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Lacken GAA intend to fight on

Sport

FROM THE ARCHIVES Action from the 2002 North Mayo Junior Final as Ballycastle’s John Madden (centre, who played in goal for Mayo in the 1996 All-Ireland SFC Final) tries to win possession ahead of two Lacken opponents. Pic: Tommy Eibrand

Michael Gallagher

WHAT’S in a name? The question is often asked at various points along life’s journey.
At the recent Mayo County Board meeting, Lacken Sarsfields’ delegate, Michael Callaghan told club delegates and the top table how precious the name of Lacken is to the people of that famous parish on the edge of the ocean.
The Kilmovee native and Lacken resident was one of the first arrivals in An Sportlann, the home of Castlebar Mitchels, for the County Board meeting and it was obvious that he was on a mission.
He sat quietly near the back of the room all night waiting for his chance to bring his club’s story to the centre of Mayo GAA’s world.
Lacken Sarsfields had played Kilmovee Shamrocks in the Mayo junior championship just four days earlier. They had sent out a team in their famous green, white and gold jerseys, but had shipped a 50-point defeat in a game where they failed to score.
Callaghan and his club-mates had endured a rough few days and nights. They had experienced sadness, disappointment and maybe even a little embarrassment, but they sent him forth on Thursday evening to tell the world where they stood.
Their erstwhile delegate sat through the discussions about All-Ireland finals, championship structures, centre of excellence and questions for James Horan.
He listened to men speaking about press conferences and two-handed passing and even laughed at a few jokes that were thrown in to spice things up.
Then, at the end of the evening, as the rain pelted off the window behind him, Callaghan took the floor. He thanked everyone who had been in contact with Lacken over the previous four days offering support. He explained how difficult the situation the club found themselves in and asked for help.
“If something isn’t done to change things, many other clubs across North Mayo will find themselves in the same position as Lacken,” he said.
Callaghan was speaking on behalf of the club named after Irish revolutionary Patrick Sarsfield, the club where the French had landed in a bid to free Ireland in 1798 and the club who have played football for 118 years.
Many thought he had arrived in Castlebar to confirm the end of the story for that famous club, but that was not the case.
“I came here to look for help and to make people aware of the situation staring us all straight in the face,” he told The Mayo News after the meeting had ended.
“It would have been easy to throw in the towel and slip away, but we got together over the past few days and had a serious look at things. We knew we were in bother for the past few years but it really hit home on Sunday.
“That was a very sad day for all of us and emotions were very raw afterwards. But we have had a few days to assess things and we’re determined to come back from it.”
As Michael Callaghan spoke to The Mayo News, a message was doing the rounds online confirming that the Sarsfields had pulled out of their remaining games in the Mayo junior championship.
They would not be traveling to Achill last Sunday or playing Cill Chomáin two weeks later. Instead, they would take the time to regroup, rebuild and look to the future.
But this was no ‘once-upon-a-time’ fairy story their delegate to the County Board was trotting out.
“We know exactly the situation we’re in. We know the huge challenges we face, but first of all let’s deal with the team. We’re very determined to stay alive and keep going. The name is special. Maybe, we only really realise how special over the last few days.
“We have confirmation from a number of lads that they will make themselves available to play next year and there has been a commitment from enough lads to show we can field properly next season in a ‘B’ competition. “That will hopefully give us the numbers to field a team and be competitive, but there are a lot of other aspects that the GAA and the state need to address.
“Lacken is just the tip of the iceberg,” he added. “North Mayo, in particular, is suffering from rural depopulation, lack of employment and urbanisation.
“There are a number of other clubs coming along behind us who will find themselves in exactly the same situation unless there’s a proper structure put in place by the GAA and other organisations to look at rural Ireland and do something about the problems we’re all facing.
“We need co-operation between clubs; we need services in the communities and, above all, we need jobs which will in turn lead to people coming to the area or staying in the area.
“Three jobs here; four jobs somewhere else and a couple of more jobs down the road would make a huge difference to the communities of North Mayo and provide numbers for the GAA clubs who are going from week to week at the moment praying they’ll have enough to fill the jerseys at the weekend.
“We’re in a rough place right now, but with the right supports and the right initiatives the future might be brighter than the present. There’s always hope,” he said.

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