The journey of a lifetime
The good times are back around Kiltane GAA club
A BLESSING in disguise, perhaps, but Kiltane didn’t see it that way at the time.
Relegation in 2012 and the drop to intermediate status hurt them bad. They’d been a senior team for almost four decades. But defeat to Ballina in Knockmore sealed their fate. For years they’d hovered around the drop zone but the inevitable finally came to pass. A lesser team might have walked away from the debris and cursed their luck. But not Kiltane.
Assistant treasurer Richie Cosgrove is one of the mainstays of the club. He remembers their 2013 AGM as one of the best attended despite the way the previous season ended.
“There was a definite resolve there to get back up senior,” he emphasised to The Mayo News last week.
“We knew if that didn’t happen soon we could easily get stuck in a rut. But we took a definite decision that nobody was going to be scapegoated or blamed for what happened. We’d avoided relegation for a few years and were lucky to do so. That’s why we held on to the same back-room team when Martin Barrett was appointed manager.
“We were lucky to have someone of the calibre of Martin in the club. He’s a committed Kiltane man.”
Martin Barrett plotted the return knowing that winning the intermediate title in 2013 would get them back up. He threw down the gauntlet and his charges rose to the challenge and his inspirational leadership.
“I had two team meetings because I wanted to be sure everyone realised what was involved,” he begins.
“I told them the Friday night socialising would have to go, as well as the stag and birthday parties. And in fairness to the lads, they were as good as their word. Especially around July and August, because there can be a lot of festival events around Erris and we weren’t playing much competitive football at the time. But they were disciplined and it paid off.
“We got another boost too when Tony Gaughan came back after London were beaten in the championship. Tony is a plumber in London and he played with them, but after they were beaten in the qualifiers, Tony committed to us and he flies home for all our matches now. “Shane Lindsay works in Scotland and he takes the ferry home and drives from Larne to play with us. That takes a lot of effort. But everyone on the panel gives it everything and we had 43 players togged for the county final.”
KILTANE stuck to Martin Barrett’s game plan and won the county title. It all came right round Bangor country one week in September. A seven-day happening perfectly captured by Evita Coyle’s creative picture that now hangs proudly in Munnelly’s of Geesala.
Tommy Conroy won an All-Ireland minor medal with Mayo. Ciara Ginty won the AIBA World 60kg Junior Championship title in Bulgaria. And Kiltane won the Mayo Intermediate Football Championship title. A rich harvest.
It’s winter in Geesala now and the last credits of Christmas have rolled. Storms of biblical proportions wreak havoc and untold damage along the Erris coastline on the night we visit.
In Munnelly’s the man setting the fire is building from a bigger pyre. In a room off the bar, John Munnelly is joined by Michael Goonan and Bernie Scanlon. Football consumes them and Kiltane is the flame they are ever drawn to. Bernie Scanlon was there when the foundations were poured back in 1962.
“The first meeting was held down in David Sweeney’s house,” he recalls.
“John Noel Carey was there of course and Bob Trix who worked down in the grass factory. Eoin Naughton, a Galway man, was our first chairman. We were known as St Pat’s Bangor back then. Ballycroy and Kilcommon were with us but they went their separate ways. The club was called Kiltane in 1970.”
Success came almost instantly to the heartlands of Bangor, Geesala and Doohoma.
People wondered where Kiltane actually was when a side captained by Paddy Corrigan won the Mayo Junior Championship in 1972. A year later they captured the intermediate title.
No team in Mayo have won junior, intermediate and senior titles on the trot but Kiltane came close. In 1974 they fell at the semi-final stage of the senior championship, losing to Aghamore after a replay in Ballina.
Dooyork was the original home pitch. “It was togging-out-off-the-boot facilities,” as Bernie Scanlon describes it. In later years they moved to Doohoma, where they togged in a local hotel. Today they have a permanent home in Bangor.
John Munnelly recalls the occasions Kiltane were in the final shake-up at senior level.
