Padraig Pearses no longer the ‘Mayo’ of Roscommon club football
Connacht final sees Roscommon champions take on Corofin in David v Goliath battle
Roscommon champions Padraig Pearses take on Corofin in their first ever Connacht final on Sunday. Photograph: Tom O’Hanlon/Inpho
Niall Daly can’t pinpoint the exact turning point in the fortunes of Padraig Pearses, but the arrival of manager Pat Flanagan two years ago comes pretty close. The rest is certainly club championship history.
Flanagan, an Offaly native, immediately declared his intention to win a county football title with Pearses, just as he’d done with his own club Clara, and Tyrrellspass of Westmeath.
The challenge with Pearses is that they’d never previously won a Roscommon senior title, and even in their relatively short history seemed destined to fall short: founded in 1962 with the merging of two rural clubs, Moore and Taughmaconnell with rural Creagh, they’d already lost eight finals in all, including 2005, two in 2008, 2012, 2015 and 2016.
“In Roscommon football terms, we were nearly seen to be the Mayo,” says midfielder Niall Daly, at 28 the oldest of the four Daly brothers on the Pearse steam, alongside Conor (26) Ronan (24) and Lorcan (21).
“Getting so close and just suffering heartache, and a bit of luck going against us.”
That luck eventually turned last month when they overcame county giants Roscommon Gaels in the 2019 final, just about, winning 2-10 to 1-10 to get their hands on the Fahy Cup. It was a nervous ending, and Daly admits that falling over the line was better than falling short.
“Absolutely. The closing minutes were very frantic. On the field you were trying to keep as calm as possible. Just the weight of history was bearing on you. We talked about it for so many years in a row, at the start of every year. And getting so close, when you get so close each time, it’s hard to get over the bridge or whatever you want to call it. The last few minutes were tough, we made life tough on the fans anyway.
“We’re training with lads from under-six upwards, and seeing tears and all that. And then seeing former players, how much it meant to them, and then club founders, how much it meant to them. It was amazing. The night in Pearses was a late one – or an early one if you want to call it that.
“Our back garden would have been fairly intense at times when we were younger, the four of us playing against each other. It definitely does make it special. On the day you’re just fighting your own corner. Mam and Dad in the stand would have been very nervous; they were probably more nervous than us. But it’s special for them.
Flanagan’s words of intent, as bold as they sounded, also helped make the difference: “Pat said it to us a good few times (that he’s won a county title with every club he coached) and you’d nearly be laughing about it at times. But when he took us over two years ago, that was his goal and he didn’t want to ruin that. And he has kept it. When you hear stuff like that, players do believe in it. It’s easy to buy into that. And you know locally – he’s won with Tyrrellspass and a few other club teams, so you know from hearing off those lads what he has done.
“Generally the last few years it’s been a similar message. Our preparation for games would be on the level of an inter-county team, so we do really prepare and do study opposition, we do all that. It’s a very professional set-up, that’s what I’d say about Pat, and the belief he has instilled in players, it probably came through how he has done in the past and players have bought into that.” He brings the professionalism of inter-county to the club.”
David versus Goliath is a desperately overused comparison in GAA club circles but we here go again: this Sunday, Pearses will take on All-Ireland winning giants Corofin from Galway in the AIB Connacht final, still on course to win an unprecedented third All-Ireland in succession. For Daly, a secondary schoolteacher in Moate, it presents both unknown and bonus territory.
“We got the weight off our shoulders, winning the county title, which was a huge thing. So we will just look at ourselves. If we can produce a performance like we produced against Roscommon Gaels for the first 40 minutes and they’re a small bit off the levels they can hit we’re going to be in with a good chance.
“In my eyes and in most people’s eyes, people kind of have a gra for their football, everyone looks at Corofin and says, ‘Jesus, what football they play’. They should be compared, I don’t know if they are, with the Dublin team at the moment like. Yeah, of course you watch them and you admire them but on Sunday we won’t be trying to do that anyway. Hopefully they’ll be admiring us.”