Geraldines would have had mixed feelings over Truagh’s brilliant win in the All-Ireland IF Club Championship final at Croke Park the Sunday before last.
Delighted to have seen their semi-final conquerors win the title, no doubt, but at the same time wondering what might have been had they been able to conjure one more score from that match at Crossmaglen back in late January.
Gers weren’t at their best at the Rangers’ grounds, turning in a particularly poor first half. But they fought back in the last quarter, getting on terms with the Monaghan champions. A score late on might have done it for them, but when going all out for it, they left room at the back, which Truagh exploited, scoring a deciding goal.
Defeat not only deprived Geraldines of a place in the All-Ireland final, but also the chance to play at Croke Park. A Gers team was there before – not in an All-Ireland final, but in action at Croke Park.
Six weeks after beating Kilkerley Emmets at St Brigid’s Park in 1982, scoring a first-ever Joe Ward Cup win, Gers played Ballymun Kickhams in the opening round of the Leinster Cup Championship.
It wouldn’t happen today, but at the time there was a more liberal use of Croker for club matches, and, so, on October 31, Pat Lynch led his men out to play against Ballymun Kickhams. This was new territory for both teams; Kickhams win earlier that year had given them a first county senior title.
The Dubs had Barney Rock included, and this outstanding footballer, who, when his playing days were over took to coaching, including Stabannon Parnells among the teams he had care of, played a pivotal role in his side’s 0-13 to 1-4 win.
There are strong family links between the current Gers side and the one that played 32 years ago. John Thornton was a dashing half-back on the ‘82 team, while Colm Mackin played at right corner-forward. In a way, roles have been reversed. Speedy Mark 2 started on the left-wing in Cross, and it was at full-back where Nicky Mackin lined out.
Newtown Blues and Cooley Kickhams are others who’ve seen action at Croke Park. Blues featured in the first Leinster SFC final, playing Offaly’s Gracefield in 1971. The Louth champions held a one-point lead with fifteen minutes remaining, but were three points down at the finish, 0-12 to 0-9.
Cooley were at Croke Park twice with the space of eleven months. Their January 30 meeting with Portlaoise, which they lost 1-12 to 0-8, was in the 1976/’77 final, and then in November, Meath’s Summerhill beat them 2-6 to 2-4 at the semi-final stage of the following season’s competition.