GAA

From Junior glory to a Senior final: Killeshin's whirlwind 11 years

*Our county football final coverage is in association with The Baba's Barbershop

Greg mulhall

Reporter:

Greg mulhall

Email:

greg.mulhall@leinsterexpress.ie

From Junior glory to a Senior final: Killeshin's whirlwind 11 years

*Our county football final coverage is in association with The Baba's Barbershop

 

Another county final is upon us. 

Today the dominant force in Laois football, the three-in-a-row chasing reigning champions Portlaoise, will contest their 13th successive Senior county final.

Of their 12 consecutive finals to date, they have captured 11 Delaney Cups. Last year’s title was their 34th in total. 

Their success is unrivalled and it’s hard to do anything but admire their achievements.

Standing on the polar opposite end of the spectrum is a small south Laois club tucked away near the Carlow border, Killeshin.

In their 98 year history, they have never featured in a Senior county final. This Sunday, they’ll make history by just taking to the field. 

Killeshin will be the 29th different team to contest the SFC final, aiming to be the 11th club to win it the first time of asking. 

Ahead of today's decider, the Leinster Express caught up with Killeshin GAA Chairman, Gavin Deering: 

“I honestly can't even describe the buzz. Sometimes when there’s a bit of a lull in the day I have to pinch myself and realise that we’re actually there. 

“It's just been unbelievable. The school had a jersey day - they were colouring in pictures of the players all week and the players went in to meet everyone. 

“We have a car spray painted. We have a huge, I think it’s 30 metres by 10 metre, flag up on the hills of Killeshin. There’s sheep being spray painted. Newborn babies with their first Killeshin jersey. It’s just absolutely fantastic. It’s bringing out everybody.

The people of Killeshin, from home and abroad, are set to converge on O’Moore Park, Portlaoise for what will be a historic day for the club.

“I know there’s people coming home from Canada, England and all sorts of places. I’ve been getting phone calls all week off people that I haven’t heard from for years. 

“There’s a family called the Burkes that would have played for Killeshin for years. Tony Burke is coming home from England and Mick Burke is coming home from Canada. It’s absolutely brilliant.

“I think on Sunday the whole of Killeshin - those still living there and those that have emigrated - everybody will be in O’Moore Park on Sunday and it’s great to have everybody together.”

The expression ‘what is seldom is wonderful’ springs to mind, but in Killeshin’s case seldom really and truly is a first.

“This final means so much to so many people. The club is 98 years old and never in a Senior county final before. 

“After the replayed semi-final against Ballyfin I saw a lot of people, including myself, grown men and women crying out on the pitch. It’s just makes it all worthwhile. We’ve never had a week like this, and it just makes all the hard work worthwhile.”

While still a relatively young man himself, Deering soldiered in the green and white of Killeshin for years without much in the way of return.

“I suppose when I started out I never really envisaged it (Kileshin making a Senior county final). My generation of footballers I suppose we had very little. I mean If you look at the club’s history in general - we only have 4 Intermediate and 4 Junior ‘A’ titles to our name, so we’re not exactly decorated with trophies. 

“My generation of footballers, we never thought we’d see it. Could I say 20 years ago that I would’ve thought I’d see it? Or even 10 years ago? 11 years ago we won the Junior ‘A’ title in 2008 - could I have said then that we’d be in a Senior final? Truthfully, I don’t think so. 

“The crop of players we have now are just an exceptional bunch. They’re exceptionally talented, but not only that the attitude they have, the want to succeed and they want to get better and better. The kid and even the adults, really look up to this group of players that we have. We’re just extremely proud of them.”

It all changed roughly two decades ago when the Club, and the community involved, realised that youth was the way forward for the future.

“We’re a very proud club and I suppose a lot of fellas have to go back to maybe 20 years ago or more, a group of great people put a juvenile committee and structure together, and put proper coaches in place and we’re really reaping the rewards of that now. It’s finally coming to fruition.

“For kids to grow up and see that they can say ‘right, one day I can be the next Stephen Attride or the next Eoin Lowry. I can play in a senior final for Killeshin.”

GAA has long been at the centre of Irish communities such as Killeshin, and with the simplest and shortest of anecdotes it suddenly becomes relatable to any GAA person across the land:

“One man, his father passed away last year and his own son is 9 years of age, said to me this week: ‘My son is going to get to see Killeshin play in a county final and my father never got to.’

“It kinda puts things in perspective,'' finished Deering.

Throw-in at O’Moore Park is 4pm today and win, lose or draw, it’s set to be a special day for a lot of people.