Roving Colm Begley back to boost Stradbally in Laois senior football finals

By the time Colm Begley was 21 he had already played in three Laois senior football finals with Stradbally.

Roving Colm Begley back to boost Stradbally in Laois senior football finals

But even by then his sporting career was taking a different direction. After an outstanding underage career, he spent four years playing Australian Rules with the Brisbane Lions and St Kilda and when he returned to Ireland in 2010 he joined Parnells in Dublin.

Six years on and he has made the move back home to play his first full season with Stradbally since they last won the championship in 2005 .

On Sunday he’ll be hoping to add to his medal haul and deny Portlaoise an incredible 10th title in a row.

“I had been thinking about coming back to Stradbally for a while,” he says. “I would have liked to have stayed another while with Parnells and help get them out of Division 2 but I knew the setup was good in Stradbally. I always wanted to come back down but a few things came into place so it seemed to be the right time and I’m really enjoying it.”

Part of his motivation to return was to play with older brother Paul again - a key performer from their last championship-winning side and a county panellist for the last decade. Cruelly, a hip operation has meant Paul has played no part this year but a win on Sunday would rival one of his fondest moments - that 2005 medal won alongside Paul and oldest brother Joe.

“That was one of the last games I played before heading off to Australia. They had a presentation afterwards in the club when I was going. It was a great win against Portlaoise and one of the best football memories I have.”

Begley finished his studies in DCU earlier this year and has got a job with Laois GAA as a Games Development Administrator.

While that consumes his working hours, it also allows him to be at home to take in the buzz that a county final generates.

“The flags are everywhere. Sometimes you forget to enjoy that but there’s really great excitement. It’s a very exciting time and I hadn’t experienced that in a while. It brings a lot of energy back to an area.”

Portlaoise, though, are formidable opposition and are hot favourites to win.

“Everyone is saying that they have to be beaten at some stage but after six-in-a-row everyone was saying that too,” he adds. “It’s a loose comment and it’s something we’re not focusing on. People are saying as well that they’re not as good as they used to be but they haven’t been beaten and they’ve come up against different tactics against different teams and they’ve come out on top every time.”

For the last two years Stradbally have been in relegation bother - something that wouldn’t rest easily with a club sitting second in the Laois roll of honour.

A couple of things have come together this year. As well as Begley’s return, Martin Murphy - manager of their last triumph 12 years ago - has taken over again and they’ve impressed en route to the final with an average winning margin of almost 14 points.

Sunday will represent a considerable step up in class but they know the standard they have to get to.

For Stradbally, and for Begley, they’ve been waiting a long time to get their chance.

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