There have been better county finals than Sunday’s, but not many with a bigger score.
Newtown Blues claimed 2-15 to Cooley Kickhams’ 13 points, most of the scores coming in a second half that took a serious swing towards the Drogheda side after Conor Branagan made his entrance.
This young man, a former Wolfe Tones player, came on to a team struggling to shake off tenacious Cooley. Blues had a two-point lead, but were playing against a strong breeze. No-one could call the winner with 15 minutes remaining with any degree of confidence.
Branagan had still to get his hands warm when he positioned himself perfectly to take a pass from John Kermode. A second later, Neil Gallagher’s net danced.
By the time the 22-year-old added a further three points, his side were well on their way to the title, the first to make it to the Newfoundwell part of Drogheda since 2008 and the 20th in all.
For Cooley, it was another disappointing end to the biggest game in Louth football.
It’s the fifth time it’s been like that in the last ten seasons, and like Mayo, they must be wondering when the drought is going to end. 23 championships have been played since the green-and-gold ribbons were last attached to the Joe Ward Cup.
Kickhams couldn’t have asked for a better start – four points up with 20 minutes gone and due to play with the help of the wind in the second half. But having wasted several chances, Blues began to find their range, and a goal from Andy McDonnell, whose overall performance was good enough to win him the man-of-the-match accolade, set them up for a 1-5 to 0-5 lead.
Blues threatened to pull away in the third quarter, but were kept in check by Cooley, whose point from Sean McDonnell got them back level. But then Colm Judge and McDonnell showed and Branagan came off the bench. There was only one team in it in the last quarter.
McDonnell and Judge played well as a team, the latter showing us what he’s really capable of when he puts his mind to it. Keith Lynch had a great first half, and until injury curtailed him, Jimmy Murray was a contender for the award that went to McDonnell.
Injury prevented Conor Rafferty from doing himself justice in Cooley’s midfield area, and while the two Brians, Donnelly and White, got six points between them, more was needed in terms of contribution...and scores, of course.
The minor final threw up worthy winners in Geraldines, who were well clear of St Mary’s at the finish.
Mary’s were good in the first half, but didn’t really function after the break when playing against the breeze. Gers have been dominant in this grade in recent years, and that augurs well for the future. A win for the intermediate side on Sunday would be a further push towards a return to senior respectability, and maybe even a spell of dominance.
Sunday’s well-produced programme wasn’t short on articles, stats or photos. All recently-deceased were remembered, except one. Given that the U18 final was on the programme, a word or two on former Minor Board chairman, Brendan Carthy, wouldn’t have been out of place.