THE 28th Infantry Battalion based at Finner Camp will chase an historic triumph on Wednesday at the Curragh (throw-in, 1pm) when they take on the 27th Battalion Camp, Dundalk in the Army Championship Final.
Finner have never won the Army Championship, but they have worked hard this season and are hoping that this is the year their fortunes change.
Commandant John Anderson says there is a great buzz around Finner since the team reached the final and he’s eagerly awaiting Wednesday’s decider.
“There has always been a rich tradition of Gaelic Games at Finner Camp, and our soldiers have huge interest in it,” said Anderson.
“Colonel Declan O’Carroll played for that famous St Joseph’s team, and was part of the very first Donegal team to win the Ulster Championship in 1972.
“You have Francie Martin from Glenfin who did great work, and Brian McMonagle, and Eddie Crawford, who is currently Chairman of Glenswilly.
“Kerry Ryan and Stevie O’Mahony have done a lot of work with Aodh Ruadh down through the years, Dean McBrearty is managing Robert Emmets this year, and then you have Ryan McKinley and Marty McCrossan, who had a very successful season with Naomh Colmcille last year.
“The key traits of the Army is to defend, protect, and support, and we encourage our lads to support their local communities, and it’s great that so many of them are involved with their clubs at various levels.”
Anderson says the GAA and the Defence Forces go hand-in-hand, and some great intercounty footballers have represented and defended their country.
“Medical services football has been going since 1924, and you would have some very famous names that have played in it.
“You’re talking about John Joe O’Reilly of Cavan, Dermot Earley Senior and Junior, Kevin McStay, Mick Daly, Tommy Doyle – the list goes on.
“Every team has a bit of a peppering of intercounty players. We would have Gavin Mulreany and Odhran McFadden-Ferry, who are with the Donegal Under 20 team, and Fergal McNulty, who played for the Donegal senior team.
“The 27th Battalion have a midfield of Shane McEntee who plays for Meath, and Ian Kilbride of Roscommon.”
Finner have defeated the 7th and 3rd Infantry Battalions during the campaign, and they have shown resilience and character to reach the final.
Anderson says it takes a huge effort to get to this stage, and not just by the players and the management.
“A lot of factors have helped I suppose. We have no overseas tours in 2018, and that has helped us to create the perfect storm this year.
“Lt. Col. Paul Kelly, Officer Commander of the 28th Battalion. has given the team great support. He would have played on a St Eunan’s College team that reached a MacLarnon Cup Final.
“It really is a holistic approach, and we equate to a parish. We have 450 plus people at Finner, and that’s our parish.
“To get 20 or 30 men out the gate to play a match takes a huge effort, and we couldn’t do it if other soldiers weren’t prepared to do that extra bit to help cover.
“Our management team of Dougie (Corbett), Stevie O’Mahony, Marty McCrossan, and Ruairi Mac Lochlainn have also worked hard with the team all year.”
The 28th Battalion are grateful to the St Eunan’s and Aodh Ruadh clubs who have given them their facilities to train, and to Naomh Brid and Strabane Sigersons, who they have played in challenge games in preparation for the final.
If Finner are to win they will need big performances from Jason Campbell (Naomh Conaill), John Harkin (Glenfin), Jimmy Coyle (Gaeil Fhánada) and David Dolan (Aodh Ruadh), who have all been in good form for their clubs.
Anderson would dearly love to see the team win on Wednesday, and there will be big celebrations if they are successful at the Curragh.
“It would be brilliant if we could win it.
“The 28th Battalion was established 45 years ago, and this is our fourth final.
“It’s like anything in life, you have to push hard if you want success.
“It would be the Holy Grail for us, and it would be testament to the efforts of this team, and the men that have went before them over the last 45 years.”