It’s a rare privilege for journalists at GAA headquarters — to mingle with players, management and officials on the hallowed Croke Park sod after a big game. The famous steps of the Hogan Stand are occupied by jubilant Moy players. Out on the pitch, their Michael Glavey’s counterparts are left crestfallen on what has been the biggest day in the club’s history.
Paul Earley has been part of plenty of big days in the Glavey’s and Roscommon colours. His views on Shannonside FM have been articulated with emotion and honesty over the last seven days. From the lofty heights of the Hogan Stand’s upper tier, he has made his way pitchside to commiserate with the players in the jersey he once wore with distinction. He has a quiet word for Seán Cavanagh too, which is much appreciated by the former Tyrone captain.
He gathers his thoughts and reflects on a match that witnessed a Glavey’s revival against the odds in the knowledge that it was never likely to procure the desired result
“I thought that Glavey’s responded really well (in the second half). It’s amazing what happens sometimes, when everything is against you. When the game looks out of reach, you sometimes start playing football. You play with abandon, you just go for it. It’s funny that Glavey’s played their best football when they went down to 14 men.
“For a moment, maybe there was an opportunity but they needed to get a goal. Football is like that. You lose a goal early on. A Tyrone team gets four or five points ahead of you, we’ve seen over the years that it’s very hard to get that back. In hindsight, their (early) goal was the key,” he felt.
Many of the Glavey’s players felt that key decisions hadn’t gone their way during the game, and Earley concurred alongside acknowledging that the best team had prevailed.
“I was disappointed with some of the marginal decisions the referee made. They didn’t go our way, even the throw-in when Stephen Comer picked up the break. He hit the ground with a couple of players around him. Lots of referees would have given him a free but the free went the other way and they got the goal. There were quite a few of those, and that was disappointing.
“Glavey’s are not a dirty team. They play football all the time. Yet they ended up with four or five yellow cards, and a red. A lot of that was borne out of frustration.
“But, look, the better team won. Losing Cathal Heneghan was a huge blow — one of your key scorers up front. Yet you would have to be really proud in terms of the way they responded in the second half.
“It was a magnificent response to adversity. I love what Iain (Daly) did at half time. He pushed Gary Patterson up into the half-forward line. We put our key players up the field. It was a statement of intent. We died with our boots on,” he remarked.
Now comes the hard part. When the excitement of the last few weeks dies down, Glavey’s must return to normality and prepare for the bread and butter of the local league and championship. Yet Earley feels that the rollercoaster journey of the past few months will stand to the West Roscommon club.
“The key is to build on this, and not drop down (to intermediate level) again. Iain has done a great job and they’ve showed great consistency throughout the campaign. They’ve also shown an ability to win big games under pressure and play well. There was nothing bigger than the Connacht final, and they produced a quality performance to beat a high quality team (Claregalway).
“Then, to come back after Christmas and show a different side — that resilience against Kilanerin when they were a few points down early on, not playing well in key areas of the field and still winning. So, the future looks bright,” he predicted.
Despite Saturday’s reversal, Earley was left in no doubt that his native club’s exploits had left a lasting legacy in the parish.
“I think that it has lifted the spirits of everybody. For everyone associated with the club, including the officials down through the years, nobody ever dreamed about being in Croke Park. But it vindicates all the time they have put in. They set a platform that allowed a group of players and management to flourish.
“I was down in Ballinlough on Thursday night (last) at a Mass, and there was a great turnout. I was thinking to myself that there mightn’t be 80,000 people here today but the people that are here are the people that matter.
“The families, the close friends and the neighbours of the players, the club officials who have devoted their lives to building a great club, the coaches who have seen these young players and nurtured and developed them, and inspired a love of the game in them, and the younger players who are coming up here to see a new set of heroes, new idols — that will drive them on to perform, better themselves and raise their standards over the next number of years.
“The club goes on, win or lose, but this will give everyone a huge lift in the community because something extraordinary has been achieved in getting to Croke Park, and let’s build on that for the future,” he conc