THE RESIDENTS OF Dingle have waited 61 years for a chance to embrace the build-up to county senior final day so the mania that has engulfed the West Kerry town this week can be easily forgiven.
Dingle players have lined out on West Kerry divisional teams that have sampled the marquee day of Kingdom club football since that 1951 appearance. But featuring on their own will be an occasion to savour.
Tomorrow in Austin Stack Park there is an opportunity to become the first Dingle team since 1948 to claim the Bishop Moynihan Cup against three-in-a-row chasing Dr Crokes.
Dingle attacker David Geaney is based in Dublin these days, teaching out in Gaelcoláiste Reachrann in Donaghmede. Living in Stillorgan the only flags he sees this week concern Kilmacud Crokes, who appear in Monday night’s Dublin football decider.
But hearing tales of the bunting festooned around the town and the giant penguin clad in a club jersey outside the Dingle Aquarium, has increased the excitement ahead of tomorrow’s clash.
“It’s a huge thing for the town. My grand-uncle Tom Gega O’Connor, who captained Kerry to the All-Ireland in 1939, won counties with Dingle in the 40’s.
“A lot of great players have tried since then but haven’t managed to reach a senior final. We only came up senior after winning the intermediate in 2004 against Annascaul. The club had won three intermediates around the late 80’s and early 90’s but they turned down the option of going up senior.
“When we went senior, we’d a very young team and were struggling to stay up. We got some tough draws as well against the Ghaeltacht, Dr Crokes and South Kerry. And we ended up having to beat Listowel Emmett’s and John Mitchels in two relegation finals to stay up.
“There was rumblings in the club about dropping down and we’d go in with West Kerry. But we thought we should give it a rattle for a few years as we’d a young team.”
Two years ago they reached a county semi-final against Austin Stacks. They lost by two points but it proved a learning experience.
“I think the nerves got to us. We were doing a drill before the game in Fitzgerald Stadium and the Stacks fans arrived and walked through it. It shook a lot of our younger fellas.
“The difference is very evident this year. We’re much more relaxed and no fella is getting nervous.. The management have been excellent as well. Murt Moriarty, a nephew of Micheal O Muircheartaigh, is the manager while Seamus Dowd then does the coaching.”
Last year they faltered badly but there was a resolve in 2012 to address that. They had a decent core to build on. Geaney was involved with the Kerry seniors last season and his brother Mikey was on Jack O’Connor’s squad this year.
Their cousin Paul is poised to make that step as well and was the shining light in attack when UCC won last year’s Cork SFC. Their midfield duo of Colm Benny Moriarty and Dara O’Sullivan have both lined out for Kerry U21 teams of late.
And full-forward Billy O’Connor has been a revelation. He did not feature at underage level as his sporting endeavours focused on rugby in school in the North Tipperary town of Roscrea.
But a few years ago David’s uncle Colm was in charge of the Dingle seniors and he drafted O’Connor in, spotting potential to work on. After firing six goals in his last three games, O’Connor has been a major discovery.
With their former inter-county stars absent, Diarmuid Murphy (retirement) and Tommy Griffin (injury), Dingle’s young side have had to grow and develop.
Tommy Griffin is ruled out through injury for Dingle tomorrow. Pic: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan
The decision to enter the Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta every year has been helpful as well.
“Robbie Griffin our selector, pushed the idea of going to the Comórtas,” reveals Geaney. “It’s very intense and it’s helped develop a great spirit. We’ve been to Rosmuc, Belmullet and Gweedore.
“It’s amazing the amount of fellas whose Irish has improved and that we now use. There’d be a few of us who are fluent. My own mother has very good Irish so I’ve been speaking it for years.”
As the season has continued, the commitment required has increased. Geaney moved to Dublin in August after previously teaching in Limerick. Over the past couple of months he has trained with St Peter’s Dunboyne and after they got knocked out of the Meath championship, he kicks ball or goes to the gym with Mayo’s Seamus O’Shea, who he was in college with in UL.
Geaney is accustomed to training with other clubs. In his years in Limerick he was introduced to Monaleen by a college friend Ger Barry and trained frequently with them to sharpen his football.
“We can’t travel home for midweek training, it’s just too far. I remember last year when we lost to Austin Stacks in the league final, I looked at the programme after and there was 23 of the 30 man panel based at least two and a half hours away from home.
“So we have started training in Tralee over the last couple of years in IT Tralee or else in Na Gaeil, who have been very good to us. I’ve been fortunate that the likes of Monaleen and Dunboyne have been very good to me.”
The sacrifices have been worth it with tomorrow in mind.
“It’s been a long time coming,” says Geaney. “I’m 27 and I’ve been playing 10 years adult football for Dingle. I used to watch An Ghaeltacht reach county finals, I was in school with Muiris MacGearailt and Conal O Cruadhlaoich would be a great friend of mine
“You’re wondering would you ever get to play in one yourself. So it means an awful lot to the players and everyone in the town. It’s a big task. I know a lot of the Crokes boys.
“Pat O’Shea would have coached me at minor with Kerry and taught me a lot. I’d be good friends with Kieran O’Leary as well. Look we’re outsiders but we’ve nothing to lose.”