An unbelievable year for David and Fergal

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When asked for his thoughts on national television after his man-of-the-match performance in the All-Ireland minor football final win of 2013, David Kenny brought the word ‘Un*******believable’ to the attention of the lexicography department of the Oxford English Dictionary. Sadly the Tooreen man’s slip of the tongue didn’t make the OED cut that year, but an air of confidence and a will to win was generated in that year’s minor football campaign.

Roll onto 2016 and David Kenny entered his final year as an underage player with Mayo GAA. This year is usually the hardest to navigate for elite players with an abundance of managers of different codes all looking for a large slice of a player’s talents.

Start the year on a high

We start the story of 2016 on the 30th December 2015 when Aghamore came face to face with Moy Davitts in the U21A football final in Bekan. Aghamore hadn’t won this title since 1981 but bridged a 34-year gap with a telling 5-17 to 2-9 win to take the Billy Kenny Memorial Cup. David Kenny starred at midfield for Aghamore on the night, while Fergal Boland came of age as he kicked five majestic points from play to take the man-of-the-match award on the night.

North-West U21 Cup ends all square

The Mayo U21 football team had a bad run of form coming into 2016. Early Connacht Championship dismissals in previous years had put pressure on the side to do well, coupled with the fact that many of the side had All-Ireland minor medals garnered in 2013. A new manager called Michael Solan from Ballaghaderreen was put at the helm and, in one of his first get-togethers of pre-season training, he asked his assembled crew if there was any other players in Mayo who would make a difference to this team.

Without hesitation, the name Fergal Boland was bandied about by the group and Solan showed his humility to the cause by inviting Boland into the set-up the following weekend. Fergal Boland had never played much inter-county football before, instead concentrating moreso on the small ball game in the green and red colours. On his arrival into the panel, Fergal Boland not only featured prominently in the North-West pre-season tournament, but he also captained the side on a few occasions.

The surroundings didn’t faze Fergal (nor David) as wins over Sligo and Fermanagh set up the decider against Donegal. On the day against Donegal, neither side could be separated after extra-time and the title was shared, with Fergal and David both contributing strongly on the day. David’s performances in these matches earned him a call-up to Stephen Rochford’s training panel for the National Football League.

U21 Connacht football title

The U21 football Connacht championship commenced on March 19th as Mayo overcame Leitrim in the semi final in Carrick-on-Shannon on a 4-12 to 0-15 scoreline. Fergal Boland kicked two points from wing-forward while David Kenny played at wing-back. This set up a final against Roscommon in Markievicz Park where the true mettle of this Mayo side came to the fore as the side came from behind late on to snatch a Connacht U21 title (Mayo 1-11 Roscommon 1-10).

Many people present on the day couldn’t understand how Mayo had won this final, given the Roscommon dominance throughout the tie, but late drives forward from Kenny, Boland and Diarmuid O’Connor resulted in the scores to bring Mayo across the line. Sticking to the game-plan was the mantra of the side – and this was evident even in adversity.

U21 football All-Ireland series

On Saturday 16th April Mayo faced Dublin in the All-Ireland U21 semi-final in Tullamore. Even though Dublin didn’t have any household names in their ranks, they still came to town with a swagger of confidence. However, this rampant Mayo side repeated their Connacht final smash and grab show, as Diarmuid OConnor burst forward late on for a Mayo winning goal to leave the Dubs lifeless. The final score was Mayo 1-15 Dublin 1-14.

Again David Kenny manned the corner-back position while Fergal Boland once again kicked two points from wing-forward. However, Boland’s engine and work-rate ability was extremely prominent in this tie as he handled a power of ball throughout the 60-minute showdown. Mayo were now back in an All-Ireland final where they would meet Munster kingpins Cork.

The Green and Red bandwagon rolled into Ennis on Saturday 30th April with Boland and Kenny leading the Mayo charge. Mayo racked up the goals on that day with a 5-7 to 1-14 win over the Rebels in a repeat of the 2006 between the same sides. A brace of goals each from Mayo’s Liam Irwin and Conor Loftus showed a clinical instinct in the Mayo attack, while an air of confidence descended upon the county for the Senior Championship which lay ahead in the summer.

Kenny and Boland took the All-Ireland win in their stride with workmanlike performances from both in their respective positions in the final. It was a famous day for the Aghamore GAA club who also had Ciaran Harrison and James Lyons on the panel to bring the number of All-Ireland medals coming back to the parish to four.

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Back to the small ball for Rackard final

The dust hadn’t settled on their All-Ireland U21 football final win when the two lads rejoined the Mayo senior hurling panel, who were carving a path through the Tier 3 Nicky Rackard Cup. Early round victories over Tyrone (4-19 to 0-17), Armagh (0-22 to 1-11) and Donegal (1-18 to 2-11) set up an All-Ireland final date with Armagh at headquarters in early June.

