Small corner of west Roscommon heads to Croke Park
Unassuming visitors to Ballinlough on Tuesday afternoon might have been forgiven for thinking they’d just landed in a Winter Olympics host town due to the air temperature and the number of Jamaican flags fluttering from windows.
The village and surrounding areas are wrapped up in Croke Park fever at the moment, and local schools, businesses and homes are adorned with the Michael Glavey’s colours of black, green and amber. There’s a warmth about the place, despite the frigid winter weather, and it emanates from the local GAA club.
Everyone wants to be part of it, from the nine young students in the 180-year-old Ballinlough National School to 84-year-old Michael Glavey’s President, Frank Neenan. This momentous run to the All-Ireland Club Intermediate Final has bridged generation gaps in the west Roscommon parish of Kiltullagh.
Just last Saturday, dedicated fans made the trip to Mullingar to see their heroes doggedly overcome the Matty Forde-inspired Kilanerin of Wexford. While Michael Glavey’s weren’t exactly at their swashbuckling best, there was ample evidence of their ability to dig in and win a battle. A cause for optimism ahead of their meeting with teak-tough Moy Tír na nÓg.
What was reported from the Tyrone team’s semi-final win over An Ghaeltacht would have instilled further confidence in a Glavey’s faithful already enamoured with the way their young athletes operate. As the Cavanaghs discovered last summer, the wide open spaces of Croke Park can be unforgiving when ball and man are moving at pace. That’s for the meticulous Iain Daly and his hard-working troops to worry about however; and the final preparations are in capable hands.
For those looking on, the west will be awake bright and early on Saturday morning – provided it sleeps at all – and they’ll be on the road from Ballinlough, Gorthaganny, Granlahan and Cloonfad and from places beyond the parish and past the county boundary. The mighty, mighty men of Michael Glavey’s have raised a small army and the roar that goes up when Glavey’s set foot on the hallowed turf will put further years on the seasoned campaigners from Tír na nÓg. And, if the footballing Gods cast a smile their way, Conor Hussey and Co. will finish their long, historical journey with a brief, steep walk up the steps of the Hogan Stand.