St Paul’s Oughterard in hot pursuit of All-Ireland title
By Damian Lawlor
In an ideal 2019 for Kevin Walsh, the Galway football manager would proudly lead his side to an All-Ireland title in September.
But there’s Allianz League action to be finalised before another championship season begins and the chase starts all over again.
And in the interim Walsh may yet get to see his son, Cathal, reach the Holy Grail before him.
Cathal plays at midfield in the St Paul’s Oughterard side that has reached the Masita GAA Dr Eamon O’Sullivan Cup final and he is busy chasing his own history.
His school – and that of his dad some years back - has a great tradition of Gaelic Football, but respective teams have never managed to land an All-Ireland football crown despite being a conveyor belt in producing some of the county’s finest football talents over the years.
Past-pupils include the current Galway manager and other senior All-Ireland medal winners like Gary and Richie Fahy, Mathew Clancy and Padraic Boyce. But now they have reached the Masita GAA All-Ireland Post Primary ‘C’ football final and are only one game away from the Promised Land. They are so close and yet know the final stretch of road to the pot of gold could prove the toughest to navigate.
“We have been on the road for an All-Ireland twice before, but we were beaten in B and C finals in 2007 and 2009. In 1988 we won a Connacht title but there was no All-Ireland series back then,” explains team coach and Moycullen footballer Diarmuid Lee.
“We have eight games played between League and Championship and after losing out in the semi-final of the League we seem to have a bit of momentum back with us again now.
“Last year we lost the Connacht final to Colaiste Ciaran, Athlone and we have a good bunch of lads who were adamant that they would make up for that loss this year.
“We have a good mix on the squad this season – maybe 50-50 between fifth and sixth years with a handful of TY students there as well.
“But in the last few years we have contributed around 15 or so players to Galway development squads and that’s a nice link for us to have.
“Football is huge in the school and in the area and we are hoping it will be third time lucky for us when we play the final at the end of the month.”
The Galway side face Patrician Academy Mallow on March 30 and Lee says that the weight of past final failures is no burden to his team.
“The school is yet to win that All-Ireland,” he accepts, “but these lads are great. They don’t care what sport they are at because they just want to play.
“A lot of them won a basketball All Ireland title last year (the 2019 under 19 B final against St. Vincent’s Castleknock) and more are playing rugby too.
They love sport and don’t care what it is ahead of them.”
Their Cork opponents will be tough to negotiate and boast exciting talents like Barry O’Shea, Eanna O’Hanlon, Kieran Twomey 0-4 and Conor Corbett.
But St Paul’s have learned from a hectic schedule this season and know their own strengths.
“Look, the lads have an opportunity now,” their coach says.
“We would be hopeful. Things are going well in Galway football right now. There has been an upturn in the fortunes of the senior football team and Kevin is doing a great job there. The schools are going well and so too are the development squads working well.
“You need a good academy coming through and we are hoping to help out in that regard. But that’s the bigger picture looking down the road. We have lots to keep us occupied for the time being,” he concluded.