Tomorrow evening in Croke Park, if all things go to plan, Darren Coen will be standing half-way up the Hogan Stand looking out on the field of the greatest victory of his club's history. Does he have a speech written ready for that moment? No, Coen will be shooting from the hip like he has on the field this season and in his speeches after wins in Mayo and Connacht. "No I won't think about that, I got a bit of slagging about my speeches already this year, they might have been a bit off the cuff, but look I won't change the routine, whatever comes out will come out, and hopefully I'll get the chance to go up the steps and relish it, and it'll be a dream come true, but it's all about winning at the end of the day as a team," he told the Mayo Advertiser last week.
It is five years since the clubs in Hollymount and Carramore joined together at adult level after many years of doing so at underage grades. It was not something that everyone in both clubs agreed with at the time, but just half a decade later the newly formed Hollymount-Carramore are heading to Croke Park and are on the brink of All Ireland glory. Their leader on the field is Darren Coen and he cannot wait for tomorrow to come. "It feels good, it hasn't really sunk in yet that we are going to an All Ireland final, but look, reality will set in soon enough," he said. His side's magnificent performance in the All Ireland semi-final caught plenty of headlines, but that is over and it is all about the next 60 minutes, according to their captain. "A semi-final is a semi-final at the end of the day, we're looking to get an All Ireland under our belt now, a semi-final will bring you so far, but what every team wants is to win the All Ireland.
This time last year Hollymount-Carramore were just coming out of their winter slumber and getting over the heartbreak of losing the previous year's county final to Ballyhaunis, but they came back stronger than before and have made it all the way to Jones Road. "It was a tough one to take at the end of last year losing to Ballyhaunis in the county final, we took our time off, but once a few months passed by we were itching to get back on the field and were ready to go come January last year as it is now. We worked hard, put our heads down and thankfully it paid off in the end. It's been a long season, but you don't complain, the winning has made it feel a bit shorter too, when you're winning you want to play the next game and the next game again."
The weeks after that championship final defeat to Ballyhaunis saw the foundations laid to making sure they were ultra competitive at the intermediate grade last season, and that was a massive reason in their getting over the hump this year when they earned promotion to the top division of league football. "A big difference between this season and the one before was that we were playing division one football. Looking back on it now, we took it for granted when we got promoted last year, we lost the county final a few weeks before that. We could have taken the foot off the pedal after that, but we'd three league games remaining and we pushed on and won those and got ourselves promoted, and it could have been the stepping stone that we needed to win the county title this year, they are three games we can look back on from then and see they pushed us forward," says Coen.
Something special inside this group
Having won the county championship it would have been easy for the Hollymount-Carramore lads to sit back and say job done, but they had loftier ambitions once they celebrated that victory initially. "Once you win the county title it always feels a bit it's like job done, but we always felt that we had a bit more and could do a bit more. We were delighted to win it, but we knew there was a bit more in the tank and said we'd push on and go for a Connacht title, and then who knows and thankfully we're pushing on for an All Ireland title. The Melvin Gaels game, we knew was going to be a huge battle, we'd our homework done on them and knew it was going to be tough and physical. They pushed us to the pin of our collar and in fairness to them they had chances to win the game too, but thankfully we got out on the right side of it and it stood to us in the Connacht final against Moycullen and we saw that one through too."
It is the thing of dreams to win an All Ireland title, but doing so with the people you have grown up with all your life, friends and family members, it will be a really special achievement Coen says. "These are the things you can only dream of, when you're training and playing as an under age team down in the field here. It makes it all that more special these are the guys that you've played with since you've grown up, and they are your friends and some are even family members, it's just a very special moment. There's a bit of a family connection between a lot of us, it's a special, special, time and we're just looking forward to getting out on the field and doing our stuff."
It is a long haul from Hollymount and Carramore to Croke Park, but these south Mayo men had plenty of time to kill on their way to Cavan for their All Ireland semi-final win, and there are plenty of jokers to keep the mood light on the trip to GAA headquarters, according to their captain. "For a club team you wouldn't be used to travelling anything like that, we'd two and half hours on a bus just thinking alone with your thoughts, unless you're down the back of the bus and the likes of the Padraig Ferricks and Kevin Costellos will have you well entertained if you need it, but I'd be one of the guys who prefers to relax before the game, while some of the boys might be a bit more uptight, but I'd be down the back for a bit of a chat, everyone has their own routine and whatever works for yourself at the end of the day!"
And the final word in our conversation was about that point kicked from a sideline ball in the semi-final that was at such a tight angle the cameraman could not get him into frame as he shaped to shoot, and got thousands of views in the days after the game on social media. It was nothing special according to Coen. "It was one of those things, once it went over the sideline I knew I was going to shoot, there was never a question of anything else. A few boys were looking for it short, but because of the wind blowing straight into the goal, if I put it out there and gave it a few yards to work itself in and thankfully it went over, maybe if it didn't go over a few boys would have been looking at me wondering what I was doing. There's always a few boys slagging me coming off the pitch after training, because I always like to try a few sidelines and see how I get on. It's one of those things that either comes off or not."