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A final chapter awaits for Kilmaine GAA

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FAMILY TIES Kilmaine father and daughter Anthony O'Toole and Olivia Coyne (who is married to well-known Lahardane GAA supporter Enda Coyne) are pictured at last Sunday's Mayo Junior 'A' FC semi-final. Pic: Michael Donnelly

Reflections
Willie McHugh

THESE are exciting times in Kilmaine GAA happenings. On Sunday last their junior footballers booked a county final spot and a meeting with Lahardane. They have enough good reason to be quietly confident. The current crop is a nice blend of youth and experience. Derek O’Dea, Jarlath McDonagh and Pat Kelly are manning their defence and they’ve been at it long enough to know every trick in the book and a few besides. They are good servants of the game. No one outside of Lahardane would begrudge them their day in the sun.
And in Jarlath Mullin, Ernan Flannery, David Hughes, Frank Burke, Michael Hession and Matthew Keady, Kilmaine have a nice sprinkling of youth to add to the mix.
And take it as read that, unless there’s a more pressing engagement he’s fully committed to, Eddie Rodgers will be making his way from Cork and availing of the new Gort to Tuam motorway to be in Kilmaine next weekend. As indeed will Michael Michael John Hughes and others who earn their daily bread beyond the barony.
1992 was the last occasion the parish won a county title at adult level, and the club have strong links with that historic day when they overcame Aghamore on a scoreline of 4-9 to 2-7 in Ballyhaunis. Current manager Norman O’Brien was in goal and his selector David O’Loughlin played outfield in a team captained by Michael John Mullin that also included such stalwarts as Joe and Des McGrath, their nephew Brian Shaughnessy, Oliver Walsh and Mike Burke.
Good things are happening off-field too.  As well as busily readying a team for Sunday’s encounter, David O’Loughlin heads up a committee publishing a book celebrating eighty years of football in Kilmaine.
In 1937 a group met in a carthouse outside the village and formed a GAA club. Gerald Keane of Ballymartin wasn’t around back then but his wonderful brain filled with anecdotes and undisputable knowledge was invaluable when the club released a similar essaying to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in 1987.
Kilmaine Community Sportsfield was officially opened by GAA President Dr Mickey Loftus in May of that year. PJ McGrath refereed that far off day in Kilmaine and he marched Meath midfielder Liam Hayes following an altercation with Mayo’s Denis Kearney.
McGrath also refereed the infamous Offaly/Kerry final in 1982 (of Seamus Darby’s late goal) and also officiated in Australian Compromise Rules and would later serve as Chairman of Mayo GAA Board.
Prior to that Kilmaine’s playing venue was Walsh’s field on the periphery of the village and, in previous years, Curran’s field was where they played. There was no electricity, let alone the internet, available to the hardy souls who gathered in that carthouse in 1937.
Technology had not yet shrunk the world. Lorries hauled them to play matches in far flung places. And even back then travel broadened the enlightened mind.
On returning to Kilmaine late one evening from a match in Louisburgh, a local asked the late and legendary Christy Durkan tidings of countryside back that direction.
“Well, the land is so plentiful back there they have to fork it up into big heaps” was Christy’s now oft quoted reply to the enquiry.
They mostly plied their trade in Junior and Intermediate grade and with the talent at their disposal over the decades there’s a basis to the argument of them playing below their level betimes. In Joe McGrath (or ‘Joeeen’ as he was affectionately known) they had an All Star instantly recognisable far and beyond as a goal scoring full- forward.
Brendan Keane won an All-Ireland Minor medal with Mayo in 1953 as did Michael John Mullin in 1985 and the late Darragh Doherty in 2013. Larry O’Dea, Mike Burke, Pete O’Brien, David O’Loughlin, Oliver Walsh, Mark Butler and a plethora of others wore the county colours with distinction.
A county title beckons now. They are putting the final copy to their latest book. What an unforgettable final chapter a victory would make. 

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