Intermediate Champions! Full Report

November 7, 2018

On the 25th September 2016, 33 years to the day, that the Joes won their first intermediate championship, they faced into their most recent chance to repeat the feat. Once in between, the club had lifted the Seamus Flood Cup, but the current spell playing at the intermediate grade had been the longest in club history. There was an aching to get back up to Senior, particularly after four years of some heart breaking defeats at the semi-final stage of the competition up until 2016. 

In their way was the team who had vanquished them in the 1982 intermediate final. One of the greatest teams in the county this century, Mattock Rangers. Ten years ago both these clubs were riding high at the top of the senior ranks of Louth football and they are two of only four teams to have lifted Joe Ward this century. Despite winning the Cardinal O Donnell cup in 2015, Mattock were also surprisingly relegated in the championship. Being wary off what had happened to the Joes over recent years, they were looking to repeat the trick that Kilkerley had pulled off last year and make an immediate return to the top ranks.

As the light showers faded and the sun shone bright and low in the late September sky the ball was thrown in on this, the biggest day for intermediate football in Louth. The wind was blowing and swirling towards the road end goal in Dowdalshill, which the Joes were attacking. Having initially won the throw in the Joes possession was turned over before being won back and with only 25 seconds played Alan Quigley struck over the first of his five points tally with the right boot. David Reid would reply a few minutes later with a free and so the scoring trend of the first half had begun.

The Collon outfit had rightly been billed as the most experienced side, some of them having four Joe Ward medals in their back pocket. On the last two of those occasions the Joes were on the undercard, as our minors lifted the Larry Murray Cup on that same day. In fact 11 of the Mattock players who lined out in the 2009 senior final played today, while only five of the current Joes squad had seen action on that same day. The reliance that the Joes team had on the 09/10 minor squad in recent years having been reduced by the introduction of some fresh young talent in the shape of Killian Staunton, Adam O Connor and Craig Doherty and the stepping it up of some older and up to this year unheralded players like Cian Mc Guinness and Stefan Potts. With only Derek Mulligan and Tomas Smyth having played in the 2006 senior final, this was the biggest day of their of footballing career by a long way for some experienced Joes players such as Ben Mulligan, Philip Kinahan and Conal O Hanlon.

David Reid put Mattock in front for the first time in the sixth minute with a beautiful strike off his lesser left foot, but the Joes had a great reply from Conal O Hanlon. Despite the fact that both teams are now and traditionally have been great footballing sides, the opening quarter of this game produced little in the way of quality football, as the shoot out that some had expected, failed to materialise. What it was though was tight and tense. Quigley edged the Joes back in front in the tenth minute with an excellent free from outside 50 yards. A David Reid long range free cancelled this out a few minutes later, before Christy Grimes got off the mark with a short range free, that showed even the most experienced of players on the field was feeling the nerves as it scrapped in off the post! 

Up until this point the Joes had been unusually static, playing at a low tempo and were not getting the rub of the green in a few of the 50/50 decisions. However, another Quigley free, this one from just inside the 50 yard mark had them level again with 22 minutes played. Grimes hit his second free, before another extremely confident kick from Quigley, this one from play levelled it up for the Joes as we headed towards 30 minutes played. 

And so as the half came towards a close, the sides were all level, never had there been more than a point between them at any stage. Many, even in the Joes camp thinking that Mattock had played most of the better football in the half, but then came one of the vital strikes in the game! The move started out in the Joes defence, being driven out by both Adam O Connor and Ben Mulligan, before laying off to Quigley. His laser accurate ball played in to O Hanlon, who palmed the ball strongly back across the keeper and into the net. The Joes had hit a decisive score! A fracas immediately ensued after the score that saw two Mattock and one Joes player booked, but when the dust settled everyone realised that the Joes had a significant lead heading into the second half in this tight encounter.

