Taking their lead from the blind poet who hailed from a few miles outside the town on the road to Bohola, the good people of Kiltimagh are – with St Brigid’s Day now safely behind them and the evenings beginning to stretch nicely – stirring themselves and preparing to hit the road this coming weekend. As their website rightly proclaims, next Sunday is set to be the biggest day in the history of Kiltimagh’s GAA club because it’s then that they’ll take the field at Croke Park to contest the All-Ireland Junior Club Final (throw-in 2pm).
I was in the town last weekend and with the whole place already starting to get decked out in blue and white and plenty of talk going on about the upcoming final, one could see clearly this is a town that’ll be well ready for action at HQ on Valentine’s Day. Facing a Kerry team in an All-Ireland final is always a daunting prospect (especially for a club from Mayo) but the Coillte lads are in the decider on merit and they should have no fears about squaring off against Castlegregory this coming Sunday. It’s not as if they don’t have lads who know their way around Croker either, as Peter Burke (who, incredibly, is still only 33 years of age – well, that’s what it says here) was in goal for the county in the All-Ireland senior finals of 1997 and 2004 while, more recently, Ciaran Charlton played there in the 2008 and 2009 minor deciders.
The All-Ireland junior club championships only began officially as recently as 2004, although there were variants of it on the go before then with Kilmeena (in 2003) and Belmullet (2002) reaching the final. As a result, Kiltimagh will have at least one claim to fame after Sunday, in that they’ll be the first ever club from the county to contest a bona fide All-Ireland final at this level. While we can be reasonably sure that the hordes who pour out of the town heading east at the weekend won’t suffer poor old Raifteirí’s fate, it’s not, I think, wishing for too much to hope that when they return, they’ll do so as All-Ireland champions. All the very best for Sunday, lads.