My Club: Brian Molloy - Kilnadeema-Leitrim
In this week's 'My Club' feature, Galway U-21 Hurling captain, Brian Molloy, tells us all about his club Kilnadeema-Leitrim.
By John Harrington
Kilnadeema-Leitrim hurling club is a small rural club in the heartland of Galway hurling surrounded by clubs like Loughrea, St. Thomas’, Tommie Larkins, Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry and Kilconieron.
Now amalgamated as Kilnadeema-Leitrim, for much of their history Kilnadeema and Leitrim were separate entities.
Both clubs fielded teams from the very founding of the GAA in 1884 and enjoyed some prominence, with Kilnadeema reaching the County Final in 1908 where they lost to Kilconieron.
Kilnadeema continued to be a force for some years until they were badly hit by emigration and slipped down to the Junior grade.
Leitrim enjoyed the greater success for some time thereafter as they won the County Junior Championship of 1923 and then three more Junior titles in a row from 1954 to 1956.
The two clubs first joined forces in 1975 and played in the Intermediate grade without too much success, but did make waves at underage level by winning three county U-16 titles in a four-year spell between 1978 and 1981.
Despite this encouraging achievement, Kilnadeema and Leitrim went their separate ways again in 1981. They then played one another in the 1988 Galway Junior Final, with Kilnadeema victorious.
The clubs joined forces again in 1995 and have remained a single entity ever since. They made a big breakthrough in 1999 when they won the Galway Intermediate title and qualified for senior hurling for the first time.
In 2003 they reached the Galway Senior Championship semi-final, but the following year were relegated.
Huge work at underage level then began to pay off as the club won U-14 'A' and Feile na nGael tiles in 2009 thanks to victories over Liam Mellows and St. Thomas’.
Many of those same players were part of the panel that then won the County intermediate title in 2013 and reached the All-Ireland Intermediate Final where they were defeated by Kilkenny’s Rower Inistioge after extra-time.
Arguably the greatest day in the club’s history came when they won the County U-21 ‘A’ title last year, and the future looks bright now with many of those same players back-boning the current senior side.
For more information on Kilnadeema-Leitrim, you can visit their website www.kilnadeemaleitrimgaa.net.
Q: Brian, can you describe what Kilnadeema-Leitrim is like for anyone who's never been there?
A: It's all country-side, like. We've two pubs and three shops between the two parishes. The two parishes joined years ago, split up in the '80s, and then joined again in '95. But the way it is, the way we view it, it's all the one parish. It's what we grew up with.
We were intermediate when I started hurling with them first and then won the intermediate in 2013 and have been three years senior since. We'd be a strong underage team in Galway now, hurling 'A' at most levels, which would never have been done until ten years ago in our club. We got to a senior semi-final in 2003 and got relegated the following year. We hear a lot about that!
Q: It seems strange that the two parishes came together, then split, then came together again. Was there any reason why that happened? You're probably too young to know, I suppose?
A: No, I was born the year that they re-amalgamated again in 1995. I'd say, the way it is, it's almost completely 50-50. So if one side didn't have the other they wouldn't be senior and the same for the other side. But we're all very much the one now.
Q: You had a lot of underage success coming up through the ranks. You won an U-14 title in 2007 and again in 2009 as team captain.
*A: *Yeah, I won an U-14 in 2007, and U-16 in 2008, they were both 'B', and then an U-14 'A' in 2009. Then last year we won the U-21 'A' title. The U-14 'A' in 2009 was the first ever 'A' underage title we've won. Since then we've lost an U-14 'A' Final, an U-15 'A' Final, two U-16 'A' Finals, and a Minor 'A' Final. We've been there or there abouts really. There's a group of our lads and a group of Clarinbridge lads who've been always meeting each other in Finals. They seem to be getting the upper hand on us. But a lot of our lads who lost in those Finals won the U-21 'A' with us last year.
Q: Winning an U-21 'A' title must have been huge for the club?
*A: *It was, yeah. With our senior team this year then we had 10 U-21s starting. And two more coming on then again. We were beaten in the senior preliminary quarter-finals the week before last after extra-time by Sarsfields. We're still very young, but we'd also have the likes of David Tierney there as well.
Q: So David is still hurling?
A: David is still hurling, yeah, still flying it!
Q: What age is he now?
*A: *36, I think. He wouldn't like me saying it, but I think he's 36.
Q: Does he still play out around the middle of the field?
