Two Mile House embarking on another adventure
By Michael Devlin
Five years ago this very week, Two Mile House became the first Kildare side to win a Leinster Junior Club title.
After defeating Louth side Hunsterstown Rovers that day, ‘The House’ went on to claim the All-Ireland Junior title in February of the following year, putting five goals past Fuerty of Roscommon at Croke Park. Again, they were the first Kildare side to achieve such a feat.
This season, an historic first county Intermediate title sealed their swift rise to the top tier of the Kildare club football, and on Saturday they are back in a provincial final where Offaly champions Shamrocks await.
Team captain Peter Kelly believes the experience of that Junior run half a decade ago is helping his side knuckle down to delivering another Leinster crown to the club.
“Once you win your county championship, if you haven’t won it before, it is the main thing,” Kelly told GAA.ie. “We’re a senior club in Kildare next year, which is great. I just think the experience of a few years ago that we had, we had a long time trying to win the Kildare junior and were beat in two or three finals.
“We went onto Leinster and kind of saw that it’s a thing at the end, and you could just think, “right we’ll go out here and give it a lash”, and the prize really is there at the end of it. Because we got so far a few years ago, we know that’s there again for us, so there’s that focus.
“We didn’t go too mad after the Kildare Intermediate final, we got back down to training pretty soon after it and we knew there was another prize to be had. So that’s shown in our results so far and our focus and determination is there. We know to win a provincial title is unbelievable.”
After getting the better of Monasterevin in the county final, Two Mile House were put to the pin of their collars against Shandonagh in the Leinster IFC preliminary round. They emerged one-point winners over the Westmeath champs, despite finishing the game with 13 men and suffering several injuries in the final few minutes.
That victory tested the mettle of the Kildare men, and they’ve been the better for it since according to Kelly. Up 2-4 to 0-6 at the turnaround, a strong breeze helped Shandonagh come back into the tie, only for Two Mile House to just about hang on through a lengthy injury time period in which Didier Cordonnier and Shane D’Arcy were dismissed.
“Anything could have happened there really, dominating and then coming to the end of the match just about scraping through,” says Kelly. “We we’re up against it. We probably haven’t had too many tight games in the championship in Kildare, each game was four and five points in it.
“We really needed that tight game. It makes you battle-hardened and you know then that you can get through that type of tough battle. It brings you together as well, especially with 13 men at the end of the game.
“It’s mental strength, and it battle-hardens you, so we built on that and haven’t looked back since then.”
There was more to considerably more to spare when Two Mile House dismissed of Round Towers Lusk and then Courtwood in the quarter and semi-finals respectively. They racked up 7-33 across the two games, and the goal-scoring exploits are a product of the force-full running game Two Mile House play, says Kelly.
“I suppose they were more free-scoring and things kind of clicked up front a bit more, and it was a bit more comfortable because of that. In saying that, it was still touch-and-go at times, and we still have a lot to work on, especially defensively.
“It’s a hard-running game, and that’s what we base our game on. We’ve powerful runners around the middle eight so we do that quite a bit. But it depends what the opposition throw at you, they can try and negate that too. We can try and play long ball too, try and mix it up. But we are a powerful running team, and we try to base our game on that.”
An All-Star defender for Kildare in 2010, Kelly has led Two Mile House from midfield this season with some towering displays, with his inter-county experience coming to the fore. He believes there is a healthy mix of maturity and youth around the changing room that has brought success to the team this year.
For a small club like Two Mile House, even just a few underage players making the transition to the senior squad every couple of seasons has made a big difference.
“We got a couple of the older lads back this year who’d gone into retirement, so they’d be 35 or 36, 37 one of them. It goes all the way down to 18 as well. I’d say there are four generations of teams, and I think you’d need that. There was a lot of lads brought in for their first year this year, and even in the last game a lad made his debut, so it brings that freshness that you need.
“We’ve had decent underage success coming into this team. We are a small club, and we won the Minor ‘B’ Championship last year, so we had three or four of those guys stepping up this year.
“They’re really good footballers and solid clubmen, and you need that every year, especially in a smaller club. If you can get two or three each year from a minor team coming up, that’s what you need. Hopefully we can keep on doing that every couple of years.
“We are between Naas and Newbridge, so you obviously have Naas and then you’d have the two big Newbridge clubs, Moorefield and Sarsfields. We’ve a small pick in our area. Only thing about it is that most lads tend to stay around whereas with the bigger clubs they have a lot of lads drifting away.”
For Kelly, the cavalier aspect of club football, especially at the intermediate and junior grades, is a welcome relief to the tactical over-analysis that surrounds inter-county games. He believes the fact that little is known about one opponent to the next within the provincial rounds can allow teams to play with abandon.
“The thing is that you don’t actually know much about the clubs you’re coming up against. In a way it’s nice because there’s no great tactics to it, you don’t know much about their style or their players. It’s just two teams going out and playing football.
“At inter-county level, things are analysed to death, you know exactly how a player plays and everything about them and the team’s style. You can have a great tactical battle. It’s great now on Saturday it’s just two teams going at it, and the best team will win on the day rather than trying to negate the other team’s strong point.”
For a rising club like Two Mile House though, the memories of Leinster glory in 2013 will still be vivid, and the community getting back into final fever once again this week as the days wind down toward Saturday.
While Kelly and his team-mates won’t be getting carried away in the hype, he is delighted the community are getting behind the team ahead of the game at Bord Na Mona O’Connor Park.
“You have all the bunting and the flags out and the kids going mental is great, but we know you can step away from it and focus on the task at hand. It’s a small area as well, so it’s not like there is going to be huge scenes before the match or anything like that.
“But it’s great for the area, the people who wouldn’t even be interested in GAA are getting interested in it so it’s great. We don’t have that big of a population, but I’d say most of them shall be there.”