Fifth title "sweetest" of them all for legend Callaghan
By Tony Tighe
When it comes to senior championship titles, Paddy Callaghan has been there and done that. But the appetite for success hasn’t waned, which makes his latest success probably the best of them all.
Callaghan is in his 11th year with Tir Chonaill Gaels and he’s marked it with a fifth county title. A two-year transition has seen the team transformed, with hoards of new faces arriving at Greenford, yet Callaghan remains.
“I think this win is the sweetest one,” said Callaghan, whose home club is Fanad Gaels. “I’m 31 now, I’ve a young daughter and am working all hours, so it was tough to put the effort in this year.
“I didn’t even tog out for any of the group games. I was told to leave it until the semi-final and then I could give a bit more commitment.
“David Harrington was unlucky to get injured in the last group game; I got in and just took it from there. It worked out well.”
Callaghan could only be impressed as he watched the Gaels edge a high-quality tussle with Fulham Irish in their championship opener, before blitzing Round Towers and Kingdom Kerry Gaels en route to finish top of their group.
The former London defender slotted in seamlessly into the full-back line for the semi-final win over St Kiernans, and found himself in somewhat unfamiliar territory last Sunday as he tracked his marker into the middle of the park. The level of performance remained the same however, and even allowed Callaghan to turn provider for a couple of scores as TCG marked their 50th anniversary year in style.
“I think the work rate we put in all is testament to us winning the county title,” said Callaghan. “There is no such thing as an easy championship, and we burst ourselves for it all year. I think we definitely deserved it.”
Callaghan has played in some fine Tir Chonaill teams, such as the one that pushed Crossmaglen all the way in 2008 All-Ireland quarter-final and won three championships in a row.
It’s difficult to compare teams but one area Callaghan believes the current side is better equipped is their strength in depth.
“This team is definitely up there,” he said. “We’ve got a strong bench, any of them could come on and do a job; the team would be no weaker.
“In other years we had a settled starting 15. I think we won three championships in a row with pretty much the same defence. Now we have about 10 lads going for the six positions in the backs. In that way we’re stronger, but only time will tell.
“Let’s see how good we are come December. That’s the ultimate.”
Callaghan revealed TCG’s gameplan for last Sunday was to start with gusto and force their defensively-minded opponents to open up. It worked a treat, and when Kevin McMenamin rattled the back of the net the cup was destined to travel a familiar route.
“We felt that if we kept moving the ball in the first 10 minutes, things would open up,” he explained. “Luckily enough it did and we got a goal at a good time. They also lost a man at a crucial time, and that made it a lot easier for us.”
Callaghan had departed the scene when KKG mustered their late rally. He describes it as a ‘complacent period’, but is confident they can iron that out prior to the Munster champions’ arrival in Ruislip in December.
The goal now for the Gaels is getting competitive games between now and then, something has proved difficult for London sides down through the years. But Callaghan believes that such is the strength of their panel, they can keep themselves ticking over with high-quality training matches.
“It’s not easy getting games between now and December but the good thing is that we’ve such a strong squad, we can play a good game of 15 on 15 among ourselves. That will definitely be a help.
“I’m just dreading the next 10 weeks now, that’s the one downside to winning the championship! It’s not a bad complaint though.”