Having the 'Life of Reilly'

GAA: All Ireland JFC Club Final

The pride of the parish: John Reilly was the man who masterminded Kilmeena's All Ireland Final win. Photo: Sportsfile

The pride of the parish: John Reilly was the man who masterminded Kilmeena's All Ireland Final win. Photo: Sportsfile

The celebrations are in full swing behind the yellow doors of the dressing room underneath the Cusack Stand in Croke Park. A few minutes earlier, the newly crowned All Ireland Junior Champions breezed up the stairs from the tunnel and broke into song in the dressing room as they tried to take in what they had achieved.

Not long after, their manager, John Reilly, emerged from the dressing room, the song and cheer getting louder as the doors opened - the volume turning down again as the doors shut closed. Reilly had just masterminded the greatest day in his club's history and while he would have more than likely preferred to remain back inside with his comrades, he was ready to talk through what had just happened in the hour and half previously on the field.

"Lads I’m in shock, I’ll tell yah. There was a lot of emotion there at the end for me, but yah, we are ecstatic, it is an amazing achievement there.

"I felt we had to win the game twice, I knew they were a serious outfit and we did our homework on them. You can see it was a tight game, and some of the skill-set out there from both teams was amazing; you could see the cough-ups from the two teams, there was a lot of turnover ball and tackling from both, they had their work done too and there is a sense of relief with it as well."

Having to win the game twice came about after their opponents managed to send the game into extra time, thanks to a last-gasp goal after Kilmeena coughed up the ball trying to work it out of their defence; as for what he said in the few minutes between the end of normal time and extra time starting - it was all very simple, he explained.

"Look, we just had to start again, it is what you have to do, if something like that happens you can’t dwell on it, as a manager I can look at some of the mess-ups, but for the players, I just said, ‘look lads we’re gone into it again, they got a lifeline, it is up to us to finish the job now and basically it was start again - and that is what we did.

“I think the bodies were sore, calfs were getting tight and hamstrings on both sides, you could see men going down - I know this is junior championship, but this is high-level football out there and again skin of the teeth stuff and we got over the line."

As for what this means to himself, his team and the community at large, it means everything, Reilly said. "It’s massive, the whole parish is out there, I don’t think there is anyone left, my mother-in-law is at home minding the farm for me, just in case anyone comes into it and she’ll keep everyone away.

"Everyone came up, people from Sligo, Donegal, Dublin and everywhere and a plethora of people came over from England for the game. It is huge, how often are you going to be in Croke Park? We started out there in some of the pitches in Mayo in the depths of bad weather and we had to tough it out - and then you come to Croke Park and it is a dream come true for every player out there and for me as a manager."


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