When Kiltane were relegated from the senior championship at the tail end of last year by Ballina Stephenites, the Bangor club’s proud record of retaining their senior status against the odds lay in tatters. But the proud men of Erris were not going to take the disappointment lying down and they set about ensuring that they were back with the big guns of club football in Mayo as soon as possible, and they achieved that a couple of weeks ago, by claiming the Sweeney Cup in some style.
This weekend they are back in championship action and are looking to get a crack at adding provincial honours to round out a great season for the club. It has been a long process to get to this stage as manager Martin Barrett told the Mayo Advertiser this week. “It was 10 months last Saturday when we had a league game on from when we first stood on a training pitch looking forward to this season. It’s been a long road with a lot of commitment from everyone involved.”
All that was in their minds 10 months ago was winning Mayo and getting back to the senior ranks, and this is bonus territory for his side he said. “We never looked past Mayo until we won the county final, but the lads know what’s there to be won and we’re looking forward to it. We brought in a number of young lads into the panel this year and we’ve seen them grow and grow over the year and they along with the older lads have come on a lot.”
Going into Sunday’s game, Barrett’s charges have a few knocks and bumps but nothing too serious he reckons. “You get knocks and bumps, they are nothing early on, but they can take longer to recover from this time of year. John Reilly is a doubt, but I’m not that worried that he won’t be able to make it, it’s a small knock. While Stephen Gallagher picked up a nasty gash to the head last week following a collision with one of our own lads. He got five stitches and we’ve to wait to see how he heals.”
As for their opponents on Sunday, Barrett knows it is going to be a tough task. “Menlough look to be a very good team from the research we’ve done on them, they are a big physically imposing team and will be another challenge for us to take on.” But Kiltane have not been resting on their laurels since the county final victory and drinking in the success. “We’d a good night the Sunday night and the Monday and then hit the training ground hard again on the Wednesday night, and had two games in one weekend after against Ballyhaunis under lights on a Friday night and then Moy Davitts on the Sunday. They got us back in the swing pretty early on after it.”
The commitment given by all involved in the Kiltane panel has been one of the key ingredients in their success this year, with Barrett able to name a squad of 43 for the county final, getting everyone to buy into the idea this year was not hard he said. “We sat down last December with everyone and everyone committed to giving a serious commitment this year. Everyone has stood up to that, we’d looked at the history of sides that had come down and saw that you really had to try and get back up to senior in the first or second year or it becomes very, very, hard. That was the goal and we’ve done it thanks to everyone’s commitment. It wasn’t easy at the start of the year, but once the lads came back from college and we got the big numbers out training all the time we really took off. We struggled through the group stages a bit and were lucky to come away from Ballyhaunis with the win, but we did and the lads pushed on from there. It was a new experience for a lot of them to be going for a title, rather than trying to avoid relegation as it was in times before and they all embraced it and went for it with both arms.” The next chapter of the Kiltane adventure throws-in at 2pm on Sunday in MacHale Park.