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‘When the final whistle went in the Bainisteoir final … you’d have to take time to remember how good it was’

The welcome at Killeshin GAA grounds for the arrival of their Celebrity Bainisteoir Tony Cascarino in 2011. Picture: Alf Harvey.

The Killeshin footballers have achieved a lot over the last decade or so, going from a junior club to a senior county final in the space of just over 10 years and producing a steady supply of county players at all grades.

Of all the years, their 2011 season is one that will never be forgotten though.

It was a campaign that saw them defy the odds and win the Laois intermediate championship and also come to national prominence on the RTE reality show at the time Celebrity Bainisteoir. 

They were the only Laois club to ever feature on the programme and under the guidance of former Ireland soccer international Tony Cascarino, the whole thing really captured the imagination.

The fixtures came at the same time as the knockout stages of the intermediate championship as they beat opposition from Tipperary and Sligo the week before the Laois semi-final and final.

Those games were played in front of huge crowds in their home ground with the TV show going out at the same time.

They then went and beat Michael Breathnachs of Galway after extra time in the final in a game played on a Friday night in front of a packed house in Parnell Park.

In a LaoisToday Down Memory Lane Podcast which will be available to download tomorrow, we caught up with three members of that team – Gavin Brennan, Pauric Bolton and Gavin Deering.

“When Tony walked into the dressing room that was obviously unbelievable,” said Gavin Brennan.

“I had to look twice it was him. I couldn’t believe above all men – a World Cup icon could walk into the dressing room. That was one of the biggest surprises.

“When the final whistle went in the Bainisteoir final, the celebrations were … you’d have to take time to remember how good it was. There was so many good parts of that night. A great time.

“The intermediate is more prestigious and we had great celebrations from that. But it was just the whole media side, the huge crowds, the massive night after the game.

“It was a massive, massive thing. One was important as the other and one wouldn’t have been won without the other. It was just a great year all round.

“I just remember the noise in the dressing room. It was actually nearly frightning,” recalled Pauric Bolton.

“It was something I’d never heard before. There was 7 or 8,000 people at that match. It just got you going. Running on to Parnell Park was just amazing.

“Winning the Laois intermediate championship I felt was the highlight. From where we had come as a club. I did believe we would get there but to achieve that target was just out of this world.

“Beating a very good Ballyroan team was probably the highlight.”

For Gavin Deering the celebrations in the hotel after the final in Parnell Park stand out above all else.

“The memories of that night in Bewley’s. You’d often see on the Sunday Game, the winning All Ireland team comes back to City West. I’m not exaggerating. It was like that going into the lobby of the hotel.

A wave for the camera at Killeshin GAA grounds for the arrival of their Celebrity Bainisteoir Tony Cascarino. Picture: Alf Harvey.
Cian and Gerard Kelly at Killeshin GAA grounds for the arrival of their Celebrity Bainisteoir Tony Cascarino. Picture: Alf Harvey.
Tony Cascarino chats with his bench during Killeshin against Ballyporeen in Celebrity Bainisteoir at Killeshin. Picture: Alf Harvey.

“It was just absolutely fantastic, I’ll never forget that night.”

In a recording that is littered with anecdotes and good-humoured slagging, Gavin Deering recalls the moment Cascarino was unveiled to the players for the first time.

“My one abiding memory was when Cascarino walked into the dressing room, we all jumped up and Eddie Brennan jumped up and turned to me and went ‘Who the hell is that?'”

You can listen to the interview in full on Monday.

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