James McGivney left the Longford panel during the League last year.
He had no other option.
See, he’s a full-time farmer and January, February and March are a farmer’s armageddon with ewes lambing and cows calving. It’s all hands to the pump and the farm wouldn’t survive without him.
“During the league is very hard because I’m a full-time farmer and that was our calving season,” he said at an AIB event recently.
“One night, we were training up in Dublin and that’s like a five or six hour round trip for me. That’s a lot of time away and especially in the calving season.
“That particular night, there was a dead animal because there was no one on the farm. So that really pushed me to take a break for a while until the calving season calmed down.”
The same reasons wouldn’t wash for Kilmacud Crokes men but that’s only one of a number of differences between the two clubs contesting Sunday’s Leinster senior football final.
Kilmacud Crokes has a population of around 4’800 people while St Columba’s, their lowly Longford opponents have only 350. Kilmacud are one of the most successful football clubs in Leinster, the men of Mullinalaghta will contest their first ever final this weekend.
Kilmacud Crokes are more like a county team than a club team while the families in Mullinalaghta rotate the responsibility of making the team sandwiches after their training sessions.
That’s blood-line club GAA for you.
“We’re a fairly tight-knit community,” says McGivney “The families in the parish have been great. After every training there’s tea and sandwiches, and that rotates around every family in the parish. That’s how united it is. It’s fairly unique in that way,” he adds.
The Kilmacud lads might be having sandwiches too, but not every family in that club would get a chance to contribute.
“Football is the only thing keeping the community together. If there wasn’t football, there’d be a lot of lads moving I’d say.”
And the club story gets even more authentic.
“I’ve a brother, David midfield. There’s the two Rogers, the goalie and the half-forward. There’s two Mulligans, they’re on the half-back line. There’s five McElligots. Two of them are starting. There’s two Foxes, the full-back and the full-forward.”
Prior to 2016, St Columba’s hadn’t won a Longford senior title in 66 years. Since 2016, they’ve won three-in-a-row. The common denominator, Mickey Graham’s arrival to the club.
I remember the very first meeting Mickey Graham had with us three years ago, he said these opportunities come in cycles of years. He had one with Cavan Gaels and he said, “you’re opportunity is coming now, and it’s up to you to take it”. We all bought into the cause that night and we worked really hard. Most trainings we came off the field, tight able to breath, tight sleep at night, you’d be that tired rolling and twisting in aches and pains,” he added.
But all of those hard slogs are paying off, and he’s hoping they can reap the biggest reward yet on Sunday.
“We know the odds are stacked against us. The bookies don’t usually get it wrong either and they’d have Kilmacud as strong favourites. All we can do is control what’s in our hands, and that’s getting the best possible performance out of ourselves. Hopefully we can do each other proud.”
Mullinalaghta and Longford’s James McGivney is pictured at Clanna Gael Fontenoy GAA in Dublin ahead of the AIB GAA Leinster Senior Football Club Championship Final where they face Kilmacud Crokes on Sunday, December 9th at Bord na Mona O’Connor Park. AIB is in its 28th season sponsoring the GAA Club Championship and will celebrate their 6th season sponsoring the Camogie Association.