THE county of Dublin may have waited 16 years for Sunday, but Skerries Harps have never known a week like it in all their 103 years.
Not only are the Dubs about to face Kerry in the All-Ireland final, but the man leading them out and first in the queue to lift Sam Maguire aloft should they win, is Bryan Cullen, one of their very own.
“It’s a once in a lifetime thing for the club so we decided to make the most of it and get the place decorated,” said club secretary John O’Connor who is originally from Mallow. “It’s great for the club and a huge opportunity to get our message across to the whole community.”
Skerries have contributed to Dublin successes before. Bobby Beggs featured in the side that accounted for Galway in the 1942 decider – four years after winning a medal with the Connacht county – and Sean ‘Yank’ Murray played midfield on the 1958 side that accounted for Derry.
Cullen has long been earmarked as a potential successor to that line. In 2001 he was on the Dublin minor side that lost an All-Ireland to Tyrone and he was captain of the Irish U17 International Rules side that toured Australia.
Two years later, he won an U21 All-Ireland alongside his brother Graham. He was the first Dubliner to lift the Sigerson Cup (with DCU in 2006) and he was stand-in captain with the county side when they annexed Leinster later that year.
“We’re very proud of Brian but he puts it back in. He is coaching our U11 footballers this year and the kids love him. Imagine what it must be like to have the Dublin captain standing on the sideline and he is always there when the senior team are playing as well.”
Cullen’s story has pushed his club into the spotlight too. Cian McCormack from RTE’s ‘Morning Ireland’ programme paid a visit to the clubhouse last Wednesday evening just hours after the Irish Examiner had been in touch to take the club’s pulse.
The beat is strong even if Skerries, like everywhere else in Ireland, is a hotbed of sporting activity with rugby, cricket and soccer all in excellent health.
They’re well used to that. Such a depth of competition has been apparent since the club’s earliest of days.
Harps began life playing mostly in the local leagues and, as the club’s literature puts it, there were more trophies lost in the boardroom than on the pitch thanks to frequent disputes over members trying their hand at other codes.
By 1943, they were county junior champions but it was with the arrival of the De La Salle brothers and men like Brother Eugene Crowley in the ‘40s that really allowed the club to establish roots in the local schools.
The fruits of that became apparent in the mid-50s when the Harps jumped from junior to senior with successive promotions and they spent the 60s and early 70s fighting above their weight in the senior ranks. They currently reside in the intermediate grade.
Though a small club by Dublin’s oversized standards, it still caters for over 40 teams between adults and juveniles, male and female.
Even hurling, once a minority sport in the area, is beginning to make an appearance in the crowded market place.
Right now the focus is on the bigger ball and Skerries have already assured a legacy from this week’s decider thanks to a recently established link with Dr Crokes through Gerry and Cait O’Donoghue who originally hail from Glenflesk just outside Killarney.
It’s a neat fit given Colm Cooper is the most celebrated member of the Kerry club and the man who will be hoping to deny Cullen, not just the honour of being the first man up those Hogan Stand steps, but the opportunity to bring Sam up the coast to Skerries as well.
Picture: Skerries Harps GAA club drum up support for Dublin. Photographer: Maura Hickey
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