St Finians Newcastle were crowned Dublin Football Junior Champions on Tuesday night, and they have their sights firmly set on Amsterdam GAC in the Leinster Quarter Final.
The pair face off today in Abbotstown in what is the first time a European GAA club has played a competitive game on Irish soil.
Amsterdam GAC have played in the Leinster Junior Championship in previous years, but this is whole new territory for St Finians. The small parish club on the outskirts of Dublin, who are celebrating their 75th Anniversary, are looking to add another milestone to an incredible season.
They have had to wait a long time to win a championship at any grade. Their last triumph dated all the way back to 1949, when the Newcastle men won the Dublin Intermediate Championship, sixty-nine long years before their latest heroics.
Midfielder and Talisman Lar Harney has been in top form throughout Finian’s championship run, which has seen them play three matches in ten days including a replay with Man O War.
“To play three matches in ten days was tough both physically and mentally. It was tough physically as it included two extra times with the first semi-final and the final and a lot of hard hits in all three matches. Mentally it was tough having such a quick turnaround to both bring yourself down after a match of such importance and then to psyche yourself up to do battle again,” he said.
“It means everything to the parish really. To see grown men cry on the field after the final says it all really. It is a massive achievement for us as we’re from one of the smallest parishes and clubs in Dublin.”
And Lar, who has had to couple his love for football and his club with his work commitments in Cork, has put a lot of credit to the mentors and members of the club who devote their time and effort each week to make sure the lads are best prepared for battle.
Lar, along with his fellow Finians teammates, know the threat that Amsterdam GAC possess, but are fully focused on their own performance.
“We’re absolutely excited to play in Leinster and represent our county; it’s a great honour for our small parish. As for our goal we want to perform to the best of our ability and represent our parish with pride and see where it brings us with an ultimate goal of winning it but one thing’s for sure we’ll give it everything we have.”
Conor Spillane, another member of the Finians panel, is excited to play at a stage of the competition that not many players will ever get to.
“It’s great to say we are playing in a Leinster quarter-final. We are not content with just getting there, but it is a great achievement and a great place to be.”