By Paul Shaughnessy
This weekend CLG Oileáin Árann are preparing for their fourth Galway Intermediate Football Championship Semi-final in five years. The Islanders take on Kilconly in a repeat of last years Galway IFC Semi-final on Saturday 21st October in Pearse Stadium at 13:30 PM.
Every club across the country faces obstacles but none more so than Oileáin Árann. The club is made up of the three islands which include Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr. Immigration is the biggest challenge they face as a club which can see them loose players, along with the majority of the players relocating for works purposes.
CLG Oileáin Árann was founded in 1996 and they won the Galway junior club football championship in 2014. Their home games take place on Inis Mór and Inis Oírr during the league. The Gaeltacht club play in Division Two which saw them narrowly miss out on promotion, playing against a large number of senior clubs which has helped their development as a team.
While an away match can take up a a large proportion of the day for the players and for some players it can involve getting a plane or the ferry. The players themselves are based across the country. The Intermediate team find themselves training in different venues throughout the year which include: St Marys College, Dangan and Loughgeorge.
It’s a remarkable achievement where Oileáin Árann find themselves this year considering they have lost Colm Ó Braonáin and Tyler Ó Flaithearta, who have both away emigrated to Australia, both players would’ve lined out for Galway at junior level. It’s been tough for Ó Flaithearta, watching on from a distance but the strides his club have made don’t come as surprise to him.
‘It’s an amazing achievement when you consider the challenges we face, but from a personal perspective, I’m not surprised. Despite having small numbers, we’ve always had a great standard of footballers coming through the club. Almost everyone playing on our intermediate team has represented Galway at some grade, sometimes having multiple players on one team. And when you have many of the same core lads playing together for so many years now, you build up a great understanding of how to get the best out of everyone as a team. I feel like it’s a combination of reasons of why Aran is such a special club. When you consider the location we grow up in, the lifestyle we have to live and even the Irish language, there is almost nowhere in Ireland that has all these unique qualities that we have in Aran.
‘Even for something as simple as having everyone at a training session during championship, we can have lads travelling to Galway from all 3 islands leaving on a five o’clock ferry, who then have to spend a night at a friend or family members house in Galway that night. And we also have lads that have to leave Dublin as soon as they finish work to get to Galway for training, who then need to go straight back up after in order to be home for work the next morning. So there is a huge effort made on both sides for us to make sure we have a full panel at training. Everyone is so dedicated to the cause which you feel gives us a huge lift as a team when lads are willing to make those sacrifices.’
Ex Galway footballer Stephen Joyce manages the side. One thing you can guarantee, is that they are an organised team who play to a system. Teams always find it a challenge to break them down and they possess a huge amount of quality all over the field. This has been boosted by the return of Galway Senior footballer Sean Mulkernin who missed last year with a serious knee injury. Ex University of Galway footballer Patrick Ó Domhnaill brings huge pace along with the scoring threats of Eoghan Póil, Mairtin. Ó Goill and Cillian Ó Conghaile.
Oileáin Árann can create history this weekend by reaching their first ever Galway IFC decider, Kilconly stand in their way. Ó Flaithearta knows there is a long way to go, but he feels senior football is something which his club would relish:
‘I’m really missing the buzz in the build up to the games. It’s a very proud moment anytime you can run out onto the pitch with the lads you’ve grown up with and been through so much with. All I can do now is hope that they can get over the line without me! It would be a massive achievement for the club, we have come so close to getting to the final on so many occasions. And although we’ve never managed to get to that stage of the championship, and it would be a completely new experience for the lads, I have no doubt the lads would relish in the opportunity of trying to get us to senior!’