FOUR years is a long time and yet that’s how long it has been since St Patrick’s won the Senior Football Championship.
In 2007, the Pat’s were the Kings of Louth for the third time that decade, but little did they know it would take another four years to reach the final again.
For the likes of Colin Goss and players that were part of the successful Pat’s team of the previous decade, that four years felt like a lifetime.
Speaking the week before the final, the Lordship captain for this year said: “As everyone knows, it’s been four years since our last final so it’s a great feeling to be back in a final. The last few years, we have just not played well and have not got there.”
This year, under the tutelege of new manager Fergal Reel – who led Monaghan side Doohamlet to their first ever Intermediate Championship title – the Pat’s managed to book their place in this year’s decider after brushing aside back-to-back champions Mattock Rangers with ease in a semi-final replay.
“Fergal has come in and done a tremendous job”, said Goss, putting the Mattock win down to Reel’s coaching and a hunger that exists within the dressing room.
“If you look at the semi-final, we were hungrier than Mattock on the day. It’s hard to keep that momentum going as they had won two-in-a-row and when you are winning things on the trot, it’s tough to keep that hunger, but we had it on the day.”
Many thought the Pat’s might have blown their chance after letting Mattock clinch a draw in the first game, But Goss and his side were happy enough to go to a replay, after being five points down at half time.
“Going in at half time five points down, we had some words ans dominated the second half. We were glad that we got out of that hole and know that if we played for more than 25 minutes then we had a good shot at winning the replay.
“We set out to hit them fast and that’s what we did. We came out at a fast pace and opened a gap that was hard for them to close and it was easier for us to keep plugging away rather than try and reduce a lead like the last game.”
The fear for people in Lordship is that the Pat’s will have spent all their energy on beating Mattock and let Joe Ward slip through their fingers in the final, but Goss is keen to not let that happen.
“To us, Mattock was a stepping stone and that is all. We needed to win that game just to get to a final. It’s over and done with now. No Pat’s fans will just want to remember us winning a semi-final against Mattock and then losing a final. We are not underestimating them at all as they are a good footballing side and we know that.”
Goss remembers all too well the semi-final meeting between the sides last year in the league as they haven’t had a lot of past experiences in the Championship.
“I remember they beat us last year in a Cardinal O’Donnell Cup semi-final. It was a tough, physical game and this year, I think the Blues have one more solid outing in them. I feel as though they are holding back for one more big game so it’s up to us to go out and get the job done.”
The Blues are playing a cute tactic of playing themselves as underdogs, but to a wily veteran like Goss, he is not interested in tags going into the game.
“I am not and I am sure the lads are not paying any heed to the favourites tag going into the game. We know it’s going to be a one off game and whoever performs on the day.
“The Blues are a big enough side around the middle especially but I think we can match them and hopefully nerves between the two teams does not come into it on the day and it turns out to be a good match.”
One thing Goss does attribute the rise of the Pat’s to is the panel where a number of young players have pushed the more senior players, increasing the competition for places.
“A lot of players have stepped up for us this year. Karl White and Sean Connor got injured before the Championship and we have them back but they are not fully match-fit.
“But in their absense Danny and Eoin O’Connor have been brilliant. But that is what we need. We don’t need just 15 lads, we need a full panel of lads to help push us on.
“We have some of the younger lads in with us and they are pushing us hard. Fergal made the point at the start of the year that it was not about the starting 15, it was about the panel and that’s what would win us things.”
Along with the panel, Goss says that Reel’s attitude and a hunger to win trophies has catipulted them back into contention. They have the Paddy Sheelan Cup in the cabinet and have the chance to complete a clean sweep of league and Championship titles.
“The fitness levels over the last number of years were perhaps not great looking back. Perhaps we got a bit too relaxed but Fergal and the selectors have pushed us really hard.
“He’s an enthusiast guy and when you see his enthusiasm on the sideline it runs through the team. You definitely do not want to come into him on the wrong side of a result though.
“The Championship is the big one, but it was nice to win the Paddy Sheelan Cup as it was a bit of silverware for the club. We are still in the Cardinal O’Donnell Cup, but the Championship is the one we are focused on right now.”