Half Time Score: St Josephs 1-5, Mattock Rangers 0-5

Half Time saw Mattock remove one of the class of 76 from the field of play, with the hugely decorated David Brennan coming off, maybe for the last time? His first major final probably being on the losing side to a Joes combination in the minor final of 94, he did not fare any better today, unfortunately for him. But there have been many bigger days in between to console him! It was another one of the four time senior winners from Mattock that got the scoring underway in this half. Much likely Quigley, who had made a quick decisive strike in the first, Adrian Reid did the same in the second, as he drilled one over from distance with the left boot from the right wing. Not to be out done there was a super reply from Quigley, from a tight angle in the left corner. 

Top scorer on the day and for the championship campaign as a whole, David Reid hit the next, as he beautifully floated a free in on the wind. Despite the fact that there was a goal in the game it was still following a similar pattern at this point of tit for tat. When the hard working Alan Lynch got brought down for a free, the ball was worked over to David Mernagh on the left wing, who drilled his shot hard and low into the wind and over the bar. 

Another Reid free inevitable diminished the Collon deficit to two, before a patiently worked Joes move was played into Lynch, who turned and shot, with his strike going just over, rather than under the bar. With the Joes still three points clear, the next attack would be the one that could have levelled the game! But with one of the most experienced Mattock players slipping up, the Joes held their line and eventually earned a free out, another crucial point in the game as the Joes lads grew in confidence from this denial. 

Ryan Lenehan hit a fine point to reduce the Joes lead to two, but this was followed by another brilliant and decisive Joes move. With Craig Doherty being central to the move, it ended up with Jack Mulligan, who drove the ball to the Rangers net. For the first time the Joes had a commanding and what would prove to be decisive, five points lead. But there was still ten minutes of normal time to play and this battle was far from over at this point! 

David Reid settled his Rangers less than a minute later with a cool point from play, he followed this up with another great shot shortly after and all of a sudden there was just one score in the game. And so it would remain for another nervy seven minutes as we approached the end of normal time. But on the stroke of full time Mattock would get another good goal chance, this one falling to Adrian Reid. But man of the match contender Conal O Halon, who not only scored a goal 30 minutes earlier, saved one at the same end as the game entered squeaky bum time. 

There was one last act of heroism on the Joes side, as Adam O Connor sacrificed himself for a red card to prevent a further Collon goal chance, but ultimately another Reid free would be the last Mattock score. Although the Joes had to wait an agonising four and a half minutes of injury time before they could eventually release that unbridled joy. Up the Joes!

Full Time Score: St Josephs 2-8, Mattock Rangers 0-12

Stefan Potts was a very popular man of the match and did well to stave off strong competition from Alan Quigley, Conal O Hanlon and Alan Lynch. Then came the moment that we were waiting for, when captain Daire Smyth lifted the Flood Cup.

Next up for the Joes will be the Carlow Champions on the 22nd October. Time and venue to be confirmed, but it will be in Louth. So keep those flags and bunting flying and get back out there and give the lads all your support.

St Josephs: Mark Neary, Cian Mc Guinness, Ben Mulligan, Stefan Potts, Alan Lynch (0-1), Adam O Connor, David Mernagh (0-1), Tomas Smyth, Killian Staunton, Jack Mulligan (1-0), Conall Smyth, Craig Doherty, Alan Quigley (0-5), Conal O Hanlon (1-1), Derek Mulligan.

Substitution: Philip Kinahan for Derek Mulligan

Mattock Rangers: Mike Englishby, Sean Gilsenan, Cathal Clarke, James Carragher, David Brennan, Daire Englishby, Terry Donegan, Aaron O Brien, Ciaran Calvey, Ryan Lenehan (0-1), Adrian Reid (0-1), Christy Grimes (0-2), Shane Grimes, Robbie Brennan, David Reid (0-8)

Substitutions: Daniel Bannon for David Brennan, Ivor Sherlock for Ciaran Calvey, Jason Mc Keown for Aaron O Brien 

Referee: Colin Halligan

(Report: Michael Kinahan)