Newtown Blues' Cormac Reynolds and Peter Brennan of St. Joseph's. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
Senior Football Championship SF
Newtown Blues 1-11 St. Joseph's 0-8
The wide open race for Joe Ward has suddenly got a precariously narrow feel about it.
Perennial holders of the prestigious cup, Newtown Blues, coolly reached the Louth Senior football final, beating St Joesph’s at the Grove on Saturday evening.
The ease at which the Drogheda side took care of a notoriously trickey Joes outfit in the finish spoke volumes. The Joes are one of the stories of the championship this season, but the Blues didn’t fall into any of the traps that has caught so many others out on the Dromiskin side's run.
The wiley men from Newfoundwell in fact sprung a few surprises. Andy McDonnell popped-up in the full-forward line early in the second-half and that switch worked a treat, while the deployment of Colm Judge as sweeper will ultimately be Ronan Phillip’s piece de resistance.
Judge has been transformed in that role, but his ability to get forward from there rather than his defensive duties is where the key to the coup lies.
The Joes looked comfortable in the opening exchanges, frustrating the Drogheda side in a typically dogged fashion. Ben Mulligan countered to give them a four-two lead. This, without injured Derek Mulligan, made for a possible shock.
However, when Judge joined the attack for the first time, he set county-man Kevin Carr off on a blistering run in which he opened the packed Joes rear-guard, exchanging a one-two with Conor Moore, before leaping and palming to the net.
The goal before half-time meant, despite being slightly off it, the Blues led at the break and dented the Joes' morale. It was a huge turning point.
The Blues got themselves together at half-time, with McDonnell's move to the inside-line creating the required space for his midfield partner, John Kermode, to point some booming scores out the field either side of a point for McDonnell himself.
These long range points made the Joes' game plan obsolete and took away their usual scoring platform from counter-attacks. Forcing them to come out, they couldn’t commit the men they required and it limited the influence of Conall Smyth. Last year's Intermediate champions could only muster three second-half points in total.
The Blues had the luxury of a loaded substitute bench too. Emmet Carolan made an impact, Hugh McGinn pointed and Derek Kierans scored a superb free from the touchline as the traditional heavyweights returned to the final where, on October 15th, they will hope to slam this 'open championship' shut.
Newtown Blues: Jason Lowney; John Connolly, Fergal Donohue, Niall Costello; Kevin Carr (1-0), Cormac Reynolds, Stephen Moonan (0-1); John Kermode (0-2), Andy McDonnell (0-1); Conor Brannigan, Colm Judge, Robert Carr; Ross Nally(0-3, two frees), Conor Moore, Ciarán Downey (0-2)
Subs: Emmet Carolan for Reynolds (40), Hugh McGinn (0-1) for Moore (43), Derek Kierans (0-1, free) for Brannigan (51), Paul Moore for Kermode (57)
St. Joseph’s: Robert Samson; Alan Lynch, Ben Mulligan (0-1), Stefan Potts; David Kieran, Shane McQuillan, Cian McGuinness; Peter Brennan, Adam O’Connor; Craig Doherty, Conall Smyth, Dáire Smyth; Alan Quigley (0-2, one free), Conal O’Hanlon (0-4, three frees), Alan McKenna
Subs: David Mernagh for Mulligan (35), Killian Staunton for Doherty (46), Jack Mulligan (0-1) for Quigley (53), Oísin McGuinness for Dáire Smyth (56)
Referee: Paul Kneel (Kilkerley Emmets)