It is the stuff of childhood dreams, a small rural parish getting ready to descend on the great cathedral of sport in the nation. When Kiltane run out on to the field on Jones Road on Sunday, there will not be many left back home to keep check on the house, and those who are left behind will have their ears glued to the radio, using their mind to picture the proceedings going on in Croke Park.
Martin Barrett is the man who has guided them from the heartbreak of relegation to within 60 minutes of bringing home All Ireland glory. “It’s great, it’s brilliant for everyone involved, for the people, the past stalwarts in the club, it’s brilliant. We certainly did not think we’d be in this position. We had one focus and that was to get back senior. But if you win an intermediate championship in Mayo it opens doors into Connacht, and you get out of Connacht and it opens a chance of getting through that door and getting through to an All Ireland.”
Barrett has no fears that he will not be able to get his players in the right frame of mind for Sunday. “They are level headed already so that isn’t going to be a problem a regards focus, that’s an other thing we have worked on all year. It’s another thing we have tried to keep sight on with the goals we’ve set down for every game, we’ve goals in place. And we keep talking and drilling home to them to stay focused, to stay disciplined, and just maintain the work rate that we expect of them throughout the 60 minutes, it won’t be a problem. They’ll be nervous, I’ll be nervous myself. It’s a huge occasion.”
Going for gold and goals
Mikey Sweeney has been Kiltane’s sharpshooter all through the various stages of the competition. The fact he was held scoreless in the semi-final win over Clyda Rovers was one of the big surprises. He looks back to the day they were relegated from senior football as the birth of this current adventure, which has one more stop left. “That day in Knockmore we were all downhearted, but some of us were thinking it might be the best thing that ever happened and I think it was because it kind of brought everyone back together to get Kiltane back up. Because we were always on the periphery of relegation play-offs and scraping through the senior championship, but this year we have really seen what you can do if you put a bit of work in, and I think it’s shown by getting to the All Ireland, it really has worked out in favour of us.”
The other main man in the Kiltane attack has been Tommy ‘Goals’ Conroy who has lit up Croke Park on a few occasions in the past 12 months as part of the All Ireland winning Mayo minor team. It has been a year he will not forget soon. “If someone told me last year I’d win an All Ireland minor title and have a chance to win an intermediate one, I’d have been laughing at them. As soon as I won that minor, I was back in with these lads and training, hard, I was confident that we’d get back up senior, once we got that we were taking each game as it came. When the final whistle blew the last day, then it was all about looking forward, about getting back up to Croke Park and making the parish proud.”
Enjoying the occasion
Stephen Sweeney has been one of the lynchpins at the back for Kiltane this season and he is really looking forward to the event. “It’s a massive occasion, we want to get to Croke Park and we’ll have a look around and savour the atmosphere and take in the moment, because you can’t let something like that pass by you without seeing that and having the real feeling of it all. But we’ll soon get down to brass tax and get ready to play football, we’ll do everything we can to bring that title home.”
The man making the calls on the sideline knows, it is not going to be an easy task for his side against the Monaghan champions Truagh, and he has homework done. “I’ve already seen them on DVD, the style of football they play is typical Tyrone, even though they are from Monaghan, they are right on the border with Tyrone, their manager is a Tyrone man and they play a style of football Tyrone have played in the past. They are physical, but not in a dirty sense, in the tackle and the one thing that is pleasing from our aspect is they play football.”
The blue and gold army from north Mayo are on the march and it is next stop Croke Park on Sunday where the game will throw in at 4pm.