By Alan Rodgers
A GROWING reputation of a top young manager has combined with the wily experience of a coach with impeccable credentials to provide the Midas touch for Galbally in their quest for honours this year.
Joe McMahon from Omagh and Paddy Crozier from Ballymaguigan in south Derry are enjoying the journey that the Pearses are taking them on. But, of course, it’s not the first time that the two have crossed paths and joined forces during the past two decades.
In 2006, Crozier was manager of the Derry team that came to Omagh and held the then All-Ireland champions, Tyrone, scoreless in the first half. That Red Hand team included McMahon, then a key member of Mickey Harte’s set-up.
Then, a decade later, it was McMahon whom Crozier turned to provide the on-field leadership as captain when Omagh, St Enda’s captured the Tyrone title in 2017.
Now, nearly six years on, McMahon says he’s still learning from his Derry colleague, and their combination has brought Galbally to the brink of Croke Park and an All-Ireland final appearance with Dunmore MacHales standing in their way on Saturday in Mullingar.
“Our job has been easy when you look at the underage structures in Galbally and the work that was put in by the previous management team. The scaffolds were there, and the whole team is learning that this is very much a journey and an experience,” he said.
“There’s a good blend of youth and experience in this squad. We’re very grateful for the way that the whole team has come together. You look back at key moments in the season, and the game against Killeeshil in the Tyrone semi-final is definitely one of those.
“To go on and end up winning an Ulster Championship means that we’re just so delighted. The lads have done everything asked from them, they’ve done the hard work and that endeavour is always a good combination.
“It’s all down to the players. You can do all the planning and the preparation, but once the ball is thrown in it’s over to the players and they’ve delivered. Everyone has a part to play and myself and Paddy are very grateful to everyone involved.”
Barry Carberry’s goal in the Ulster final against Corduff last month proved crucial, and it means that Gllbally travel in both hope and expectation to Westmeath this Saturday for the clash with the Galway and Connacht champions.
It’s a game that promises more excitement for the managers, players and supporters of the Pearses. At a wider level, though, the tie will also once more highlight the coaching exploits of both McMahon and Crozier.
‘Big Joe’, of course, is quick to point out how beneficial working alongside the former Oak Leaf county boss is. This combined with the ambitions of the players to make their mark, has ensured a healthy mixed that is proving successful for the south Tyrone club.
“This is new territory for everyone involved, including the management and the players. It’s just been a great journey and the lads have been enjoying it. That for me is the enjoyment of something because it means that you’ll always want to give your best.
“We’ll move into the semi-final and I’m sure the lads will relish the opportunity to push on. The ambition was always to get back up to Division One in Tyrone. At this stage they’re happy to get there, but it’s probably far from their minds because of the journey that we’re on.
“The teams that enter Ulster are always delighted, but there’s only going to be one winner at the end of the All-Ireland. But this success for Galbally is massive, and not just in a footballing sense. You can see the lift that it has given to the people, and they are so passionate about their club, the community and the GAA.
“Myself and Paddy, and the backroom people all have their parts to play. For me, working and learning from Paddy has been great. He managed me as a player and I had worked with him a few years before that.
“He’s totally knowledgeable about the GAA, and totally passionate about it. I’m happy to pick up anything at all from him. I’m young in my journey and very lucky to work alongside him. He’s a top class man.”
That level of experience has been vital so far for Gabally and their management duo.
Now, as the final preparations are made for the All-Ireland semi-final, the hope of all around the Pearses will be that there’s more to come from them in the coming weeks and as they return to senior football in the springtime.