IF there was anyone left in Killeshin last Friday night, they were few and far between as practically the entire village descended on Parnell Park in Dublin to witness their footballers capture the fourth RTE Celebrity Bainisteoir title in a thrilling win over Galway’s Oughterard.
Under the stewardship of former Republic of Ireland soccer star Tony Cascarino, Killeshin rounded off an unparalleled season of success in the club’s 114 year history with the coveted TV crown. The series, which has steadily grown in popularity since it’s inception in 2008, sees various celebrities take charge of Intermediate club teams from around the country. On their path to this year’s final, Killeshin saw off the challenges of both Ballyporeen of Tipperary and St Patrick’s of Sligo, meaning Cascarino came up against Oughterard coach, former TD Paul Gogarty in Friday night’s decider.
Legendary GAA commentator Micheal O’Muircheartaigh acts as the voice of all of the games on the series, and he was glowing in his praise of both Killeshin’s players and followers in the wake of their success. “They play a beautifully attractive style of football,” claimed the iconic broadcaster, before congratulating the colour and noise created by the huge band of Killeshin supporters that crammed into the main stand of Dublin’s county grounds.
The victorious manager was also quick to point to the warm friendliness of the people of South Laois, and admitted to being sad that the whole experience had come to an end. Having first met his charges last May in preparation for the event, Cascarino said that his “eyes had been well and truly opened” by the spirit that exists in Killeshin.
“I’d forgotten how nice it is to hear people chant your name and cheer you on,” said the former World Cup hero only minutes after being drenched by the mandatory bottle of champagne and carried aloft by his victorious players. Having bagged a decisive penalty in that famous shoot-out victory over Romania at Italia ’90, the big London native would have been well used to pressure, but he relished the whole experience and thanked the people of Killeshin for their help and kindness.
In the wake of Friday’s win, it seemed that the entire village spent the weekend celebrating. Club chairman Mark O’Regan joined the packed crowds in The Glenside pub to watch the final which was aired on Sunday evening. “It was a tough weekend, I can tell you that,” O’Regan claimed, brimming with pride. “We celebrated a fair amount over the last three nights and it’s something that will live long with everyone involved.”