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'There were scenes we'd never seen before, it meant so much to so many people'

After a series of county final losses, Roscommon champions Padraig Pearses start out in Connacht today.

Padraig Pearses players celebrate their victory.
Padraig Pearses players celebrate their victory.
Image: Tom O'Hanlon/INPHO

HOW MANY WAYS can you have your heart broken in the club GAA arena?

For Padraig Pearses the setbacks were many and frequent.

Eight times they had pitched up on Roscommon senior football final day. One draw was the most positive outcome they had achieved, the other seven times saw them come up short.

A day of deliverance then in Dr Hyde Park three weeks ago as they entered the winners enclosure at last and got their hands on the Fahy Cup.

mark-richardson-with-cup-in-hand-celebrates-with-teammates Padraig Pearses players celebrate their victory.

“It’s calmed down now but we’d a great week of it,” says Niall Daly, the county senior who fires their charge from midfield.

“There was a lot of excitement locally. There were scenes we’d never seen before, it meant so much to so many people.”

The significance is easy to appreciate when the setbacks are reeled off. A pair of junior clubs Moore and Taughmaconnell banded together in 1962 for the birth of Padraig Pearses. They lost a pair of senior deciders in the 60s but it in this century that the final losses have noticeably started to mount up – 2005, 2008, 2012, 2015 and 2016.

St Brigid’s bettered them on three occasions, one of them en route to being crowned kings of Ireland and have rolled out talented sides relentlessly over the past couple of decades. The defeat to Castlerea St Kevin’s by a point after a replay in 2008 was wounding, the reversal by the same narrow margin four years ago against Clann na nGael was equally tough to take.

When victory did arrive, it was in a tense and dramatic fashion. They had to hang on during a frantic injury-time phase to repel the late advances of Roscommon Gaels last month.

niall-daly-with-mark-healy-and-paul-gleeson Niall Daly in action in the Roscommon county final. Source: Tom O'Hanlon/INPHO

“The club had lost seven finals and I’d lost three so there was huge relief on the day,” says Daly.

“The way the game panned out, we were fairly relieved they didn’t come back all the way at us. We were panicking a small bit, it was only natural it would happen I suppose with our history in finals. Thankfully we just held on.”

What changed? The transformation to winners was more incremental than sudden. Pat Flanagan – well-versed in coaching after spells with Offaly, Westmeath, Sligo and various clubs – took charge at the outset of 2018.

Daly sketches out the impact of their boss.

pat-flanagan-celebrates-after-the-final-whistle Victorious Padraig Pearses manager Pat Flanagan.

“He’s been there, done it before. Once the lads hear that, they buy into it. We took each game on its merits, hadn’t been looking ahead. That’s the attitude Pat had. With the club having the history we had, getting us over the line is a huge achievement for him. He’s had a great influence on the club.

“There’s really good lads with him there in Niall Murray, Aidan Fallon and Gerry Kelly. They’ve been of huge help and assistance, they’re all local. There’s great professionalism in the setup. This is Pat’s second year, we lost the quarter-final last year to Roscommon Gaels by a point.

“The players went back last November. We did train hard. In fairness to the boys they put their heads down, did well in the league this year which in previous years we wouldn’t have done as well. I think the winning gave us confidence and belief. When the five Roscommon lads came back, boys were in good shape and there was big competition for places.”

Daly, a secondary school teacher in Moate. is part of that Roscommon group. He departed with the man-of-the-match award in June after Galway had been taken down in a Connacht final. His brothers Ronan and Conor provided company in that defence along with another Pearses man in David Murray. The club representation was swelled further by substitute Hubert Darcy.

niall-daly

The Daly family influence extended further in the club triumph with Lorcan starting at wing-forward, his older brothers situated nearby in the centre-back and midfield spots.

“That was great for us to win with the county and for the club. Especially when we were all involved with four starting and Hubert came on to make such a big impact on the game.

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“On the way home we pulled into the Pearses club, just off the motorway. There was a huge crowd there to welcome us back.

“Then it was just great to get over the line together in the county final. Myself, Conor and Ronan have been there with the club and Roscommon for the last few years playing with each other. Lorcan is after breaking onto the team now which is great for him. We were all delighted with it.”

The decade concludes for Daly in the same fashion as it began, the collection of a county senior medal. This 2019 Roscommon success completes a striking double. College life took him to UCC and football was a core part of his education under the guidance of Billy Morgan and others.

In 2011 he won a Sigerson Cup and a Cork senior medal. The latter feat was matched last Sunday by another Roscommon native with James McDermott playing midfield for Nemo Rangers.

“This one is very special but that one with UCC was special at the time. We’d great celebrations then too. To win one with the lads you grew up with, trained from U6 on with, it’s wonderful.

“Myself and James, he’s from Roscommon Gaels, would have played together, he’s a great lad. A doctor in Cork. We actually played midfield together against New York, that game where Roscommon a few years ago only won by a point. He’s a great lad, a top player and big loss to his club and county.”

Now they venture forward to the Connacht scene. Daly reached a Munster final in UCC colours eight years ago against a Dr Crokes outfit weighed down with star names.

daithi-casey-under-pressure-from-niall-daly-and-sean-kiely Niall Daly in action against Dr Crokes in the 2011 Munster club final. Source: Cathal Noonan

At home in their corner of south Roscommon, Padraig Pearses have watched neighbours St Brigid’s and Clann na nGael head off on provincial journeys over the year, along with other clubs nearby across the border in Galway and Westmeath.

Today is their turn, flying the Roscommon senior flag against Sligo’s Tourlestrane.

They’ve had enough dejection, the trip to Markievicz Park will be savoured.

About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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