A village with 477 residents. A community without a local post office or shop. A GAA club with 115 members. This is the parish we have come to know so well: Mullinalaghta.
The tiny village in Co Longford served up one of the most impressive GAA success stories in recent memory on Sunday when they overcame Kilmacud Crokes to win the Leinster Football Club final.
As Donegal sports fans wondered how Gaoth Dobhair defied the odds to come out on top in Ulster, Barry Mulligan, a Letterkenny taxi man, a Mullinalaghta native, headed south to Leinster to watch his beloved parish take on an outfit that were crowned All-Ireland champions twice before.
Barry, who is the uncle of Mullinalaghta’s captain Shane Mulligan and Francis Mulligan, left the village in 1968 for Dublin before making the move North to Donegal in 1971.
A retired Garda Officier, Mulligan said ‘never in his wildest dreams’ did he think he would see his home village win a Leinster Football Club final.
“I don’t think I thought, or anybody ever thought, that we’d get to a Leinster Final, but that team has been together these last five or six years.
“They were beaten four or five years ago in the County final and for the last three years, they have won it. Three or four of them players are county players as well, which is unique for a small parish.
For Mulligan, his connection to the Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s GAA club remains strong, 54 years after leaving the village.
“My brother lives down there, Shane (Mulligan) and Frances (Mulligan) father, and they still play with the senior club.
“We’re such a small community that we are all like brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts and everything else.”
He may have left Mullinalaghta 54 years ago but it never left him. Back from watching his nephew lift the cup yesterday , Barry Mulligan is a happy man today in Letterkenny.@Ronanmull78 pic.twitter.com/L8dqvzMiny
— John Haran (@johnjazzharan) December 10, 2018
Mullinalaghta waited 66 years for their last Longford Senior Championship in 1950, a year shy of Barry’s birth in 1951, before the half-parish claimed success in 2016.
Discussing St. Columba’s first success many years ago, Mulligan was able to pick out the stark generational succession between the two final victories.
“It’s amazing, the success in recent years, it’s like a fairytale almost, but that team has been so well-gelled together.
“Now, the last time they won a Longford Senior final was in 1950. At that time, two of my uncles, Jimmy Reilly and Frank Reilly, also played.
“And they would’ve been two great-uncles of the two Mulligans, Shane and Kevin Mulligan. Then you had Packie Rodgers and he would have been a great-uncle of Gary Rodgers, who scored the winning penalty.
“There is plenty of connection between that 1950 victory and the team that has brought success in recent years, which, I suppose, is the third generation that is coming through now.”
The 67-year-old couldn’t hide his delight when he spoke of Mullinalaghta’s Christmas miracle, admitting his pride was at large for his two nephews.
“Absolutely, I was absolutely over the moon for the two boys. To see Shane (Mulligan) captain the team and Francis (Mulligan) lift that trophy is something I’ll never forget. It is fantastic.
“It is something that they will never forget either,” Mulligan added. “You know, once this team goes, there is very little coming up behind them.
“They need to enjoy these moments for what they are. They have done brilliant, without a doubt. They have really come through for the parish.”
As St. Columba’s take some well-deserved time off before preparing for their first ever All-Ireland Senior Club semi-final against Kerry’s Dr. Crokes, Mulligan has one wish post-Christmas.
“What truly would be amazing now, is if we could get up to see a Mullinalaghta and Gaoth Dobhair All-Ireland final in Croke Park on St. Patrick’s Day,” Mulligan laughed. “That will be my wish for the final, what a day that would be.”