St Patrick’s, best in Louth again this year, have been set a difficult task as they try to improve on the county’s – and their own - very ordinary Leinster Club Championship record, Fergal Reel taking his charges on the road to Tullamore next Sunday to play Offaly’s Rhode. It’s the second year in succession, and fourth in five provincial forays, in which the green-and-whites have had to face a first round away tie.
12 months ago they were in Portlaoise for a meeting with the home team, and despite turning in a blinding performance went down by a point in extra-time. The referee didn’t do them any favours.
Even though it ended in defeat, that was Pat’s best performance at provincial level, better even than the one they turned in 2003, the first year in which they played in the competition. They beat Westmeath champions, The Downs, at Mullingar before going down to Dublin’s St Brigid’s at Dowdallshill.
There have been three unsuccessful attempts at getting over the first hurdle since, last year’s, along with 2004’s – beaten in Newbridge by Johnny Doyle’s Allenwood – and the one in 2007, routed by Portlaoise at St Brigid’s Park.
It’s 41-years since the competition was first played, and in that time the best any Louth team has done is to reach the final. Newtown Blues were beaten by Offaly’s Gracefield in the first final, and twice during the 1970s, Cooley Kickhams suffered the same fate, going down to UCD and Portlaoise. Mattock Rangers were the most recent to fall at the final jump, failing to Meath’s Dunshaughlin after winning the Louth title for the first time, in 2002.
Presumptuous perhaps, but Pat’s have been looking at this competition since well before clinching the county title. They feel they can make an impression, especially after doing so well last year against one of the province’s top teams.
Sean Connor missed the Portlaoise game through injury, but all going well should be between the sticks on Sunday. A thought: Has this man a record shared with no other in Louth footballer, having won Senior Championship medals as a goalkeeper and an outfield player?
Stabannon’s Brendan McConnon was as versatile in his career, but his Championship win as a forward came in Intermediate before switching to goals and winning three medals at senior level.