Sunday.

In 2021 they won promotion to Division 1 of the Kerry Senior Football League, so they’re not exactly your average Junior club.

Sunday’s Croke Park showdown with Kilmeena shouldn’t be regarded as a formality, though, because the Mayo and Connacht champions look like a very impressive team themselves.

They defeated Offaly and Leinster champions Clonbulogue by 15 points in the All-Ireland semi-final, and midfielder Jack Carney says they’re coming into Sunday’s match in a great frame of mind.

“The underdog label suits us, we're happy to have it,” he says. “It's also good to have confidence in our own game-plan and the players that you have and we do have confidence in that. We know it's going to be a great battle against Gneeveguilla and they're favourites deservedly.

“The Kerry teams are always going to be favourites, really, with the championship system that they have. With the form that we're in at the moment we're happy to go in as underdogs and we're looking forward to the occasion.

“Gneeveguilla play very similar football to ourselves. It's nice, open football, fast-flowing and high intensity. So I'm expecting the game to go all the way to the wire and looking forward to every moment of it. I'm sure it’ll be a great spectacle for the fans and worth every penny that they pay.”

The Kilmeena footballers celebrate after winning the AIB Connacht Junior Football Club Championship. 
The Kilmeena footballers celebrate after winning the AIB Connacht Junior Football Club Championship. 

Kilmeena draw their players from three small rural parishes to the north of Westport and very much look like a club on an upward curve thanks to a big emphasis on underage coaching.

“We've a great underage structure,” says Carney. “There's a huge focus on the development of the underage and various teams.

“That is coming to fruition in the last two or three years in the age groups that are just coming into the senior ranks now. They’re very strong and have been playing 'A' football. I'm looking forward to being part of the journey over the next few years because the future looks bright for the club.

“The minor team that are currently in with our senior team at the moment training and pushing us on have been in 'A' finals which is huge for the club. There's more to come from the underage ranks to add to the strength of our squad.

“I'm looking forward to seeing what they can bring in the Mayo intermediate championship and I'm delighted they can be integrated into an intermediate squad rather than a junior team to further their development and kind of push them a little bit further.”

Carney himself is likely to be a player you’ll be hearing more of in the future for club and county.

He became the first Kilmeena footballer to player senior league or championship for Mayo in 34 years when he made his debut for James Horan’s team in last year’s Allianz Football League match against Westmeath.

Outstanding for his club during their run to Sunday’s All-Ireland Final, the experience of being a part of the Mayo panel seems to have accelerated his development as a footballer.

“I've taken some great nuggets of information from that and kind of added that to my game and I learned so much in such a high performance environment,” he says.

“It's great to kind of have that in the locker and be able to develop yourself and bring that into your own game. It's good to impart knowledge as well for lads in the club and help them out a bit whenever they need it.

“Looking at the way the squad is going, there are a lot of lads who are great footballers and I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do on the big stage on Sunday.”