There’s nothing flash or fancy about Dreadnots Park. It sits overlooking the Irish Sea, just down the road from Clogherhead village. The clubrooms could best be described as traditional or even quaint. There’s no modern complex or a stand to speak of. Just a shed which houses the groundsman’s equipment. The only recent addition has been the floodlights.
In short, it suits the team perfectly. For now anyway.
The difference in both size and scale between themselves and their opponents in Sunday’s Senior championship final is startling. Dreadnots are one of the oldest clubs in not only the county but also the country.
But for years they’ve failed to reach the very top echelons of Louth football. Happy to exist but never ready to make that jump to the next level (They did reach the final way back in 1889 though).
However at the helm of the Clogherhead side now is one of the most experienced men in Louth football. A man who has won Leinster club titles (with St. Brigid’s in 2003) and won county senior championships with Kingscourt Stars, Stabannon Parnells, Castleblayney Faughs, Kilmainhamwood and St. Brigid’s, amongst many other achievements.
Paddy Clarke has seen this young team develop and come on leaps and bounds since he cut short his sabbatical from management back in 2009 to take up the reins.
“It’s like the waves just out there,” Clarke says as he motions to the sea on the horizon, “they’ve been coming for a while now.”
Last year they reached the final of the Cardinal O’Donnell Cup (where they lost out to Mattock Rangers), they did take some silverware back to Clogherhead in the shape of the Paddy Sheelan Shield. But in the senior championship they lost out to Sunday’s opponents. Yet the signs of clear progress are there for all to see.
And that wave of young talent has seen the likes of James Califf, Anthony Williams and Anthony Lynch emerge to take their place on the senior stage.
But in the back of everyone’s mind is that match on day one of this year’s championship when St Patrick’s dispatched The Red and Black with ruthless efficiency. Pats boss Fergal Reel even left Paddy Keenan on the bench that day.
But old payers have returned from across the seas since that day and there is new confidence and strength in Clogherhead these days.
There is a sense in the team’s collective mindset that the first day of the championship was the following match against Naomh Mairtin. The Mairtins had been going great guns in the league all season and were being tipped as outsiders for the championship.
Sending them packing was a signal of intent and it put the wind back into the young team’s sails once again.
Although the pressure is firmly on their opponents on Sunday, there can still be that nagging fear that enters many young footballer’s heads on occasions like these – will this be my only shot at glory?
That fear can overcome a less experienced head. It can turn a moment to remember into a nightmare never forgotten.
But there’s much calmness and sage-like peacefulness surrounding Paddy Clarke. He speaks with a soft but firm tone and can find the humour in many situations.
It should serve Dreadnots well on Sunday as they embark on the biggest afternoon of their 125 year history. It would be a story which will be told for 125 more years should they triumph that day.