In the final David Kenny started at midfield while Fergal Boland came on as a substitute at half-time. Boland’s introduction in Croke Park had an instant impact on the game as he scored a brace of points with his first two touches to lead the Mayo attack to a 2-16 to 1-15 win and bring the Nicky Rackard Cup back to Mayo for the first time.

rackard-cup-win

Another appearance on live national airwaves and another All-Ireland title had given the pair a dual mandate which few Mayo supporters knew about in the past. The following week the duo helped the hurlers win the Christy Ring promotion match against Derry in Ballinamore as Mayo regained their Tier 2 status at national hurling level.

U21 hurling inter-county success

The Mayo U21 hurlers grouped in early July in preparation for their championship campaign. Not much was expected of the side initially, but the presence of the double All-Ireland winners Kenny and Boland gave the side hope. The final of the Connacht U21 Hogan Couriers Cup against Roscommon in MacHale Park set the tone for the campaign as Mayo convincingly defeated the Primrose and Blue by 3-20 to 1-8 to signal an uprising. Kenny and Boland were driving forces in this win with David Kenny captaining the side to capture the title.

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Onto the All-Ireland U21B championship (a separate competition from the Connacht U21 campaign) where underdogs Mayo took on the might of Kildare in Newbridge. On a very wet August Saturday, Mayo totally outmanoeuvred the Lilywhites to come away with a 0-8 to 0-6 win. Kildare underestimated Mayo on the day but the sheer accuracy of Boland from placed balls (he scored 0-6) and the defensive capabilities of Kenny and company recorded a memorable victory for the Green and Red hurlers.

Next up was an improved Roscommon side again in MacHale Park. Once more the elements were tough but Mayo prevailed on a 0-14 to 2-7 scoreline to advance to the final. Word came through that Mayo would face Meath in the U21B final with the game televised live on TG4 from Semple Stadium in Thurles. The Mayo U21 hurlers had entered unchartered waters with Kenny and Boland leading the charge.

Semple Stadium and Meath’s U21s proved a step too far for the Mayo side as the Royals ran out 1-21 to 0-18 winners. Nevertheless, the exploits of the Mayo U21s gave all involved in the small ball game in Mayo a boost, and gives hope to players of the future. The Tooreen club had nine players involved in the All-Ireland U21B campaign in 2016.

Back to U21 club football

When all the other GAA enthusiasts in Mayo were hanging up their headbands after a prolonged summer on the road, Kenny and Boland were just starting to embark on another campaign. The Mayo U21A club football title was there to be retained for Aghamore and they set about it with group wins over Davitts, Ballina and Westport.

A quarter-final win over Castlebar Mitchels and a semi-final win over Ballintubber saw Aghamore U21s return to the U21A county final. This time they faced Claremorris in the usual surroundings of Bekan.

With Aghamore’s eleven game unbeaten run in U21 football on the line, Claremorris went in at half-time with a 1-7 to 0-5 advantage. It would take a mammoth final thirty minutes for Aghamore to retain their title, but that’s what they did as a brace of late Fergal Boland points gave Aghamore a 0-14 to 1-8 winning margin and back-to-back county U21A titles.

Dual mandate

Fergal Boland was born on the 1st November 1995 in Tooreen village. David Kenny was born a fortnight later on 16th November 1995 less than a mile away in Carton North.

Both players have been side-by-side throughout their young careers, both sporting and academic. Both attend University of Limerick where both are training to be secondary teachers.

Both celebrated their 21st birthday parties together in November 2016, while both appear on the same team sheet on a regular basis – be it club or county or football or hurling. They have given the people of the parish such a sporting joy in the past and will continue to do so long into the future.

Both players have been called into Stephen Rochford’s senior football panel and JP Coen’s senior hurling panel for 2017. The journey for David and Fergal starts all over again.

David Kenny and Fergal Boland: teams and titles in the past year

  • Club Football U21 x 2 (2015 & 2016) winners
  • Club U21 Hurling winners.
  • Connacht U21 Hurling winners
  • Connacht U21 Football winners
  • All-Ireland U21 Football winners
  • Nicky Rackard Cup winners

Also played finals of the following:

  • Mayo SHC.  (Runners-up after replay)
  • All-Ireland U21B Hurling (Runners-up)
  • North-West U21 Cup Football (Cup shared after drawn final)

Other teams involved with:

  • Aghamore Senior Football (Quarter-final exit to Knockmore)
  • Sigerson Cup semi-finalist UL (Fergal Boland only)


A version of this article is published in this week’s Western People and it will also appear in the 2016 edition of the Aghamore community annual Glór Achadh Mór. Now running to 28 annual editions under Joe Byrne’s indefatigable stewardship, the Glór 2016 annual goes on sale early in the New Year.

