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I before the Leinster Club semi-final last year in Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, Longford, between Dublin side St. Vincents and Longford’s St. Columba’s, Mullinalaghta, a Dub commented to a local man “Where are all the Columba’s supporters?” To which, the local replied:  “Most of them are out there playing!” While it wasn’t entirely the case, there was a ring of truth to it.

The parish of Mullinalaghta has a population of about 450. It is unique in that it’s a half parish with the other half being Gowna in Co. Cavan; a different county and province. There’s Keogh’s pub, the church, a community hall and school, but the heartbeat of the area is their football club; St. Columba’s.

Last year the club bridged a 66 year gap to claim the Longford Senior Football Championship. They had been coming good in recent years and got to the final in 2014 only to lose to Emmet Og, Killoe but 2016 was their year. They also claimed the Leader Cup to complete a remarkable double.

As County Champions they represented Longford with pride and were beaten by St. Vincent’s in the Leinster semi-final. They defeated Laois side Stradbally and Westmeath champions St. Loman’s along the way.

The win over the Westmeath side was a huge achievement for Mullinalaghta and their run in Leinster last year has helped them mature. They drew on their Leinster experience this year, when they were in tight situations in the championship; coming from three points down against Killoe to force a replay and two against Clonguish to draw another. They eventually went on to retain the Longford Championship.

The man at the helm is Cavan’s Mickey Graham but he’s definitely one of their own now. There is no denying the bond between the manager and players. For years Mullinalaghta had the players but didn’t really have the belief or confidence: Graham changed all that. They are unbeaten in Co. Longford for almost 18 months and have an unrelenting hunger to win games.

The players are a tight bunch with many brothers and cousins on the panel. They play for one another and the jersey means everything to them. It’s who they are; it’s their identity. They’ve also got a loyal band of supporters who have been there with them all the way, through the bad times and are now, thankfully, enjoying the good times.

This year could be the best yet for the club; they’ve won the championship and league and are in the Leader Cup final but first they have a small matter of a Leinster Club quarter-final tie with St. Loman’s on Sunday in Longford. The Westmeath side will no doubt be out to avenge last year’s defeat and Columba’s will be fully aware of that.

One thing is for sure this wee half-parish will not be found wanting on Sunday.