Community is what makes Mourneabbey great

Community is what makes Mourneabbey great

Mourneabbey players and sisters, from left, Aisling and Niamh O’Sullivan celebrate with their family last season. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

IT'S just gone 9.30pm and the outside temperature reads at 2 degrees. It feels colder with the bitter wind as the Mourneabbey ladies footballers end a training session just over a week out from their All-Ireland final in Limerick.

As the girls come off the pitch no-one is complaining about the cold, except maybe selector Con O'Sullivan, but if it was 20 degrees it would probably still be too cold for him!

Just then a van pulls up outside the clubhouse and out pops Timmy O'Callaghan and from the van he brings out enough soup and sandwiches to feed an army. Tim was delivering them that night, but it has been a job that Jerry O'Sullivan in particular, father of four sisters on the team, has been doing for years.

Tim has no idea who I am nor did I now who he was other than him being the father of players Maire and Sile.

But he had no hesitation in inviting me in for some soup and sandwiches saying, 'shear there is plenty to go around.'

This supply of hot soup and sandwiches is something that has become a great bond for this side over the years as they sit/stand around and chat and share a joke after another tough training session.

But there is far more to this gesture than just the soup and sandwiches as it epitomises all that is good about Mourneabbey Ladies Football Club and indeed the Mourneabbey community.

These girls know who they represent every time they pull on that jersey and they do so with pride for all the people behind the scenes that allow them to just take to the pitch and play. Add in their sponsor, a local company Barrell Groundworks, who have been supporting them for some time.

They have a great relationship with their men's club, Clyda Rovers, with both sides offering each other massive support for many years now.

Their pitch is a community pitch, effectively run by the Mourneabbey Community Association and together with the two clubs they have developed playing facilities to match any in the country.

This close relationship has been built up over the years and it was again shown last Sunday week when they took on Donaghmoyne in the All-Ireland semi-final.

It was their first home game in four years and the quality of the pitch was, in the words of their captain Brid O'Sullivan, 'as good as the surface at Croke Park.'

That didn't come about by accident and it took a lot of hard work and cooperation of many to ensure it was that way.

It meant some sides were maybe denied access for a training session or two to protect it, but no-one complained as they were all aware of what was at stake.

The pride of the parish was at stake and everyone was going to ensure all was done to let the team take to the pitch and they would take care of the rest.

From the community association people like Noel Walsh and Liam Madden are there to discuss and help in any way they can.

The club is currently under the chairmanship of Ken O'Connell, who started his career with Blackrock and St Michael's, but is considered one of their own now.

Others involved at committee level include the likes of Willie Walsh, Derry Cronin and Aisling Murphy.

Derry and Aisling are both involved with the team as well, but also fulfill other roles within the club and just like all the others know it's about the community and the support they have from that community every time they take to the pitch.

A number of years ago their travels to the All-Ireland final took them across to England and it felt like a home match such was the support that travelled with the squad.

Indeed that can be said of any game, no matter where they play, the support is there in numbers and will always be there. Of course it's easy to support a winning side, but these supporters have been there through the tough days as well and would have felt the loss of those four All-Ireland finals almost as much as the players themselves.

The joy when they finally won last year was a sight to behold as these supporters joined the players on the pitch to start the celebrations that went on for a few days.

Over the last six years this squad has bonded this close community even closer together and long may it continue.

So when those girls take to the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday they know who they are representing, they know that community will be there in numbers to support them and they know no matter what they will always be there.

The person delivering the soup and sandwiches might change, but they will still arrive as this is a community superbly represented by a superb ladies football team.

Mourneabbey is a special place, with lots of special people who neither want or look for the limelight.

They are there for each other, will continue to be there for each other and it's rare these days to see the type of community spirit you see in Mourneabbey.

Long may it continue and long may their ladies footballers keep representing them with pride on the local and national stage.

More in this section

Sponsored Content