It takes a village to raise a team!

Creggs’ champions are 33 years in the making

33 years is a long time to wait for anything and it’s fair to say that the people of Creggs have been making the most of their first Roscommon junior title in over three decades. Following their battling win over St. Michael’s in the Connacht semi-final, the border parish is now in “bonus territory” as they prepare for the visit of Mayo champions, Louisburgh, to Roscommon this Sunday.

  In the welcoming surrounds of O’Roarkes, local footballing stalwarts were enjoying a pint while discussing provincial prospects.

  Frank Brandon was still in celebratory mode following the overdue county final success. “It was the best night I can remember. We’ve had lots of good ones, even when we won in ’83, but I suppose there hasn’t been anything major in the village for a long time so bringing home the cup was unreal. Absolutely magic, I never saw anything like it. Bonfires, people everywhere; it was just fantastic.”

  Looking ahead to Louisburgh, Frank was pragmatic: “Well, I’d say we’re realistic. It’s probably a tough match. Oranmore-Maree were supposed to be the greatest thing since the sliced pan, they were supposed to be unbeatable. I met two Galway men and they told me we were probably better off being beaten down in Sligo because we hadn’t a hope of beating Oranmore, and Oranmore aren’t there! So, I think we have every chance! I think that this Creggs team has footballers as good as any in the county.”

  Frank’s brother and Creggs chairman, Sean Brandon, believes the fact that Kiltoom is this Sunday’s venue is beneficial. “It’s a big advantage in that Louisburgh will have to travel over two hours. We expect a big local support and we also expect a big support from within the county but obviously once the game starts it will be down to what we do on the day.”

  All of those present in O’Roarke’s on Monday night were in agreement: the support from neighbouring parishes and Roscommon football in general has been fantastic.

  John Gavin says the neighbours have wheeled in behind a “special group of players”.

  “Definitely since we’ve had this bit of success, all the clubs around us have waded in behind us. We had been trying for so long to win the final that having this success and seeing every other club come in and cheer us on is great.”

  Meanwhile, the support and commitment from inside the camp has been nothing short of exemplary. From local residents and businesses flying the flag to players regularly flying home from the UK to tog out. The call of the parish is hard to ignore.  

  Behind the scenes, clubs like Creggs wouldn’t exist without people like Mary Devaney washing jerseys, Kathleen McKeague looking after the accounts, Gerry Keegan the club secretary and Declan Maloney providing food. That’s not to mention loyal supporters like Michael O’Roarke Snr, who says he’ll be joining me in the press box this Sunday.

  There is definitely an ‘all for one’ feel to Creggs GAA with injured players like county U-21 star, Noel Gately, as well as players and supporters as far away as Australia getting behind the men in maroon and white. The players and the backroom team led by Ger Dowd and Jonathan Conroy were lavished with praise by those in attendance on Monday evening. So too were the club’s main sponsors, Ward Brothers, and of course the venue for Monday night’s meeting, O’Roarke’s Bar.

  Michael O’Roarke assured us that the bar and the team will be well prepared come Sunday. “Ah we’ll get a barrel or two extra, we can borrow one if we get stuck! If we win, sure we get a delivery on Monday anyway.

  “Ah they’ve (the players) been pretty disciplined so far in fairness, they’ve stuck by the ban (on alcohol) and they’re training hard. It was a bit different 33 years ago I can tell you that! (Laughs) The celebrations lasted a hell of a lot longer: about 30 years they went on for some of us! Hopefully we have something to celebrate this weekend.”

  So Creggs face into their biggest challenge this year on Sunday as the might of Mayo rolls into Kiltoom. Creggs may only be a ‘half parish’ as people have told me, but the men who take the field this Sunday have been whole-hearted in their efforts since the beginning of the year. They’ll enter the arena with a passionate village and its neighbours behind them and after all they’ve achieved this year, who’s to say the fairytale has to end here?