Some of the great modern GAA breakthroughs
Words by Shane Stapleton
Simonstown won their first Meath senior county title in 2016 in what was Seamus Kenny’s 19th season in the team. The Navan outfit aren’t the only team to break their duck in recent times, with Carbery Rangers doing likewise in Cork this year.
Below is a selection of sides who have made history in this millennium.
2002 —Ballymahon1-11 Clonguish 0-12
Ballymahonis the second-biggest town in Longford but they won their first and only county title in 2002. Frankie Dolan, of Roscommon fame, was drafted in on a transfer after falling out with native club St Brigid’s. It helped smooth the change over that his uncle Dessie was manager of the Longford side. Paul Barden’s Clonguish were on the wrong side in the final and the crucial goal came from county teammate Trevor Smullen five minutes after the interval. Dolan ended up being the difference, nailing 1-8 from play, before moving back to Brigid’s in 2004.
2007 —Ballyboden St Enda’s 2-13 St Vincent’s 1-5
The omens weren’t great for Ballyboden, facing into a sixth final without yet tasting success. Even more so when three of their players — Martin O'Sullivan, James Doody and James Duffy — were involved in a car crash in Templeogue on the way to the match. It was a bad enough collision that both cars were written off. With O’Sullivan and Doody down to start, manager Liam Hogan had a decision to make and he accepted his players’ insistence that they were good to go; how right they were. Conal Keaney and Enda Kinsella found the net as Boden eventually ran away with this one, and indeed the county title for five years unbroken.
2008 — De LaSalle0-11 Abbeyside 0-9
It seems amazing now to think that De LaSalle only won a first county in 2008. John Mullane, one of the county’s finest ever players, scored a couple of points in atrocious conditions on a wretched day in Fraher Field. Three years earlier, DLS had lost to Ballygunner by a point but they started like a house on fire against Abbeyside— going 0-7 to 0-0 ahead during the first half. The deficit was brought back to two but De LaSalleheld on before winning a maiden Munster crown.
2010 —Ballintubber0-8 Castlebar Mitchels 0-5
Jason Gibbons, Alan Dillon and Cillian O’Connor ran the show as Ballintubber ended their long wait. James Horan had just been installed as new Mayo boss and these three stars would be important players for him with the green over red. In the county final of 2010, they were very much the underdog but Dillon pulled the strings, helping then county minor captain O’Connor on his way to three points.
2011 —Glenswilly 1-8 St Michael’s 0-9
In what was just their second ever final Glenswilly found glory in front of 6,500 supporters at Ballybofey. Michael Murphy was the star, kicking 1-7 of 1-8 against Christy Toye’s Michael’s. Murphy’s goal early in the second half was a thing of beauty, fielding a high ball before smashing it in on the turn.
2012 — St Thomas’ 3-11 Loughrea 2-11
The club had been in and out of the senior ranks in Galway for a number of years but they finally made the big-time when they won their first county senior title in 2012. It was a crazy season though, because they lost the first-round game to Gort and ended up playing a knock-out game for relegation against Liam Mellows. From seven points down at half-time, they came back to win and got into a group stage that gave them a route back to the final. There they met Loughreain what will always be remembered as the Johnny Maher final where Thomas’ won by 3-11 to 2-11. They went on to win the All-Ireland club SHC by beating Offaly's Kilcormac-Killougheyon St Patrick's Day 2013, with six Burke brothers in the team (Éanna, David and Cathal, Darragh, Kenneth and Seán).