*A: *No, he'd play at full-forward for us. Or he could go back sweeping as well because he has so much experience. He's still as fast and as strong as anyone. He minds himself real well and is a role-model really for anyone looking to get on the inter-county scene in terms of how he looks after himself outside of the pitch.
Q: I'm sure when you were a kid you were looking up to him in his days playing for Galway?
A: Oh yes, 2001 and 2005 All-Irelands, he was our hero. We were all trying to hop the ball off the ground like he did in 2005. He's still a hero to all of us.
Q: So David is 36, and there's a big age-gap between him and most of the rest of the team?
A: He's 36, his brother Tom is 33 I think this year, then after that there would be two or three at 25, and then everyone else is U-21.
Q: What sort of a pick would the club have in terms of a playing population?
A: We're a typical rural club. When we won the U-21 we had 21 lads togged out and just eight lads would have been over-age from minor. So we had 13 minors on our U-21 panel. We've been represented well now with the county in the last three or four years. We had three lads in the minor winning team last year, corner-back, corner-forward and another lad came on.
The year before that we had a corner-back on the U-21 panel but he did his cruciate a couple of weeks ago, unfortunately. So we have been kind of coming, but we're still obviously a long way off.
Q: What's behind this upsurge in fortunes at underage level? Presumably some good people have been putting in a lot of hard work?
*A: *Yeah, yeah, massive. The likes of Joe Kenny and John Broderick were always involved with us. Joe has four sons who are hurling, one of them senior. My own father Kevin would have been massively involved with our underage as well, Des Roche has been with us a lot the whole way up as well and he's now senior manager. A lot of people have put a lot of work into it. Joe Keane has been there a lot as well.
Anyone who has been there has been there for the love of it and everyone's heart is in the right place. We've been really on the up. If you were to ask these lads ten years ago when we were intermediate that we'd have an U-21 'A' title and an U-14 'A' title, then they probably would have laughed at it. We've a good core of lads there now between the ages of 16 and U-21 who just love hurling.
Q: The challenge for rural clubs is always to keep groups like that together. Will that be easily done?
*A: *Yeah, it's tough, but it's the same for every club. We all love hurling, but if you're sitting around here not working, it's very hard to stay around. But the economy seems to be picking up again so we hopefully won't be losing anyone.
Q: How realistic is it for the club to win a senior county title in the next few years? I presume that's the ultimate ambition?
A: That's the ambition, yeah. We won the intermediate and it's only our third year up in the senior and a lot of lads played senior for the first time this year. We're still very young, and even in two or three years time we'll still be young again. But I think in the next couple of years while we still have David and Tom, the two Tierney's, they'll be a boost for us to really push on.
We were five points up against Sarsfields, last year's County Champions, with 15 minutes to go. And they brought it back from there. They're a serious team but we hurled outstanding, so it kind of proved that we can mix it with the best. But then there's that extra bit of belief needed to push on and improve on what we did this year.
Q: How huge would it be for the parish to even get to a County Final?
*A: *Oh, it would be huge. Even the U-21 Final at the time was massive. The lads last year had lost the Minor 'A' Final before that after a replay so the younger lads were really determined and we had a few older lads on the team like myself too.
Q: Sure you're ancient!
A: Yeah! Well I actually feel old in our senior team to be honest, the way it's going. Like, it would be huge for our club even to get back to a senior semi-final again. The boys who did in 2003 are our heroes. We were going around that whole year wearing big massive club jerseys. All of those lads were our heroes and it inspired us massively so it would be great if we could do the same for another generation of young lads.
Q: There are a lot of strong clubs in your part of Galway. Who would be your biggest rivals?
*A: *I think ourselves and Loughrea would have a few good battles. Because we all went to secondary school in Loughrea. All of the East Galway clubs would be big rivals. When we were underage Turloughmore would have been big rivals of ours. We played them in a few very good games the whole way up along. It was the same as the younger lads in the club now playing Clarinbridge in all these Finals. But Loughrea would be the real derby game.
Q: So, to sum up, it sounds like the club is in a great place with a few hopefully exciting years coming up?
*A: *Hopefully, please God, now. A lot of work is needed. We need to get a gym into the club and a few more things. The way things are gone now nearly every club has them. We have a ball wall and a sand-based pitch in Kilnadeema which was done very well. Things are on the up, but there's never a guarantee you're going to get success unless you work hard. So that's the aim.