Clann na nGael's thrilling adventure continues
By Cian O'Connell
These really are special times for Clann na nGael.
Meath Junior Football and Intermediate Hurling Championship titles have been collected in recent months.
Saturday’s appearance in the AIB Leinster Club Junior Football Final against Rathgarogue Cushinstown at Pairc Tailteann is the next assignment in a hectic campaign.
Featuring more than a dozen dual players Philly Garry marvels at what has been achieved by so many of his colleagues in 2019.
“You'd have 13 players involved in both codes, they also won the Division Two League in hurling a few weeks ago,” Garry says. “There is a real buzz around the town.
“We'd have a big enough club, we went down to Junior in the football a few years ago, but it is tough in Meath to get out of that. We got back up this year now and it is great for the boys to go back up senior in hurling too. We have great hurlers in the club so it is great to have both codes winning and going up.”
Garry believes the strides made in the underage ranks by the club in the past decade has helped to raise standards.
“We are strong enough underage,” Garry adds. “This year we just happened to get a great crop of minors from last year. We have seven or eight of them on the team and there is another seven or eight on the second team. It has been a good year for bringing lads through.
“We have a couple more coming through the local primary schools, they have been going okay in the Cumann na mBunscoil. We have a good few young lads coming through.”
Having integrated so many promising teenagers there is a belief that Clann na nGael are moving rapidly in the right direction again.
“We have a very young team, I'm the second oldest lad on the team at the minute,” Garry remarks. “We've seven or eight lads on the 20s and we have five or six lads over 20 on the 26. We have a very young team on the minute.
“We have two that were on the Meath minor team last year. We have a couple of lads who have played junior in the last couple of years. Darragh Griffin was in with the Meath seniors and he might be back in the way he is going at the minute, he is playing very well. We have a couple of lads in with the Meath senior hurlers too.”
Just being involved in these high stakes winter matches has brought joy and excitement to Clann na nGael according to Garry.
“It is a strange one, but we are just embracing it,” Garry says. “You want to get out again and when it gets to game day it is a different experience. There is great excitement around the club, everyone is just buzzing.
“You have people in the county from different clubs that you'd know saying well done. You'd be getting messages from different lads wishing you well in the Leinster. You are coming up against teams from different counties and it is great to see the standard in other counties.
“You'd hear things about teams from other counties and that it will be an easy game and we haven't had an easy game so far which is great. It just shows football is big everywhere and a good standard everywhere.”
Ultimately Croke Park is Clann na nGael’s intended destination. That is where Garry wants this adventure to end.
“You have to be realistic, once you are in a Leinster Final you have to be thinking we have to win two more games to get to Croke Park,” Garry replies with refreshing honesty when GAA headquarters is mentioned.
“It is there and there has only been I'd say three or four of our lads that have played in Croke Park. We'd have one or two with the minors and the hurlers. It is a great chance.
“There isn't too many lads that will get to play in Croke Park. To say you won in Croke Park, that you did it with your club, which is pretty much your family, who you have been playing with all year. To get there would be exceptional and to win it would be unexplainable.”