The 2009 football year was a fantastic one for Naomh Anna Leitir Mór. They regained senior status in Galway and collected the county and provincial titles at intermediate level. They ticked all their boxes and their objectives were met with style and gusto.
However the higher your kite flies, the more ambitious you become, and Ciaran Ó Fatharta and his management team will have their hardy panel looking for one more massive 60 minutes of tigerish play to bring the team and parish up to Croke Park for an All-Ireland final in a few weeks’ time.
All that stands in their way are 15 footballers from Cookstown in County Tyrone. However Fr Rocks have been relentless in their quest for success this year and they will present by far the sternest test the Connemara team has faced in the past year.
In their ranks are Tyrone stars Owen Mulligan and Raymond Mulgrew. Ominously for Leitir Mór those two players have not been their main men up front this season, having been upstaged by Barry Hughes and Mulligan’s cousin Barry.
Barry Mulligan was a real star at underage level with the Tyrone county minors and vocational schools, and he is now delivering the goods at adult level.
Just two years ago Cookstown played in a Tyrone senior championship semi-final against Dromore. In that last four encounter they were defeated 1-12 to 1-4 as Ryan McMenamin and company headed to their maiden Tyrone senior title.
A plus for Leitir Mór is that the Tyrone champions will be without the services of corner-back Ryan Pickering. The All-Ireland winning Tyrone minor captain of 2008 misses the game with a medial knee ligament injury, sustained in a freak accident just before Christmas. His absence is a big loss for the Cookstown rearguard.
Cookstown are managed by former Tyrone All-Ireland winner Chris Lawn and are hell bent to bring more All-Ireland glory back to their county.
It will be up to the likes of Fiachra and Ferdia Breathnach, Ciarán Bairéad, Toto O’Griofa, Eoghan Ó Conghaile, Patsy Seoighe and Daithí Mac Donnchadha to try to stop them in their tracks.
Team captain and Galway senior player Fiachra Breathnach acknowledges his team faces a tough assignment on Sunday, but he is far from pessimistic;
“We have great belief in our panel and we have been underdogs in most of our big games in this campaign. So next Sunday is no different. We always give it everything we have and there is great competition in the panel for places which is fantastic.
“Patrick Mark Ó Fatharta came in and did a super job in the Connacht final, so our management team has real options up front and every player knows he has to do his job or a guy on the bench will come on and do it for him.
“Cookstown have a lot of big name players, but we have to focus on our own job and not worry about who they have or don’t have. We believe in ourselves and we are going up to Longford to try to reach an All-Ireland final. All we are focused on is trying to get the right result.”
Breathnach speaks highly of the entire management team and the professional way that everything has been done this season.
“Ciaran (Ó Fatharta ) has left no stone unturned in getting us back as a serious outfit and Pat (Comer ) has been a huge addition since he came on board too, so it is really up to us, the players, to deliver on the field of play.”
The last few months has been a time of tragic loss of life in the Leitir Mór area and Breathnach is hopeful that the trip to Longford on Sunday will lift the spirits of the community in a small way.
“A lot of people in the community are looking forward to the game and the trip to Longford. Hopefully the team can repay the massive support we have had all year with a big performance and help to provide a small boost to the families who have lost loved ones. Sunday will be a big test, but we intend giving it our absolute best shot and with a bit of luck we can sneak another narrow win.”