Image: Trevor Naughton
As you all may know from my ramblings on here, my father Michael is originally from Lahardane and he is the proud uncle of team captain Gary Naughton. Ahead of this weekend’s match myself and Dad tried to get a flavour of what this year has meant to the club and its supporters and what the craic and excitement was like in the build up to the semi-final.
It’s a long way from the village of Lahardane to Croke Park but if we beat Leinster champions Multyfarnham of Westmeath in the All-Ireland Junior club football championship semi-final in Hyde Park in Roscommon on Saturday (throw-in 2pm) that’s exactly where Lahardane MacHales will be headed.
The Lahardane MacHales GAA club, named after Archbishop John MacHale, was formed in 1966 with Toss Gibbons (Club President) among others involved in its set-up. Over the years the club is proud to have had representatives wear the Mayo jersey at various levels:
- Padraig Garrett RIP (1985 minor panellist)
- Declan Leonard (1996 Minor & 1998/1999 U21)
- Vinnie Cawley (1996 Minor & 1998 U21)
- Shane Blake (1996 Minor)
- Anthony McDermott (1996 & 1997 Minor & 1999 U21)
- James Gillespie (1996 U21)
- Ray McDermott (1998 Vocational Schools All Ireland winner)
- Cormac Rowland (1999 & 2000 Minor)
- Chris Barrett (2004 U21)
- Adrian Leonard (2010 Minor & 2017 Junior)
- Barry Leonard (2013-2017 Junior)
- James Maughan (2017 Junior)
In 2017, Barry Leonard, James Maughan and Adrian Leonard all represented Mayo at Junior level. Although Willie Joe is not one for rumours, I can assure you that it is well known down in Murphy’s of Lahardane that Gary Naughton (the Benjamin Button midfielder) is being lined up by Stephen Rochford to partner Tom Parsons on the county senior team this year.
The effect John Maughan has had since he became manager of the club’s adult team has been incredible. He led his charges to a first ever adult county title victory in what was the club’s first county final since the 1985 loss to Islandeady. The bonfires burned brightly as the lads arrived back to the village with the treasured silverware and anyone I’ve spoken to has said that that day and night will live long in the memory.
Indeed, William Barrett painted the picture very well when he talked about “the outpouring of emotion the evening of the county final. In my 38 years with the club I never witnessed anything like it. Grown men hugging and crying and I was one of the worst of them! Probably one of the smallest clubs in the country with about 150 members but we have a heart that pounds as big and as strong as the rest of them.”
Frankie Gibbons (former player and under age selector) told how “winning the county title this year was unbelievable, on the pitch afterwards was magic, the atmosphere and elation and the sheer joy of the supporters was unbelievable. I have seen all the local clubs winning county titles over the years and wondered would we ever have that hour of glory and when it came it was magnificent. For too long we were on the hind tit”.
The county final victory was closely followed by the clubs maiden Connacht title win in MacHale Park on 19 November 2017. On that famous day in November, a large amount of people, originally from Lahardane but now residing elsewhere, travelled from all over Ireland (and further) to be there to support the team on its biggest day. Many of those people proudly brought their own sons and daughters along too.
While those sons and daughters may have been born and raised elsewhere, they clearly have a close relationship with the village and were so proud to be there to savour the victory. The smiles on everyone’s faces made it clear how proud they were of John Maughan and the team.
Men like JP Leonard spoke about how proud he was to see lads he dealt with in the past achieve so much. Winning the Connacht title was described by one supporter as “dreamland” for a club of 150 members.
Photo: Trevor Naughton
William Barrett sums it all up well:
What we are experiencing is beyond anything we have ever witnessed before.
Every conversation is about Saturday. Questions like what do you think? Will they win it? Do you know anything about the other crowd?
From adults to children there is no escaping it. Flags are flying everywhere. It’s January, it’s wet, it’s dark, it’s cold, but everybody is in great form. You go to bed thinking about Saturday, you wake up thinking about Saturday.
All our lads and ladies scattered around the world are in contact in anticipation. Nothing before (and there have been great occasions here at the foot of Nephin) has ever brought a parish of people so close together. You meet someone in town they say “best of luck Saturday”.
There is a sense of pride, hope, confidence, trepidation, all rolled into one. Where a few short months ago a County title would be all we ever wanted in life, well now we want it all.
Frankie Gibbons was very kind to send us on some of the messages of support/memories/highlights of year that he has received.
- Toss Gibbons’ (Club President) favourite past memory was the official opening the club’s grounds in Bofeenaun after years of fundraising. He’s proud to see how the grounds have improved to the high standard of today.
- Vera Coyne said the joy of winning the county and Connacht titles surpassed the North Mayo Final in 1976 and wished Lahardane well on Saturday.
- Enda Coyne (famous Lahardane and Mayo supporter) says the highlight of the year so far for him was the WHOLE WEEK of the county final, coming back from the dead at half time to beat Kilmaine (and his in-laws!) followed by a week on the beer, a wedding on the Saturday and beating Balla on the Sunday!
- John McDonnell (former player and current club sponsor with E-Solutions) is confident Lahardane can do the business on Saturday and recalled “tough hard training under Ray Dempsey and William Barrett (lost a few teeth); high quality football playing against county players. We won no titles but I loved it. My best friends now are from that group of lads!”
- Gearoid Cronin (former player now living and working in Dubai) sent home a message saying “I’ve some great memories down the years, winning an U12 county title in 2002, some of that same group won an U21 in 2011 and are togging out this weekend. Enjoy the game, wish I could be there. Might see ye in Croke Park with the help of God.”
- Damian McMennaman (former player now based in Offaly) recalls “Winning the North Mayo Junior title against neighbours Crossmolina in 1985 and my National School teacher John Rowland scoring 1-3 in the game. Best of luck Lahardane v Multyfarnham on Saturday”.
I’ve also been asked to highlight that there is a 16-seater adult bus being organised to Hyde Park. Anyone looking to book a seat can contact William Barrett on (087) 279 6269 for details.
While for those of you unable to attend, the Lahardane Live Facebook page intends on live streaming the full game live on their page.
Photo: Trevor Naughton
Finally, on a personal note, on behalf of all the Naughtons, the Rowlands and the Mayes, I’d sincerely like to wish the lads and especially Gary, all the very best on Saturday. They’ve taken their community on a rollercoaster ride this year and, who knows, there could be a trip to Croke Park to look forward to in February.
Lahardane MacHales Abú!