Moytura Hurling Club rise like a Phoenix from the flames
By John Harrington
Like a Phoenix from the flames, Moytura Hurling Club is flying high again.
They folded in 2014 because of a lack of playing numbers, but since reforming at the start of this year have made really impressive strides.
Having already contested the Genfitt Mayo Junior League Final, they’ll now make it two finals in one year when they go toe to toe with fellow Mayo club Castlebar Mitchels in the CúChulainn Cup Division 3 Final.
The cross-county competition has been a huge success in its inaugural year with 65 teams taking part across four divisions.
As far as Moytura Chairperson and team manager, Sean McGahon, is concerned, its been a godsend for clubs in developing counties who often struggle to have sufficient meaningful matches to keep players interested.
“It's great because you don't get to play teams from Longford, Sligo, or Roscommon or any other county that often,” McGahon told GAA.ie.
“With the Junior Championship in Mayo, if you win the County title that's it, you're finished. You don't go on.
“Whereas with the CúChulainn you're going on and playing teams from different counties and different provinces and it's a really good experience. We'd never get to play the likes of Clontibret from Monaghan who we played in the semi-final only for this competition.
“The CúChulainn extends the season for players. Especially, say, for a county like Longford that has just three senior clubs. Their senior championship is over within a few weeks whereas if they're in the CúChulainn it extends it by another few weeks. It fills in that gap for all the clubs that are taking part.”
So, how exactly does a hurling club come back to life after eight years after it died out? It turns out you only need one spark to light the flame.
“Adrian Hession, the Mayo Hurling GPO, met up with one or two of the lads in Ballinrobe and they were saying that they used to have a great time with the club and they'd love to have Moytura come back together again,” says McGahon.
“I was dropping my own kids up to the Cúl Camps and Adrian approached me and said it to me that a few of the lads are looking to get back together. So then I touched base with one or two of them and we put it up on Facebook to see if there would be any interest in it and before we knew it we had 20 names.
“Then two other lads, one in Cong and one in The Neale, Donie Sullivan and Pat Horgan from Limerick and Cork originally, had been looking to set up a club so they said they'd take over the underage side of it and I took over the Junior lads.”
It’s one thing having early enthusiasm for a project, it’s another thing entirely seeing it through, but clearly everyone involved with Moytura is very determined to put hurling on the map again in this corner of South Mayo.
Not only have the Junior team competed really well this year, the underage section of the club is also thriving which suggests Moytura a viable long-term future.
“The first training night we did a launch and we told lads to bring hurls and we'll have a puck-about and a chat,” says McGahon.
“Some of these lads wouldn't have seen each other for the last seven or eight years.
“We said we'd go ahead with it if they were up for it and they were all up for it. Then, before we knew it, we did indoor training in The Neale GAA astroturf. We had about 20 at that training session and it's just gone from strength to strength.
“We've also started with the U-9s, U-11s, and U-13s and we have around 55 or 60 kids registered now with Moytura on Saturday mornings when they're training. The two lads that are looking after those teams are doing great work. They're entering competitions now and they're going well. They won their first game there last week so they're happy enough.
“The kids just want to play, that's all they want to do, and now they have a player pathway. They're looking up at the junior lads and the junior lads are looking down and keeping an eye on them.
“For a few weeks two of the junior lads would go in and help out with the juvenile training and introduce themselves and tell the kids they had started at underage and some of them went on to represent Mayo. So the young lads are then thinking that we could do that and I suppose what you're trying to do is bridge that gap.
“If I can hold on to these junior lads for another three or four years then these U-13 lads will be starting to come through and join the Juniors and ensure we have a future.”
If they could win a national competition in their first year back as a club it would surely accelerate their rapid progress even further, but regardless of whether or not they defeat Castlebar, everyone involved with Moytura can be proud of what they’ve rebuilt this year.
“It's been a massive achievement for us,” says McGahon. “I said to our captain that if we get to a final in any competition this year then it's a massive achievement for us and then here we are now in our second one.”