KILDARE MAN IN LONDON: Robert Mulhern remembers his years in Two Mile House before they became a force to be reckoned with

Daring to dream

Robert Mulhern

Reporter:

Robert Mulhern

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mulhernrobert@hotmail.com

KILDARE MAN IN LONDON: Robert Mulhern remembers his years in Two Mile House before they became a force to be reckoned with

I lived in Two Mile House for nearly five years. It’s probably best to declare that early, because for so many years before that I made little of the place in a footballing sense.

This wasn’t based on anything I’d ever witnessed. I was from Naas. In that sense my bias against the parish was something of a birthright.

Throughout the 1990s I knew ‘The House’ for being inoffensive and sound. In any other context these qualities might be taken as a compliment, but on the field of sport no club seeks out such labels.

But if House privately railed against their lighter side and then lowly ranking, it was done so in a self-deprecating way.

In school, classmates who hauled in from what we considered the fringes of Naas celebrated their annual grudge match with Athgarven as derby in the death zone of Kildare football.

This was despite the decade featuring some successes.

Still, it seemed the House could never escape the clutches of the local headline writers. One bad result and the House were ‘hapless’ all over again.

Only they’ve been making mockery of that tag in a style not dissimilar to a Leinster Rugby team once derided for being ladyboys.

Of course, stories about rags to riches GAA clubs born from a scatter of houses and one shop (though Valentines on the road to Kilcullen is closed a few years) are very familiar.

But this wasn’t an edition that presented on my doorstep, more one witnessed from a fireside behind enemy lines.

From 2004 to 2008, the kitchen of the Two Mile House home in which I rented a room doubled as a club command post.

At one point, all my housemates togged out, which meant I’d a ringside view.

Distance couldn’t filter the heavy blows and I’d listen to how defeats landed, watch the bruisings emerge but also witness the joy of hard won victories.

The Caseys, the Burkes, the Kellys, the Brownes, and so many more from an era all too recent, tramped a path through the kitchen where the conversation so often turned to matters of local GAA and, significantly, the desire for better days.

So many of these afternoons and evenings were dominated by laughter and stories born out of frustration.

But even then it was obvious there was a deadly seriousness to it all.

I’ve an acute memory of the property emptying for dawn training sessions when the House was then under the stewardship of Mark Millham.

Or, the periods of self-imposed exile from the pub ahead of the Junior Championship, which extended into weeks.

This was always something I could never my head around then. I still can’t.

But if this was early progress, I’m guessing, none of those already mentioned above could have foreseen their club’s transformation into not just a force in Kildare, but provincially and nationally at first junior and then intermediate level.

And if Two Mile House’s footballing personality was dominated by one player through that period, it was the current manager, Niall Browne.

He used to drive a silver Citroen hatchback, I’m almost sure of it. But I can sure as hell see it arriving into the back of said home in a cloud of dust, spitting gravel and Browne spilling the names of players I’d never meet, but come to know well though the regular GAA summit meetings.

I’d a sports editor who always maintained that there was no greater motivator for an Irishman in a sporting sense than getting one over on your neighbour or your neighbouring team.

Beating England, well, it was the best expression of same.

Peak performance couldn’t be achieved without the essential element of spite and grievance, he argued.

And in terms of this column, so many of those past conversations had, at their root, the burning desire to beat Naas — the county town, whose footballing respect always felt like it would be the hardest battle won.

I can’t say with any certainty if that’s still in the case but I very much doubt it.

And writing as much after all that has happened from then to now feels disingenuous.

You might just say that’s both a telling and dangerous assessment to make… for a Naas man.

(Two Mile House lost out to Kilcummin last Sunday by a single point)

Robert Mulhern is a London based journalist contracted to RTE's The Documentary on One. To contact him, email mulhernrobert@hotmail.com