Saturday, June 22, 2024

Club Focus: Enduring spirit of St Loman’s is to be greatly admired

There was a time when the St Loman’s GAA Club, Mullingar was in danger of fading into the abyss, but the spirit and determination of hugely committed and determined volunteers ensured it survived. The rest, as they say, is history.
It’s remarkable to think that the Mullingar club, whose impressive facilities on the Delvin road are the envy of most other organisations, is now the only club formed from a direct link to a Mental Hospital that is still surviving. All other clubs around the country with a similar profile have failed to survive, their struggle to bring through players eventually catching up on them.
St Loman’s are the exception. They survived because they had people with vision and worked diligently at underage development over the years. The threat of extinction did knock on their door, too, particularly during the 1970s and ‘80s, but they refused to entertain it, instead redoubling their efforts in an all-out bid to survive and men like Liam Davitt and Liam Martin were pivotal in these difficult times. Not only did the club survive, it went from strength to strength.
Dressing rooms were built initially and those basic facilities proved so vital at the time. It’s incredible to think that since then the St Loman’s GAA Club has developed a club house, a new pitch that’s fully floodlit, and a 3G pitch in conjunction with Leinster Council and Westmeath GAA that has been vital in getting competitions completed, both in the county and at colleges level in Leinster.
The year 1984 is perhaps a seminal one in the club’s rejuvenation. It was then that they got a solid underage structure up and running and that has formed the basis for everything. In 1995 they won their first minor premier football title and in 2013 the club reached its first senior football final in 50 years with all of the players involved having come through their underage structure.
In their earlier years, St Loman’s, like all clubs connected to a mental hospital, had been relying on players who were working in St Loman’s Hospital, but there was no conveyer belt and in order to ensure they had a future, the club knew they had to address this issue.
People like the late Harry Devine and the late Joe Matthews played major roles in underage coaching, and nowadays the St Loman’s club has a well organised structure to ensure player development and the future looks bright.

The club began as Springfield Stars, playing junior from 1910 to ’14, reaching their first final in 1921. They struggled, dropping to junior ranks again before winning their way back up in ’41. They reached a senior final in 1948, this time as The Mental Hospital and they won their first title.
Senior titles followed in ’61 and ’63, but incredibly, the club was back in junior again and found itself at a very low ebb. Their very survival was at stake, but they were resilient and won the junior in ’85 and the intermediate in ’86. Still, they yearned for senior glory and had to wait until 2013 to celebrate.
What followed was remarkable as they won three-in-a-row in 2015, ’16 and ’17. Their quest for four-in-a-row fell short as their neighbours and nemesis Mullingar Shamrocks prevailed in a memorable senior final in 2018, while they also lost the follow year’s senior decider to Garrycastle.
The Mullingar Blues had a dream run in the Leinster Club Championship in 2017, reaching the final, where they looked likely winners against Kildare’s Moorefield, only for the latter to somehow snatch victory with a late flurry of scores, 1-4 in total, to win by a point, 1-14 to 2-10. At the end of normal time, St Loman’s, Mullingar were on course for victory, but after five minutes of added time, Moorefield had somehow turned it around in what was a truly extraordinary game at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise.
Ken Casey and Ronan O’Toole had bagged second half goals for St Loman’s to put them six points clear by the 54th minute, but alas, the dream of Leinster glory failed to become a reality and they must wait for another day to realise this particular goal.

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