Tullamore and Offaly and footballer Cormac Egan at the recent launch of the 2021 Beko Club Champion, a competition to reward and celebrate GAA club heroes who go above and beyond to help their local club. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile.

Is there a new football era dawning for Tullamore?

Kevin Egan

Tullamore might be dominating airwaves and column inches of late as a result of their ongoing dispute with Offaly GAA surrounding the lease of O’Connor Park. But an incredible performance in the recently played 2020 U-20 football final against Durrow has added credence to the belief that on the field of play, the Blues are on the cusp of something of a golden era.

It goes without saying that there are a lot of hurdles to be crossed between U-20 and senior success, particularly in the modern era when players can improve beyond all recognition through their early twenties if they have the desire to push themselves to the limit.

But there’s no doubt that there is some amount of raw talent in the Tullamore club at the moment, and they have jumped to the head of the queue in terms of challenging current champions Rhode.

Other clubs have won U-20 titles in recent years, but not since St Michael’s ruled the roost in the middle of the 2000s has there been such an impressive one-off display against high quality opposition. Durrow came into this final with every reason to believe that they had the wherewithal to really test Tullamore, but they simply had no answer to an incredible performance from the victors. Final score: Tullamore 3-13 Durrow 1-1.

Factor in the absence of Oisín Keenan Martin and John Furlong, the fact that the vast majority of this team is underage again for the 2021 championship, and it’s clear that this is a very special group.

It’s not that they’re coming into a team that needs a complete overhaul either. It’s reasonable to assume that Paul McConway is moving towards the last few years of his career, but other than that the current Tullamore senior team has a good age profile, with plenty of senior figures who will be excellent role models for this next generation.

If there is a slightly grey cloud on the horizon for the club after this, it’s that the prospect of a really strong Tullamore team coming down the tracks may harden some other club delegates’ thinking when it comes to the O’Connor Park issue. If they already fear that the Blues might be about to sprint clear of the chasing pack in the next year or two, there will be even less of an appetite to continue the situation where the rest of the county continues to pay the vast majority of their bills in the form of ground rent.

Tullamore will meet Ferbane and Durrow will take on defending champions Rhode in this year's Offaly Senior 'A' FC semi-finals, after the draw took place earlier this week.