This weekend brought to a close the club GAA year, and what a few days it was. Mullinalghta upset the odds to defeat Kilmacud Crokes, capping off what has been one of the most remarkable rises we have seen in the GAA. The All-Ireland Ladies Senior club final was also up for decision, with Cork's Mourenabbey ending four years of heartbreak.
Here are five things we learned from the club GAA weekend:
There is nothing quite like a Cinderella story
Mullinalaghta produced of the most unlikely victories in recent memory at the weekend, defeating Dublin kingpins Kilmacud Crokes to be crowned Leinster champions. Becoming the first Longford club to win the provincial crown is not even the most incredible part of their achievement, given the size of their club.
Mullinalaghta is a parish of only around 400 people, with their club having 155 members. Compare this to Kilmacud's 4,800 members and you can start to get an idea about the scale of this victory. To be crowned as the top team in the province is an unprecedented feat, something that will allow all rural clubs to dream big. This is truly one of the best stories we have ever seen in the GAA.
If at first you don't succeed, try and try again
Mourneabbey finally ended their streak of bad luck in All-Ireland finals, defeating Foxrock-Cabinteely on a scoreline of 1-13 to 1-7 to be crowned All-Ireland Senior champions. Prior to this game, the Cork club had lost three All-Ireland deciders in the last four seasons.
Having played with a strong breeze in the opening period, they managed to open a nine point lead entering the interval. Their Dublin opponents fought valiantly in the second half, but they were unable to claw back the sizeable deficit. Four years of heartbreak could be forgotten once and for all, and Mourneabbey could finally call themselves All-Ireland champions.
Doireann O'Sullivan had this to say after the victory:
It's actually a dream come true. We've waited five years for this, and I know it's a cliche, but you actually can't put it into words.
I think everybody is super-emotional today, it just means so much to us... we were sick of losing.
Mickey Graham is set for a very busy few months
Mickey Graham is the man behind Mullinalaghta's rise. The Cavan native has led them to three county championships in-a-row, and now they are the top team in Leinster. His management skills have not gone unnoticed, being appointed boss of his native Cavan in recent months.
The Ulster side are set to return to Division One of the National Football League next January, and preparations for the 2019 campaign are no doubt already well under way. With Mullinalaghta's season now going to extend into at least February, Graham is going to have to juggle the two roles. It is a challenge that he is no doubt relishing, but it will leave little time for anything else over the coming months.
Paul Mannion can be contained
Paul Mannion had been absolutely unstoppable in the Leinster Championship, and was the form player in the country entering Sunday's final. While he was in no means completely kept out of the game, Mullinalaghta did a phenomenal job in minimising his influence on proceedings.
Patrick Fox was the man tasked with keeping him quiet, and he was named man-of-the-match for his efforts. It was not a one man job however, with the Longford side repeatedly swarming around the ball carrier to turn over possession. Kilmacud players became increasingly frustrated by their lack of attacking progress, as evidenced by the various bookings handed out during the course of the game.
They clearly had a plan to keep the Dublin star quiet, and that went a long way to deciding the result of this match.
We are set for a cracking All-Ireland series
There are four fantastic teams remaining in the club championship, all of whom will fancy their chances of winning the top prize in Croke Park in March. In the semi-finals Corofin will face off against Gaoth Dobhair, while Dr Crokes will be tasked with ending the Mullinalaghta fairytale.
Defending champions Corofin are slight favourites to go all the way at the moment, but as we have already learned this year, anything can happen. One things is for certain, we will have three more enthralling match-ups to enjoy in the spring.