ROSS MCGOWAN WAS just 16 when Kilmacud Crokes last reigned supreme in Leinster eight years ago.

Ross McGowan represented Dublin in the O’Byrne Cup in January.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

He recalls following Kilmacud around Leinster as a supporter during their provincial campaigns of ’04, ’04, ’08 and ’10, which fuelled his desire to emulate his heroes from the south side club.

“I was part of that generation where I was following lads in the noughties where they were getting to Leinster campaigns every couple of years,” McGowan says.

“It was great to be along of those journeys and be part of it. It’s something that has propelled me into where I am now, being on those journeys and seeing the lads and how successful they were and wanting to be in that position.

(I made my senior debut) just out of minor. I’m five years on the team now and I’ve certainly felt the pain of losing a Dublin championship.

“I know how difficult it is just to get out of Dublin so myself and a lot of the other lads who were on that journey with me are well aware that these days might not come around all that often. So we’re all about just focusing and making sure we get over the next game, it’s so important.”

McGowan was in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day in 2009, when Johnny Magee and Pat Burke lifted the Andy Merrigan Cup after they beat Crossmaglen in the All-Ireland final.

Captain Johnny Magee and Pat Burke lift the Andy Merrigan Cup in 2009.

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

These days Magee is joint-manager alongside Robbie Brennan, while 35-year-old Burke is still leading the line in attack. 

“They get really, really well,” he says of the managerial double-act. “Two completely different personalities but as a whole together they work really well.

I think that’s evident in the performances we’re getting this year. They’re managing everyone so well on the pitch and lads’ bodies because it’s been a long season for most.

“So I think they’ve done really well and everyone is really enjoying the set-up at the minute. It’s really encouraging and it’s great to have those lads there as management.”

McGowan calls Pat Burke “a huge influence” on his team-mates.

First of all he’s an incredible sharpshooter that I think some people dismiss. He’s fantastic at getting his scores but also on the pitch he’s so calm and level-headed and he reinforces that message across the rest of the lads and it calms everyone down.

“It’s great having the likes of Pat Burke and that experience to get us through the hard parts of the games where he’s able to settle the nerves. There was a point in the Portlaoise game where we was back on our own 21, turned a man over and won a free. That’s the sort of stuff that Pat brings to the team. A fantastic leader.”

Before he can dream of emulating Magee and Burke on the steps of the Hogan Stand, Longford champions Mullinalaghta must be accounted for in the provincial decider.

Shane Mulligan of Mullinalaghta with Ross McGowan of Kilmacud Crokes during the AIB Leinster GAA Club Football Finals Launch in Abbotstown.

Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

The build-up to the game has been predictable: David versus Goliath, giants against minnows, city slickers facing the rural village club. Kilmacud’s club membership is over ten times greater than the entire population of Mullinalaghta.

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But McGowan has been around long enough to understand that once they cross the white lines, it’s a level playing field. 

“As players we’re in our own little bubble,” he states. “We’ll always focus on analysing our own performances and making sure we get our stuff right and also treating the opposition with the respect they deserve.

Although they’re a small community they’re a strong, strong football team. They’ve won Longford the last three years and they’ve been involved in Leinster, they’ve had their experience.

“They beat Rhode by two points, 18 points as a winning margin in a semi-final is something you can’t dismiss so while there is that story of David v Goliath, we’re very aware that there’s 15 lads on the pitch at any one stage. We’re focused on the job at hand and we’re making sure we get a performance in.”

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