There have been better advertisements for Louth senior football this year, but that didn’t bother St Patrick’s boss Fergal Reel after he watched his side overcome fierce rivals Cooley on Saturday night.
“A local derby is always going to be like that,” stated Reel.
“Listen we would have taken that coming in the road before the match. It was a win and when you get to the semi finals it’s all about the win.”
The pre-match build up focused on the intense rivalry between the two Peninsula rivals, and much emphasis was also placed on St Pats excellent recent record against the Kickhams.
“I don’t know much about the history of these two teams, but obviously I heard bit and pieces about it.
“They (his players) were coming off the back of a lot of people saying ‘sure it’s only a matter of turning up’ and ‘Cooley haven’t beaten them in so many years.’
“There’s a lot of expectation out there on those lads and there’s a couple of young lads too, so it’s a learning curve for a lot of them. But they came through it all right.”
The turning point, was of course those two goals in the second half, but Reel revealed that the tactical switch which allowed Ray Finnegan more space to run at the Cooley back line was crucial in undoing DJ Kane’s side.
“We talked about freeing Ray Finnegan up at half time.
“I thought we were a wee bit cautious in the first half.
“Maybe it was the fear of losing it more than wanting to go and win it.
“We’d a bit more ambition in the second half, especially the first fifteen minutes and I think that opened it up and in a low scoring game those goals were big scores.
Following those goals, the St Pats boss feared that he side would retreat into their shells and try and hang on until the end.
“There was a temptation from the boys to start to hold on to what they had, which goes into lads heads in the last ten or fifteen minutes, it’s difficult not to do that.
“But at the end of the day they did their job, they set out to win the game and they won it.”
A shining light was the tenacity and dedication of Danny O’Connor at full forward - in spite of the tough tactics Cooley employed against him, and Reel was keen to praise the young man’s honest contribution to the holders cause.
“Danny was tightly shackled today. The referee was consistent on both sides today, which is what you’re looking for, but I thought Danny a few times found it difficult to get a free.
“But that’s a learning thing for a young lad and he’s going to have to deal with that as the years go by, now they know what he’s capable of.”
With Dreadnots now facing them once again this year in the joe Ward Cup Final, Reel is taking nothing for granted, even though his side ruthlessly dispatched the Clogherhead men in the very first game of this year’s championship.
“The Dreadnots, we only played them when they had half a team in the group stages, so they’ll also be keen to get another rap at us. We’re just glad to be where we are.”
Due to the All Ireland Hurling final replay now being played on October 30, Reel and his side have an extra week to prepare for the big day.
But the Ulsterman sees little advantage in the extra preparation time and it’s now a case of putting the heads down and focusing on the big day as much as possible.
“We’ll go home and we’ll get freshened up and we’ll prepare for the next game.
“It’s good to get over the line and it’s good to win the match, there was a lot built up about it and there was a big crowd here, so it’s just nice to get it out of the way.”