From Melbourne to Croke Park: Laois Footballer Marty Scully’s whirlwind 12 months

Ballyroan Abbey’s Marty Scully has enjoyed a breakthrough year with the Laois Senior Footballers

Greg Mulhall


Greg Mulhall


Laois Football Ballyroan Melbourne GAA

Marty Scully in action against Offaly in the League. PHOTO: Denis Byrne

Rewind two weeks.

The Laois Senior footballers have just tamed the ‘Carlow Rising’ in the final round of the League in O’Moore Park, news hasn’t long broke that results have fallen in Laois’ favour and John Sugrue’s men have sealed back-to-back promotions and their place in the Division 3 Final.

My club-mate and neighbour, Marty Scully, lined out at wing-forward. I pick up my phone and send him a congratulatory text.

“Well done today, flying it, fair play!”

He replies:

“Mad to think this time last year I was in Melbourne, now it’s on to Croker.”

Now, at the time of the text it was completely up in the air whether the game would be played in Croke Park or not due to Louth and Westmeath’s postponed round six clash. Laois’ promotion and place in the final were assured, but they would have to await the winner of the rescheduled game to know their opposition.

Louth and Westmeath was re-fixed for last Saturday in the Gaelic Grounds in Drogheda, while the other League finals would be played out in Croke Park that same weekend. 

Last week, O’Connor Park in Tullamore and Pairc Tailteann in Navan were touted amongst the possible venues, but ultimately Laois - and Marty Scully - would get their day out in Croke Park as part of a triple header with the Colleges ‘A’ and ‘B’ Football finals.

Scully’s journey to Croke Park is quite a fascinating one.

This time last year, John Sugrue, successfully guided his Laois team from the trenches of Division 4 straight back to Division 3 in his first year in charge with a four-point win over Carlow in the decider in Croke Park. Scully on the other hand, along with a gang of other Laois supporters, followed the game via online radio from a pub in Melbourne.

The Ballyroan Abbey man represented Laois from U-14 through to U-21, and made his Senior debut in the O’Byrne Cup in 2014 off the back of a stand-out campaign with his club as they claimed the Intermediate title to regain their Senior status, and Scully also collected the individual award of Laois Intermediate Footballer of the Year 2013.

Tomas O Flatharta was the Laois manager at the time and in his first year with the squad, and aside from a few starts in the O’Byrne Cup, Scully found match-minutes hard to come by and he never played a competitive minute across League and Championship that year. At the end of the season he opted to step away from the panel,.

An electrician by trade, Scully was undergoing his apprenticeship at that stage and upon completion in 2017 - he made the all too familiar choice of heading to Australia.

He settled in Melbourne working away as an electrician with a man from Wexford. The money, weather and lifestyle confirmed his decision to move across the world, and he still got to kick football with Padraig Pearses GAC.

He returned home in June of last year for what was intended to be a few weeks, just in time to make the trip to Croke Park as Sugrue’s men were defeated in the Leinster final against the Dubs, but Scully would never make his return-flight to Melbourne.

Lads in the club coerced him into coming to training one evening and he ended up staying on and having a great campaign with Ballyroan Abbey until they bowed out at the quarter-final stage of the Championship at the hands of Portlaoise, while the club he left behind in Melbourne went on to win their own Championship.

He was called along for John Sugrue’s divisional competition, which were essentially trials, back in October of last year and he’s since gone from strength to strength.

He missed Laois’ opening League win over Down in Newry due to injury, but was handed a subs jersey for the Round 2 clash with Louth - which of course was the home-fixture that Laois were forced to play in Croke Park as punishment for falling foul of the GAA’s training camp ban.

A mere two-minutes into the game Sean Byrne departed the field through injury, and in his place emerged Scully - five years on from his fruitless year under O Flatharta - from the bench for his first competitive taste of Senior inter-county football, and in Croke Park of all places.

Any notion of a fairytale start to inter-county life was quickly put to bed as things turned sour for Laois, shipping three goals and losing Kieran Lillis to a straight red card, forcing Sugrue to shuffle his deck and call aboard Scully after just a twenty-one minute cameo.

He went on to play a pivotal role in Laois’ remaining League fixtures and was consistently sounded-out by supporters as one of the side’s key-performers with his work-rate and physicality highlighted amongst his attributes. 

Last night, Thursday, Sugrue named his starting fifteen to take on Westmeath in the Division 3 final in Croke Park and Scully looks set to complete a whirlwind twelve months by retaining his place on the half-forward line as Laois go in search of silverware.

Regardless of the result on Saturday, Marty is a long way from Melbourne.