By Niall Gartland
HAVE Gowna timed their run to perfection as they stand on the cusp of the two in-a-row in Cavan?
They put Crosserlough to the sword in the semi-finals of the championship for the second year running – the performance of the championship to date as they ran out 1-18 to 0-14 victors with an outstanding second-half display to set up Sunday’s final showdown against Kingscourt (Kingspan Breffni, 4pm).
The parallels with last year would seem to be uncanny. Gowna have been slow burners this year and last but once they come to the boil, they’re not just good but downright excellent.
Last year’s Senior Championship triumph was a long time in coming as they finished on the winner’s podium for the first time in two decades, and now that itch has been scratched, how this particular team would love to create a legacy of their own.
Present club chairman is Cathaldus Hartin, who won four senior championship medals amid a golden period for the club between 1988 and 2002 in which they won seven county titles.
They had star performers all over the park in their scintillating victory over Crosserlough including Ryan Donohoe and Cian and Tiernan Madden (pictured).
Reflecting on their run to the final, their third in as many years, Hartin said:
“We’ll see how it goes in the final but so far the similarities with last year have been uncanny. Like last year it probably took us a bit of time to meet the standards that are required, but in the quarter-final replay against last year’s beaten finalists Killygarry we were very sharp and we produced another big performance in a repeat of last year’s semi-final against a strong Crosserlough side.
“Our improvement as the campaign has gone on might be down to the structure of the season. We play the majority of our league campaign without a number of our players.
“We missed having four Cavan u-20s at the start of the league and we didn’t have five or six Cavan seniors until the final league game of the year. Throw in a few injuries and lads away travelling, and it probably just takes us a little while longer to get up and running in the championship.”
Hartin continued: “There were positives to take from that, the remaining players rolled up their sleeves and took the chance to show what they had to offer and impress upon the management that they should be considered in the championship. We sailed close to the wind in the group stages of the championship but it’s probably benefited us in the long run.”
Reaching the pinnacle last year was a cathartic experience for a Gowna side that have spent much of the last two decades sitting at home on county final day. And it’s fair to say their reversal of fortunes hasn’t happened by chance. They’ve done the thing right at underage level and their present senior management team of Fintan Reilly and brothers-in-arms Dermot and Seamus McCabe are playing a leading role in their current success.
Standing in their way of the title are a Kingscourt Stars side hardly lacking in tradition either. It’s the third time these two teams will face off on county final day and it’s one apiece (for now) with Kingscourt winning in 1993 and Gowna coming out on top in 1999.
Hartin said: “Kingscourt are a great club. You only have to look at their facilities both organised and planned to see that they’re supremely well-organised.
“They’ve also been a very consistent club down the years and right now have a superb group of players who represent their club really well.
“We’d a great rivalry with them down the years and I’ve been around long enough to appreciate that they’re a club who improve the further they go in any given championship. They’re definitely formidable opponents.”
Whatever happens on Sunday, both sets of players will shake hands at the final whistle. Football isn’t everything and that was put into sharp focus by events earlier this year, when Yanna Hartin, a member of Gowna LFGA and an important part of the local community, sustained life-changing injuries in an accident on her way to her summer job at the Farnham Estate Hotel.
Yanna is the daughter of Cathaldus’ brother Gavin (a former Gowna captain) and Lukia. It’s been an exceptionally difficult time but Cathaldus says that the support from Gowna and beyond has been phenomenal. The community has also established a fund-raising campaign aimed at supporting Yanna’s quality of living.
Cathaldus said: “Yanna was involved in an accident earlier this year and sustained life-changing injuries. The community have come together to organise a fundraiser aimed at supporting her in her immediate and long-term requirements – to adapt her accommodation and transport needs, support with medical requirements and so on.
“We’ve set up a coffee for Yanna fundraiser and we’ve got an iDonate page. People come on and have their coffee donated to the fundraiser and nominate other people to do likewise.
“It’s been really successful to date and the support and collective resilience shown by the community has been just astonishing.
“Gavin and Lukia have been overwhelmed by the support. When it comes to events like these, rivalries in the GAA are placed to one side and the support of our fellow Gaels has been outstanding.
“Yanna has been transferred to the national rehabilitation centre in Dun Laoghaire and that’s a significant milestone. She’s a great example of someone who is supremely positive in extremely difficult circumstances and she’s an inspiration to us all.”
Readers can get involved by donating to Yanna Hartin’s fundraising programme in aid of her recovery at the following link: https:www.idonate.iecrowdfunderYannasfourleafclover