Callaghan: 'We were entitled to our home match'
Lilies one win away from spot in the 'Super 8s' despite awful League and shock loss to Carlow
Eamonn Callaghan made his Kildare debut 16 years ago.
In 2013, he took three months unpaid leave from his job as a garda to fast-track his recovery from double groin surgery.
Last year, he played in an O'Byrne Cup game four hours after stepping off a plane after his honeymoon, such were Kildare's depleted numbers that day and his willingness to be part of it.
On Saturday night though, he was unequivocal about where Kildare's victory over Mayo in Newbridge ranked in his finest moments during that time.
"It tops it all," smiled the 35-year-old who came on to kick Kildare's last point of their victory over Mayo.
"Throughout all the years, we've had great times and great wins and great days in Croke Park," he outlined.
"But to do that here against a team who have been the second best team in the country for a few years now…it was brilliant.
"To get a win over a seasoned team like that in Newbridge after everything that happened, the emotion of the whole day and the atmosphere, it's definitely the best day I've had in my career.
"And I've had a few fair years."
It wasn't just the result, huge though it was for Kildare and dramatic though how it was achieved."
Kildare's little insurrection last week meant their own supporters had a cause and they were four square behind it in a sizzling St. Conleth's Park on Saturday evening.
Indeed, it seemed as though the Kildare public fed off the controversy more so than the players.
"We kind of trained as normal," Callaghan revealed.
"We knew what was going on in the background. But we kind of made up our minds very early what we were doing.
"We said we were going to stay and have our match here. And once we made our minds up, we just concentrated as normal and prepared for a match.
"All the other stuff was going on the background. But we tried not to pay too much attention to it or get involved.
"We always knew common sense was going to prevail. It wasn't your normal Championship week. But after that, it took off into something else.
"In fairness, we dealt with it fairly well."
There was no table-thumping at a meeting either.
Just a simple text message from management to players enquiring as to their preferred venue and whether they were prepared to deal with the consequences of taking their stand.
"It was unanimous from the players," Callaghan confirmed. "Everyone said Newbridge.
"And we knew the consequences if it was fixed for Croke Park. We were aware of that.
"But everyone said Newbridge within ten minutes. That was it and Cian O'Neill took it from there.
"He made his statement and that was it. We were training the following evening."
Kildare wouldn't have been the first team to acquiesce to Croke Park's decision-making had they decided to go to Croke Park - a venue where they have won just once in the last 11 attempts.
Yet they felt their cause was just in this case and worth risking a walk-over for.
"It was kind of the reasons (that were given) as well," Callagahn explained.
"The health and safety. If the ground holds six thousand, that's grand. We'll play in front of six thousand."
"If it holds two thousand, that's grand. We'll play in front of two thousand. It wasn't the crowd…I know it was mental for tickets.
"But it was 8,200. That was the capacity. That's grand. We'll play in front of that.
"Why should we have to move?
"It was clear for us and very straight forward. It was our home game and this is our home pitch. We played in Castlebar two years ago.
"I know in the past before we've got moved a couple of times and we went down to Portlaoise but it was different this year.
"We wanted to play here and we were entitled to it. That's it."
And now Fermanagh separate Kildare from a spot in the inaugural 'Super 8s,' a position plenty tipped them to be in this year, if not by the route they've taken.
"Our target was to get back after the Carlow game," Callaghan admits.
"In fairness, we've built those blocks.
"But," he adds, "it's important that we don't let this whole thing get in the way of what we want to do and get to the Super 8s."