Managers Reaction to 1st
Championship win in 14 Years
WHEN the goal went in I was like a madman!’ exclaimed a
delighted St Nicholas manager Hugh Downey the morning
after his side’s magnificent Junior Championship success at
the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday.
‘I turned around and saw my mother, my father, people from
my estate. The whole stand was rocking. It was a sea of red
and white. We had colossal support, it was just
unbelievable,’ Downey said.
The stand at the Gaelic Grounds on Drogheda’s North Road was packed to the rafters with Nick’s supporters, while the bank side, where the Lannleire faithful set up camp, was a sea of blue and white.
‘I heard a rumour that there were close on two thousand people there. That stand holds a thousand and it was full. You just wouldn’t normally see a crowd like that at the Gaelic Grounds,’ said Hugh.
Sunday’s encounter was a replay of the drawn Haggardstown game two weeks previously, when St Nicholas could not shut out a late Lannleire surge. In the meantime, Dreadnots and Newtown Blues had completed two-thirds of a South-Louth Championship clean sweep. Did Downey and the lads feel any pressure to make it a southern treble as a result?
‘To be honest, there was a bit of pressure. You know the usual craic - the Blues and Clogherhead lads in work would let us know it was up to us,’ joked Hugh, ‘So yeah, I’ve had to live with that all week! We had Eugene Judge from the Blues up giving us a hand in training too.’
Despite St Nicholas’ greater possession, Lannleire matched the winners point for point throughout the first half, but Hugh insisted the mood in the Drogheda camp was positive at half-time? ‘We felt in control, I wasn’t too worried. But we know what kind of a team Lannleire are. They are a tough, physical outfit that will play for their ten points and try to limit us to single scores.’
‘I was a little bit disappointed at half-time that we were not playing the percentages. There were three ocassions when we should have played the percentages and taken our points,’ Downey admitted. ‘But even before the goal, at 0-8 to 0-6, I knew we were going to do it.’
‘The substitutions worked very well for us,’ declared Hugh. ‘We scored 1-1 from the line and, when the goal went in, I knew that was it. It was three scores for them to come back at us and it was too much.’
Asked about his winning players, Downey was full of praise: ‘I thought Paddy O’Boyle and John Carter were outstanding in the middle of the field. They were the foundation for us. Keith Arnold (man of the match) was saying as much to the lads after the game. Tinley had a good one for us. And Brian Carter, who is only 17, did a brilliant job marking one of their main players, Carlos Lambe.’
Downey also took time to commiserate with his counterparts John O’Connor and Frankie Clare and their team. ‘Obviously Lannleire gave it their best shot. They succeeded in stifling our play but their gameplan could not work over two matches. I went into their dressing-room after the game and wished them the best. It’s no place to be, the loser’s dressing-room. I know, I’ve been there myself on a few ocassions.’
But Hugh was looking resolutely forward. ‘ We’re delighted. But we’ll be back at training tomorrow ( Tuesday) in preparation for a very important Leinster Junior Championship game. It’s not a thing we take lightly, representing our county.’ The Nicks take on the winners of the Westmeath Junior Championship on October 26th in Mullingar.
The celebrations were short but incendiary. Corrigan’s hosted the aftermatch party where the Nick’s faithful enjoyed themselves into the wee hours. ‘I’m still wearing the white suit this morning,’ joked Hugh.
And so the Rathmullen brigade bask in county glory once again. Stood arm-in-arm after Sunday’s triumph with Timmy Murphy - captain the last time St Nicholas lifted the Christy Bellew 14 years ago - Hugh Downey was a proud man.