He was manager between 1989 and 1995 and bookended his managerial term with two county senior final appearances. “We lost to Knockmore in 1989 but we had some good years afterwards. We won the Mayo Senior League in 1992 and also won the Global Windows League.”
Bernie Scanlon jokingly reminds Michael Goonan of the trip the club undertook to London that year. Michael was club chairman then. “We won the league here in Bangor on the October Bank Holiday Monday and on Wednesday evening we flew from Knock to London. We celebrated our league victory there. It generated a great spirit and enthusiasm within the club.”
Bernie Scanlon sees that as one of Kiltane’s great strengths. “There was always a great camaraderie and even when lads went away to other parts of the country to work, they still travelled home every weekend to play with the club. We were pressed for numbers over the years and I remember matches when we might have the bare number, but we always fielded a team.”
Under John Munnelly’s watch, they got to a county final again in 1995 and also played in the Connacht Club Championship. “We were due to play Crossmolina in the county final and it was postponed at the 11th hour. We only heard about it late on the Friday night beforehand. It was put off because Garrymore objected to the legality of a Crossmolina player and the outcome was that the semi-final be played again.
“As Mayo had to have a team in the Connacht Club Championship we were nominated to play Corofin. We drew with them in Corofin and lost the replay in Bangor.
“The delay in playing the county final didn’t suit. We were all geared to play Crossmolina and then it was postponed and it took weeks before it was finally played. A lot of our players work away and they had used up all of their time off work preparing for the original date and that certainly disrupted our plans. The same year we lost a few top-class players to emigration. They were experienced players and we had to replace them with lads who were barely out of minor.”
Michael Goonan remembers the Sunday sermon in Geesala on the morning of the postponed county final. “The late Father [Clement] Haverty, who was our priest here at the time, said this is a very lonely day for Kiltane with no match to play, especially after all the excitement that was built up around the parish, and someone at a higher level in the County Board should have handled this better.”
BUT Kiltane always bounce back and this present team are bringing them on the journey of a lifetime. An All-Ireland semi-final appearance next Sunday in Ballinasloe is next on the itinerary. An amazing turnaround in 12 months, but it didn’t just happen by chance.
In the West End Bar in Bangor, Monica Henry serves coffee in mugs branded with the Kiltane logo. It’s unlikely that corporate Ireland was targeting Bangor with memorabilia like this when they won the Mayo junior title in 1972 and Paddy Corrigan brought the cup home. He’s father of Rory and Ultan and delighted, but not overly surprised, with the progress made by the current crop.
“They put in the work all summer,” he explains. “There are six sets of brothers on the team. There were a few signs that we were on the right track. They were six points down in a league match against Shrule/Glencorrib at half-time and they came back and won it. They had a bit of luck in the championship but you need that too.”
Paddy Joe Gaughan is father of Seán and team captain Pat Joe. “They trained six nights in a row during the summer and they had only one night out around Christmas. Martin [Barrett] brought a huge commitment and it shows in their level of fitness this year. They train hard and nothing comes easy. It’s a busy house at home too. Their mother is full time washing the playing gear.”
The Kiltane journey didn’t end in September. Tony Leneghan refers to the great days in Castlebar as the club won the Connacht Intermediate Championship title. “It was the same all year from our very first league game in March and everyone from Doohoma Head to Bellacorick Bridge getting behind the team.”
Success costs money but assistant treasurer Richie Cosgrove is not complaining.
“We have very good sponsors and also the financial support we get from our loyal supporters. They never refuse us and we have the highest number of County Board ticket sales annually. There’s a great goodwill towards the club and there always has been.”
The local soccer club Bangor Hibs make for good neighbours too. Kiltane have no floodlights for night training for the upcoming semi-final and the club have made their Ballybeg Park facilities available to them.
The good times are back around the banks of the Owenmore again. Kiltane kept its own promise made to itself. One week in September just drove them on further.