If you wind back the clock just a little under a year to Saturday March 7 2009, Kiltimagh threw in on their 2009 season down in the junior ranks in the junior league against Balla, it was a long way to fall from being in touching distance of senior football a couple of years earlier. That day, Balla were the challengers and Kiltimagh put them to the sword. Come the end of May and Lacken were first up in section four of the TF Royal Hotel Mayo Junior Championship, a 0-12 to 0-4 win over the Lacken men set in motion the journey that has brought them to where they are now, Croke Park and an All Ireland final date with Castlegregory from Kerry this Sunday which throws in at 2pm.
So it is Mayo v Kerry once again in an All Ireland final, and we all know how these things usually end, with the Kingdom standing tall and holding the silverware. But this Kiltimagh team have shown down through the past year that they are a side who go out and get a job done. They are backboned by the experienced pair of Peter Burke in goal, who will want to get one over the Kerry boys after tasting defeat at their hands twice in All Ireland finals in 1997 and 2004, and the experienced leadership of Tomás Morley in the middle of the park. Kiltimagh have the know-how to go out and bring home the title. Another of the elder statesmen of the squad is Adrian Forkan who came on in the Connacht championship to shoot a vital winning score, and even the last day out in the All Ireland semi-final when Kiltimagh were closing in on glory, he stepped up to land a monster of a point in Pearse Park, Longford.
But it is not all experience that Kiltimagh will be relying on. Ciarán Charlton will be returning to Croke Park for the third time in as many years after being involved in the last two All Ireland minor finals with Mayo. The teenage wing forward was in good form in the semi-final win over Emyvale on free taking duties, and his side will be looking to him again this weekend to step up to the mark. Brian Gallagher alternated the free taking duties with Charlton and landed three frees over the 60 minutes, and a similar return from both men on Sunday will put them in with a good shout of coming home with the cup.
A lot of ball will go through Seán Malee in the marquee centre half forward spot, and with Noel Lydon plugging away at full forward Kiltimagh will have plenty of attacking threat.
The east Mayo men have a solid and dependable look at the back with captain Damien Gallagher and Conor Heneghan key men in the half back line while John Murtagh and Philip Larkin will have to be on their toes in the full back line on the wide open spaces of Croke Park on Sunday.
As for their opponents, Castlegregory came through the tough Kerry championship to challenge the Munster title where they defeated the Limerick champions by a huge score of 1-20 to 0-4, to set up their All Ireland semi-final date with Longwood from Meath. A match they won with ease with full forward Alan Lynch putting in a man of the match display scoring 1-2, other players who really stepped up in the semi-final were Gavin O’Connor, Sean Maloney, Michael O’Shea, and Alan Fitzgerald. Come Sunday Kiltimagh will be stepping out to face a challenge they could have hardly imagined they would be facing this time last year, and they have nothing to fear in facing it.