25 thoughts on “An unbelievable year for David and Fergal

  1. Janey mac, some going when you read it all.
    Side note but how is Ciaran Harrison going. Seen him a bit in club and he had bulked up and looked as solid as Brendan. Just interesting in the local view that would know a lot more than myself.

  2. Well done Adrian . Excellent article . Hopefully these two lads can work on their strength & conditioning and reach their full potential at senior level for our county . Fergal Boland reminds me of Noel Durkan who in my opinion was one of the best readers of the game that we have produced but it ll take him two or three years to acquire the strength needed at inter county level . David is probably nearer that level now . So keep it going lads . Ye both have a bright future ahead .

  3. Great stuff there Adrian.

    Fergal Boland really caught the eye against Dublin in the U21 semi. Intelligence oozed from him all through the match. And, as I said before, think dual players give added value. Watched the U21B hurling final on telly; Mayo really gave it a lash. Meath were the better team, but Mayo nearly had them and Boland was at the heart of it all. Kenny wasn’t far behind.

    What a wonderful season they both had, brought into clear focus in this excellent article.

  4. Well done Adrian, what a great story at year end. I was very impressed with Boland in the Connacht Championship run this year.. Kenny was outstanding in the AI Final of 2013 when we had a lot of good performances on the day. Hope they can keep it lit.

  5. Great article there Hess, what these lads bring is the feeling of expecting success. They expect to win and have no fear of it. Sometimes I wonder if some of the current seniors don’t expect to win. We need more players like these, in both codes!

  6. A very good article Adrian,may I just wish all the writers,and posters a very happy and peaceful new year,and again many,many thanks to Willie Joe for this informative site

  7. Great to see players of this calibre coming through with the wealth of experience they possess.They will add greatly to the panel together with Loftus Irwin Reaps and Cone.
    They have beaten the best at underage in Ireland and have the medals to prove it, and have not ” choked ” in Croker.
    Exiting times ahead indeed.

    Happy New Year to all.

  8. Ger Cafferkey was reported in the Connaught Telegraph as being back training and in contention for the Fbd.
    Jason Gibbons is recovered a good while.
    I actually don’t think there are any injuries bar Brendan Harrison post operation which was stated as being recovered by February.
    This should give a wide competitive panel from which to choose a 15/26/34.

  9. That’s good to hear JP. But the situation can change very quickly. I remember being very bullish after the league this year, as we seemed to have everyone back at that stage. By Galway time however, as we well know, the situation was dire.

  10. It still ended up okay. Ger Caff and Jason Gibbons were out. Diarmuid got a knock.
    Not bad for a season.
    The u21s coming in will now make the match day 26 even harder than last year to make.
    Rochford will try and develop more speed across the 80 mins via switches in-game and selection is my view. Had a careful look at the final and the one standout difference between the teams along with two footed scoring was repeatable speed. Only Mick Fitzimmons and next year Jack Mccaffrey are blazing quick. But all the rest of their players stack up to be quicker overall.
    Our attacking four of Cillian, Aidan, Andy and Jason Doherty had a significant deficit in speed to the Dublin defence. Only Diarmuid and Kevin McGloughlin/Paddy Durcan when they went forward were able to make any in-roads. You will simply not beat Dublin giving up such a speed advantage to their defence over our forwards on average.

  11. Jp, maybe the jackeens are faster but it still was just a 1 point victory over 160 minutes and the jacks got every break imaginable, so it was not speed that stopped Mayo, more of sheer bad luck. The kind of bad luck that only comes to us unfortunately!
    Anyways, to hell with bad luck, I am very excited about the potential the younger lads have and the experience the others have at the very top level of the game., somewhere along the line all these ingredients will produce the right result.

    Happy new year.

  12. I think you need to be able to out perform bad luck. It will catch up to you, but out perform it more often than we currently do.
    As a general point thinking back over the last five years in league and championship we haven’t controlled that many games against division one or high performing division two opposition. That consistency over a full game is lacking. Brilliant bursts for 5/10 minutes followed by ten minutes scoreless.

  13. Agree with you JP on pace. It was noticeable several times when ball broke: the Dublin backs inevitably won the chase back. Or forward. Worrying too is our inability to win high ball in man to man contests – bar Andy and Aido.

    BTW Dillo’s broken foot was significant, and was Cillian carrying some injury into the replay? The rumour mill was in full swing on this around Gills and Quinns before the off.

  14. Happy New Year, Everybody.. & Best wishes to Barry Moran who is tieing the knot later today.. We are unlikely to find the perfect formula before this year is out but we are so close now it’s all their for us in 2017!

  15. @Catcol. Both players you mentioned were moving without impediment I checked that closely before for all of our players.

  16. Huey 2016- Bernard brogan has 4 all Ireland medals, 4 national league medals, 4 all stars and is a former footballer of the year. Hard to compare him and Barry Moran.

  17. Can anybody please list the squad for next Sunday’s game? The main squad are on holidays I read somewhere

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