All-Ireland Club Intermediate Football Championship final
Magheracloone (Monaghan) v Oughterard
Saturday, Croke Park, 5.15pm
MAGHERACLOONE Mitchell’s – in the news cycle at the start of the club season and still in it as it draws to a close. What a journey it has been.
The Monaghan club travel to Croke Park on Saturday to face Galway outfit Oughterard in the All-Ireland Intermediate final.
If they win they will join fellow Oriel clubs Inniskeen (2006) and Truagh Gaels (2014) on that particular roll of honour, and how that would be a fitting finale to the most ridiculous of campaigns.
The club went from the sports section to the news just over a year ago as giant sinkholes appeared at their club grounds, decimating their playing field.
It forced the side to become the nomads of Ulster for the early part of the season, playing and training in different clubs and counties, but they absorbed the blows and kept punching back.
A Monaghan Intermediate title was followed by an Ulster one, and two weeks ago they hit an incredible 15 points without reply to ease past Mattock Rangers to set up a Croke Park date. From no pitch at all to the most famous on Irish soil.
“It’s just outstanding really, the journey we have been on,” said Magheracloone half back Killian Rudden.
“Coming from the depths of that to where we are now, it’s phenomenal.
“Although what happened was so tragic and such a disaster, I think as a club and a community it gelled us all together.
“Everyone rowed into behind each other, and that was needed because there was the devastation of being relegated from the senior ranks as well.
“We met and our first priority was to get back up to senior and thankfully we did that with the Monaghan Championship. We refocused for Ulster, took it a game at a time, and managed to be successful there too.
“Now we’re on an All-Ireland final journey and hopefully we can complete it.”
Rudden felt particularly helpless about last year’s relegation as he was across the Irish Sea in Newcastle on work duty.
One point was all that separated the Mitchell’s from safety and the defender winced as the negative results arrived through text or via Twitter updates.
“I was in Newcastle and playing over there with Cú Chulainn’s.
“Whenever I heard the news (that they went down) I couldn’t believe it, it was a bitter pill to swallow.
“It was tough seeing the results coming in when you’re so far away, you felt helpless.
“I knew in the back of my mind that I would be home. I was thankful to be part of the journey this season.
“James Kieran came in at the start of last year and our aim was to come straight back up. ‘Hard work is needed, it’s not going to be easy’ – that was what he told us.
“We treated every team with the respect that they deserved and we succeeded in what we needed to do.”
It has been the perfect response from the club, and Mattock Rangers felt the full force of their ability in the All-Ireland semi-final following a sensational scoring burst.
The sides were level 0-7 to 0-7 at the break and the Louth side moved three points ahead early in the second half as Niall McKeown found the net.
After trading a few scores, Magheracloone then finished with 15 unanswered points with Tommy Freeman, Ryan Farrelly and Gavin Doogan all regularly troubling the scoreboard.
Rudden, however, said that such attacking finesse is given its platform by hard graft.
“Our main focus all year has been hard work,” he said. “We can play all the lovely football we want but our goal is for every man on the pitch to work hard, work for the man next to them, for as long as they can.
“Sometimes it’s going to be for 40 or 45 minutes, this isn’t a 15-man game, but when you’re on the pitch you give everything.
“We knew that hard work was required against Mattock because we knew that they liked to press high. They were a dogged team.
“It was a game of two halves. The wind picked up in the second half but as it picked up so did our work-rate.
“That contributed to the driving force of the forwards and thankfully we were accurate on the day.”
Oughterard have reached the final courtesy of a 1-12 to 0-12 semi-final win over a Templenoe side that contained Kerry quartet Killian Spillane, Adrian Spillane, Gavin Crowley and Tadhg Morley.
That alone should give Magheracloone issue for caution but Rudden said that they wouldn’t be looking at their opponents too much.
“I wouldn’t know too much, I saw them on GAA Beo and they looked a good footballing side. We’ll leave that up to the management though.”