By Damian Dolan.
If Fullen Gaels continue their upward curve in the All Ireland Club Championship, then all things considered they should be champions by February, and few could argue that they haven’t earned it.
Of course, things are never that straightforward, and Leinster and Offaly champions Ballinamere will have something to say about that. But quarter-finalists in 2010, semi-finalists in 2011/12 and finalists this year, the Manchester club have grown in their tournament with every year, soaking up the experience and learning the lessons of each campaign.
Captain Conal Maskey has been there from the start, when Cork’s Meelin served up a 13-point defeat on Fullen’s All Ireland debut. It was a sobering baptism of fire for the Manchester side and Charleville was another harsh learning experience. But they’ve taken their beatings and emerged stronger and wiser for them.
It nearly all came together when they saw off the champions of Sligo and Down to reach Croke Park in February, only to fall agonisingly short to Kilkenny’s Thomastown, but only by three points.
It’s been an extraordinary four-year All Ireland journey for Maskey, and for a club founded as recently as 2005, and it all began against Meelin.
For more see this week’s edition of the Irish World.