Finnerty hails his honest players

Underdogs all the way, Oughterard defied the odds to become only the second club to win the All Ireland intermediate football trophy since neighbours Moycullen 12 years ago.

Overcoming Monaghan's Magheracloone to deliver an All Ireland was a rare and special achievement for the team, the club, and the town of some 1,500 people - most of whom were in Croke Park on Saturday.

Understandably, the celebrations continued throughout the night and this week as the trophy and the players visit schools, clubs, and nursing homes.

It is the village, says team manager Tommy Finnerty, that helped his team over the line last weekend.

"The huge addition in the last few months was the parish of Oughterard. How the parish of Oughterard got behind behind this team, it really drove us on."

And, that, he says, included something as simple as a cake sale.

"Last week when we up to Croke Park to do a recce because only two or three of the 38 guys had played in Croke Park, and on the way to Dublin, word came through the phone about how successful the cake sale was.

"It might seem something very, very small, but to me it sent a strong message. It gave the mesage loud and clear that Oughterard had put their faith in these 38 guys, and I am so proud.

"Oughterard really came out in force. I am so proud of the parish, we have the cup, but the parish is the real winner today."

Finnerty, who owns Finnerty Butchers, which was established by his father Roger and has been a long time sponsor of Oughterard GAA, says the team;s "honesty" was the key.

"They are so honest, and when you are battling, and the games are really tough, that is when these lads really shone.

"I don't know how many times we dug it out against Breathnachs, and against Templenoe. In the final the start was shaky, but they are a special, special team.

"It didn't happen overnight. It was a matter of a change of culture, a few tweaks that had to be dome, and I am so lucky to have a brilliant management team - so many lads put their shoulders to the wheel."

Captain Eddie O'Sullivan, whose father Kieran is an All-Ireland medal winner from 1976, describes the victory as a "dream come true".

"Never in my wildest dreams I thought I would be celebrating an All Ireland victory," he says.

However, he believes Oughterard were better prepared for the final after their dogged win over Templenoe.

"That was such a battle against Templenoe, but we did perform in the final and played to the best of our ability. Magheracloone got back into it after half-time and they closed the gap to three, but we pulled away in the end, thanks to a couple of cards and a lucky goal.

"Our initial goal was to win the Connacht title, but our ambitions certainly rose after that."

Heading back into senior football, O'Sullivan says the victory has given the younger players great confidence, while demonstrating to them the rewards for working hard.

"It's not too far away now, and there will be no issue going back to training. When you've been training for the last 13 months, you don't know what to do without it.

"Management has impressed on us there are more skills than just talent needed to win. There is a great caring environment in our squad which has been cultivated by Tommy, so everyone looks out for each other."

But the experience of playing in Croke Park will never be forgotten. Playing under lights added to the magic, and "seeing everyone from Oughterard there - it was that emotional".

Skipping Christmas was worth it, too, he says, but this week, he is "making it up for it."

Well played, well supported, well deserved Oughterard.


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