The Ultimate Underdog

The new rules on Gaelic Football came into effect for the first time at the weekend but it was that oldest of sporting traditions, the big upset, that had the talk buzzing around the sport.

Mullinalaghta is a parish on the Longford / Cavan border the population of which is a tenth the size of Kilmacud Crokes membership.

Crokes are football royalty, previous winners of the AIB All Ireland Club Championship and perennial contenders in Dublin.

In Paul Mannion and Cian O’Sullivan at either end of the pitch they can call on multiple winning All Stars but all that was worth a hill of beans on Sunday as the underdogs, who trailed from the second to the the 58th minute seized their day.

Dublin Clubs have won eight of the last twelve Leinster GAA Football Titles. It is the first time in seven years that a Dublin side has not emerged from Leinster GAA as Champion of either the Football or the Hurling Championship.

With all due respect to the big clubs of Dublin that has to be a good thing for the sport, the organisers and AIB as sponsors.

The sponsorship dates back over almost three decades and has always herded the small club, the community, the grassroots heartbeat of the GAA.

That is the essence of Mullinalaghta St Columba’s whose players travel back from across Ireland and Britain to train and play.

They have no choice with such a small playing population and a pipeline of young lad’s coming through that is never any more than a trickle.

Over half of the panel is drawn from six families with each having two brothers in yesterday’s starting line up.

If the competition for your place is the driving factor on sports teams, then here is the exception that proves the rule. 155 members of the club in total and a maximum of 25 at training on any given night.

There will be a little bit of work to do for the AIB Social media team to upskill the club in terms of the mechanics of telling their story.

Their most recent tweet was nearly three years ago and as for Instagram…

It is the classic breath of fresh air though and only the hardest of heart outside of Kilmacud and Stillorgan, could begrudge the tiny village its place on the national map.

They can now enjoy the glow of the Leinster triumph with their All Ireland Semi Final scheduled for February. They are sure to make the most of it.


Image Credit: Oisin Kenniry,

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