How justifiably proud must be the young men representing Athy Gaelic Football Club who last week brought the Minor Championship Cup back to Athy for the third year in succession. Theirs is a magnificent achievement never before equalled by any previous Athy Club team over the 123 years of the Club’s history.
Emily Square was thronged with supporters on Sunday night as the team members led by their captain Liam McGovern enjoyed the public’s adulation. I understand that Liam, whose father chairs the Club’s underage committee, is with Tony Gibbons Jnr. the proud possessor of three Minor Championship medals. Three other players, Barry Purcell, Luke Thomas and James Roycroft, were on the panel for the 2008 final and as such were part of the triple championship winning teams. Tony Gibbons Snr. is one of the management team ably led by Shane Purcell and assisted by Joe Kelly, Pat Considine and Joe Robinson.
The Player of the Match Award went to 16 year old Niall Kelly whose 45 conversion in the last minute of the game was a fitting finale for a young player whose footballing skills were seen at their best that afternoon. Incidentally his father Joe is one of the earlier mentioned minor management team.
This third successive final success follows on wins by teams managed in 2008 by Anthony Bracken Jnr., Paul Hicks and Mark Brophy and in 2009 by Joe Kinahan, Dinny Sullivan and Ger Clancy. All of those men who voluntarily gave of their time during the football season deserve great credit for their dedication.
Of the current club minor team there are four players on the county minor team. Liam McGovern, Niall Kelly, Tony Gibbons and Kevin Feely were part of the unlucky Kildare team which after three successive games against Dublin were required to play Longford in the Leinster Minor Semi-final just a few days after finally overcoming Dublin. They lost to two fortuitous late goals and Longford later went on to win the Leinster Final. On the county minor panel were two other Athy players, James Roycroft and Luke Thomas.
Athy G.F.C. has only one club player, Michael Foley, on the county senior team panel, while the Under 21 County Panel is graced by Athy club men Cian Reynolds, Darroch Mulhall and James Eaton. Paddy Dunne is the club’s only representative on the County Junior Panel.
This latest success of the Athy Minor team must give an enormous fillup to the local club, as did the success of the U-13 team in the recent league final. The defeat of the senior team in the championship semi-final to the eventual champions Moorefield was a disappointment, as was the loss of the U-16 team in their championship final.
The club which has an astonishing 24 teams from U-8 up to senior level has proved yet again its strength at underage competition level. The club officers and committee can be proud of the club’s achievements, proving as it does that the footballing tradition nurtured since the early days of the Young Emmets Club has never been extinguished.
The club’s officers Chairman Mark Dalton, Secretary Joe Barry and Treasurer Eamon Wynne, with committee members Colm Reynolds, Shane Purcell, Eugene O’Toole, Henry Howard, Pat Considine, Con Ronan, T.J. Clare, Diarmuid Wynne and P.J. Lawler have done a great job in facilitating and supporting the teams which have togged out in the red and white of Athy G.F.C.
James Mahon, Chairman of the Town Council, spoke eloquently and passionately from the platform on Sunday night when greeting the victorious minor players on their return to Athy. He concluded that the footballing future of the club was bright; indeed he said ‘the future was red and white’. Hopefully this year’s victory with the victories of 2008 and 2009 will provide the foundation for a return of the glorious footballing days enjoyed by Barney Dunne, Paul Matthews, Tommy Mulhall and their teammates of the late 1930s and early 1940s when senior championship titles were not as scarce as they are in this generation.
One young man who won his championship medal on the field of play as a member of Athy Minor team is Michael Keogh. He did this despite having been hospitalised just a few days prior to the final. Michael is a dedicated and courageous football player and his bravery in coping with the medical difficulties he faces day in day out is an example of what it takes to be a member of a county champion team.
The players who brought the minor championship back to Athy are James Roycroft, Cillian Mulhall, Luke Thomas, Wesley Clare, David Hyland, Barry Purcell, David O’Toole, Liam McGovern, Kevin Feely, Hughie Mahon, Tony Gibbons, Niall Kelly, Michael Keogh, Conor O’Keeffe, Sean Ronan, with playing sub Pascal Connell.