‘The underdog always has a chance’ – Mullinalaghta ready for seismic Kilmacud challenge

FOR MANY CLUBS, it can take a campaign or two before they crack the code and get a run in the province. 

On Sunday, Kevin Cassidy recalled how Gweedore ‘drank ourselves silly’ in 2006 and applied those lessons after their county title victory in Donegal this year.

The Gaeltacht club upset the odds by lifting the Ulster title, but a Mullinalaghta victory over Kilmacud Crokes this weekend would send even bigger shockwaves around the country. 

“We could plant the football and retire!” laughs Mullinalaghta centre-back Shane Mulligan.

“I know there’s a Leinster title at stake, but it still only is 60 minutes of football. Anything can happen on the day. It is sport and you see it in every sport.

“Be it rugby, boxing or whatever, the underdog always has a chance and that’s the way we’ll be approaching it on Sunday.” 

Shane Mulligan of Mullinalaghta and Ross McGowan of Kilmacud Crokes.

Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

When Mulligan is asked what has clicked with the team this year, he’s quick to point out they’ve been progressing steadily over the last three seasons.

“It hasn’t just been this season. It’s probably been a collective thing. It’s three years on the bounce now in the Longford senior championship. We’d have been relatively competitive in the last two years in Leinster.

St Loman’s beat us, and St Vincent’s the year previous to that. It’s just been a learning curve. It’s not just been this year that it’s turned on its head and we’ve found ourselves here.

“We’ve been working really hard over the last three years and I guess we’ve been on the road, be it in the Longford championship or the Leinster championship, we’ve been picking up pointers and we’ve been learning as we’ve been going along.

We’ve been developing individually as players and collectively as a panel. Just this year we’ve managed to get the results when we needed them and now find ourselves in a Leinster final.”

Recently appointed Cavan manager Mickey Graham is double-jobbing at the moment as he prepares for what could well be his final game in charge of the half-parish club.

Before he took over it had been 66 years since Mullinalaghta lifted the county title. He leaves them as the dominant force in Longford football.

“Mickey is a good man,” continues Mulligan. “We’ve never been as successful until Mickey came around. It’s been a great three years with him. Obviously he’s tied in with Cavan next year.

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Cavan and Mullinalaghta boss Mickey Graham.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“It’s just the fact that he spent so many years, he managed Newtownforbes before us. So he’s five or six years in Longford. I just understand his football knowledge and what he knows about Longford football and things like that.

“It’s a pity that we’re going to lose that across the border back to Cavan. But he’s a great manager and even people outside of football, the people of the parish have great time for him. He’s been welcomed with open arms.

He’s given as much to the community, we’ll forever thank him for all he’s done, the time he’s invested and the manner in which he’s done it, and the way he’s involved himself in the community even outside of football.”

They are the first Longford club to reach the provincial decider and Mulligan is full of belief his team are capable of achieving something special.

“It’s very important. It’s been well documented that we are a small rural community and things like that. There’s things like that keeps the parish together. It’s a great occasion for us to get out and meet each other. That’s a big part of the football. Outside of football, that panel of players just love spending time together.

Gary Rogers and Shane Mulligan celebrate their semi-final win.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“The social aspect and everything like that. So it’s huge that we’re there. It’s a huge occasion and there’s a great buzz and excitement around things like that. Everyone is just delighted to be involved in a Leinster final in the middle of December. It’s something you’d never dream of and everyone is just soaking up the atmosphere and the occasion.

I think we’ll be very, very close. I think if we can get up to our performance (level), I still have a lot of belief in that panel of players. As I’ve said, they’ve been very, very competitive.

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“Although they’re young, right from underage with schools and county, they’ve been very successful, we’re just trying to get that next Sunday. We can’t get hung up on other teams.

“We’ve never played Kilmacud so I can’t say, this is how it’s been before, this is how close we got and this is how it’s panned out. We’ll just be looking to try and get out game plan, and if it’s good enough on Sunday, then I think we can get across the line.”

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