By Niall Gartland
WHETHER Shannon Gaels are punching above their weight is for you to decide, but for a club with low numbers they’re certainly doing rather well in the Cavan Junior Championship these days.
They won their one and only Junior Championship title in 1989, but they’ve been in a few finals since, most recently in 2019, where they lost to a rampant Killinkere side.
The Gaels are on the cusp of another final showdown, having eked out a one-point victory over Mountnugent at the weekend, and they’re now preparing for a last-four clash against Drung.
Their victory was also noteworthy for the surprise appearance of Cavan senior player Caoimhin McGovern. The 19-year-old was diagnosed with Stage Two Lymphoma and is undergoing treatment at the moment, and he came off the bench to help inspire his side to victory.
Manager Tom O’Reilly, who is also the club’s vice-chairman, said: “We had a good win over Mountnugent. They’re a good team. They’d won all their matches in the championship before our quarter-final.
“We met them in the first round and they beat us by seven points. We’ve improved as the championship has gone on, and one or two lads came back from injury, but we’re still low on numbers. We have four fellas with long-term injuries, lads away to college, and all those things affect a club like ours.”
O’Reilly considers their semi-final clash against Drung a 5050 contest, but that the two championship favourites, Denn and Knockbride, are set to meet in the other side of the draw.
“It’s even keel between us and Drung. Both of us would be seen as the two weaker teams. The big ones are on the other side. We’d probably be seen as the weakest team left but we’d be close enough to Drung. Denn and Knockbride are both Division Two teams.”
Emigration has been a particular problem for Shannon Gaels and the bulk of the team that reached the Junior Championship final in 2007 headed away for pastures new. Reaching this year’s semi-final is an achievement in itself for the club.
“The Junior championship in Cavan is of a good standard. I’m not blowing it up but it’s all first teams in it, and we have Division Two teams. Killinkere were in Division One the year they won the final. Every time we were in the final, we were beaten by a team that were going to Division One or were in Division One.”