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17th Mar 2020

St Patrick’s day memories: Rural Caltra with one of the great underdog triumphs

Niall McIntyre

An Ghaeltacht had the Ó Sé’s at their peak, Dara Ó Cinnéide on the edge of the square, they had one third of the Kerry senior team.

Caltra were only a half-parish in east Galway without a county championship, never mind an All-Ireland club prior. Go figure.

The 2003/2004 season was about breaking new ground for the Galway lads. Never before and never since have they won a senior championship but they will always have the memories of that special season, when they came from nowhere to stun the country.

“I never thought about winning an All-Ireland, that’s mental like,” said corner back Jarlath Murray in a brilliant episode of AIB GAA Club Chronicles.

But powered on by the magical Meehans, Caltra set off on a voyage that would take them to stop number one, a comprehensive Galway final victory over Kilererin. On a slippery mess of a day in Pearse Stadium, Michael Meehan scored 1-8 and breathed new, glorious life.

Galway was the promised land but when the opportunity arises, you dream to take it. The prodigious Michael Meehan, youngest of the six brothers was too hot again as Caltra trumped Sligo’s Curry in Connacht.

Derry’s Loup were favourites, but Caltra were the winners again as they made their way to the All-Ireland club final against the mighty An Ghaeltacht, where the fairytale was supposed to end.

“I was never as nervous for a game in my life,” added Murray.

The club game was at its peak back then, the demand underestimated, not enough turnstiles open in Croker. Half of the 45’000 St Patrick’s day crowd got in for free.

Caltra were the dreamers. An Ghaeltacht were the red hot favourites.

“It’s a bigger thing than a game of football. This was about lifting the community, this was about giving them something to be proud of, this was about giving them something to talk about in ten years time, 20 years time, which they still do,” said Dara O Cinnéide.

Caltra were the better team though, the Meehan’s scoring all bar one of their points to inspire the club to a famous 0-13 0-12 win. With the last kick of the game and with the Kerry side trailing by two, Ó Cinneide saw his goal effort sail over the bar.

“It was the greatest point I’d ever seen in my life,” said Murray.

Some club. Some story.

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