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A proud day for Belmullet

Sport

Column
Billy Joe Padden

TODAY is a huge day for all of us with ties to Belmullet GAA club.
To play in a Mayo senior club championship semi-final is something to be really proud of.
I’m absolutely delighted for the club and everyone involved. Damien Mulligan has been doing a brilliant job as manager. There’s no doubt that he has brought an awful lot to this team and brought them on hugely, particularly if you consider how difficult things are in Belmullet in terms of of being so far away from where a lot of lads are working and the commitment lads are having to put in to be an effective senior team.
When I look at Damien’s management team, I see people like Eamon Dixon, a man I’ve known all my life who comes from the same village. He is extremely passionate about football. I played with Eamon and he is the first person I think of when Belmullet win because of all the work he has put into the club.
I’m delighted too for Peadar Gardiner. We went to college and played Sigerson Cup together, and we played with Mayo together. He’s a great communicator, has a serious football brain, and I always loved talking football to him when we were players. I’m sure he has added a lot to the set-up this year.
Rowland McIntyre and Anthony Mills were also lads that I played with who always gave absolutely everything they had to Belmullet. And when you have a backroom team like that it’s easy for the younger players to be inspired and to recognise what’s required to go on and achieve greater things than anything the club has done in the last 40 years.

Breaffy win was a milestone
The quarter-final win over Breaffy was a milestone for Belmullet.
Some of the younger players showed no fear and never backed away from some of the big-name players for Breaffy. They were physical at every opportunity and that is what you have to do playing against the big names and the big teams.
Ryan O’Donoghue is a prime example. He always backs himself, had an unbelievable year with Mayo, and his displays with Belmullet are just adding to it, I have been so impressed by his growth over this year. Everyone knew the talent was there but what you’re seeing from him now is being able to lead the club and to lead Mayo in some of those big games.
Ryan has taken on the responsibility of free-taking and being a big player in big moments and that will be key again against Westport.
I think Eoin O’Donoghue is also trying to prove a point with his performance the last day. If there are eight or nine defenders in the county better than him well then we have a very good defence.
He would have been very proud of that performance against Breaffy and I am sure he is very disappointed the way things didn’t work out for him at Mayo in the last few years.
It’s a different story for Ryan, of course,
I was very impressed with him this season as he took on the role of being the lead forward for Mayo in Cillian O’Connor’s absence. He was also a huge player in the two big moments in the quarter-final, which were the two goals.
He has been remarkable all year and it’s to his credit.
When you look at what Belmullet have missed with Chris Barrett retiring, after being such a terrific player for the team all down through the years and moving on and no longer playing with Mayo, Ryan has really stepped into that leadership role and done a fantastic job.
In many ways the team is reflecting his characteristics: they are aggressive, are willing to get stuck in, and trying to make things happen. I’m not sure they would have had the success they’ve had over the last few years without the impact he has made with the ball in his hands and, of course, his free-taking.

Mulligan’s keen eye
I think Belmullet getting Shane Nallen back in goals has been a huge turning-point in their season too. Against Breaffy he did very well in creating attacks and he made a great save in a big moment. You win big championship games with the likes of that.
It’s about who comes out on the right side of the big moments and it’s to their credit. I was delighted for Shane, I would have played with him, he’s a neighbour of mine and to have a big day like that between the sticks shows his abilities as a footballer to play in any position.
Not everyone probably appreciates how difficult it is for Belmullet to put in an eight-week slog of preparation, considering so many lads are working away and the travel commitments that are required. So Damien Mulligan’s ability to focus and help the team to peak at the right time of year shows his ability as a manager, I’m delighted for him.
He’s got a great reaction out of the young players, they play without fear, and I’m sure that is something that he instilled in them. They are aggressive and they are physical, but that is what you have to be to win a Senior Championship, especially in these weather conditions.
I know that anyone that I speak to in Belmullet has nothing but positive things to say about the way Damien is developing this squad and what they are producing.
When I look back at Belmullet’s successes, I always think of the clubmen that were involved in my time.

And thinking of the current players involved in this side, the best thing about it for me is that so many people from my time are now sharing the success of this new young team.
So I wish Belmullet all the best against Westport in this first senior championship semi-final for 35 years.

 

 

 

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