Dundalk captain Stephen McGee can now relax a little bit. The Towns Cup has not skipped a generation as he has followed the path of his uncles and his grandfather by lifting the trophy in Dundalk colours.
Coming into the game, Dundalk’s inspirational captain said it was at the back of his mind, but afterwards, the sense of jubilation was etched across his face as collected the cup.
Stephen’s uncles, brothers Vincent and Gerry McGee won the cup in 1970 and his grandfather, P.V. McGee had five Towns Cup medals so a medal of his own was something that Stephen just had to have.
On Sunday, he collected it as he captained the side, scoring a try himself. In a topsy turvy game, which was tight up until the last five minutes, Dundalk edged ahead at crucial times but when John Dodd raced clear to land a try in the dying seconds, Stephen slumped to knees with delight.
“They had a few other opportunities but didn’t take them and then John got in with the intercept. I dropped to my knees and knew this was ours because it was pretty much time up.
“It was ours, coming home after 24 years. 24 years is far too long. You have three of the lads who had fathers on the last team showing you the next generation is coming through to win it.”
Tullamore after losing the previous two finals came at Dundalk hard in the opening ten minutes but Stephen knew that his side would bounce back.
“They came out of the traps very strongly. They showed their hunger from losing the past two finals and they got the early score and a penalty after that but we stabilised the game, try and get some territory in their half and we knew that if they lost possession, gave away a few penalties that John Dodd would be able to knock them over.
“Just before half time, John stuck over a penalty to make it 10-3 and then we got a scrum five metres out and had to move off the blindside with a decoy runner, John comes in behind me and scores a great try.”
Dodd missed the conversion but Stephen jokingly added: “He could have come under the posts and made his conversion that little bit easier but it didn’t matter as he knocked over the penalty so we went in ahead at half time. It was a good place to be in having had that bad start.”
Tullamore beat Dundalk in the 2009 and 2010 semi-finals before losing to eventual winners Boyne, but Stephen said his side were just as hungry as the Offaly men on the day and that experience doesn’t count for everything.
“We lost to them in the past two semi-finals and we are equally as hungry to beat them. Maybe Boyne was their final and they couldn’t get themselves up as much for this. We got off to a great start in the second half. We had John out practising drop-goals all week and it paid off as he stuck one over.
“Granted, they came back when they got a try through their forwards, but we were confident that if we built some phases and got some ball out in the backs, Chris Scully was having some great runs out there and if kept our depth, we were confident that we would score.
“Ene gave him a lovely pass, Chris cut a great line and fed Stephen Murphy in for the third try after my own so it was great.”
Stephen could have had the winning try in a cup final as his try on 70 minutes put Dundalk 19 to 17 ahead, but further scores from Stephen Murphy and Dodd put the icing on the cake.
He could have emulated his uncle Gerard who scored the winning try, but to McGee, it was not about scoring, it was about winning the cup in the end.
“I wouldn’t have cared if I did not score once we won. John stuck over the conversion from my try to put us eight points ahead which I thought at that stage we could see it out but they came back with a few penalties.”
Now, McGee does not want the club to wait another 24 years for the trophy to come to Mill Road once again.
“Absolutely not. Ene is in for the next two years. He has a great young squad and there’s no reason why they cannot go on next season.
“They have a medal in their back pocket, but there isn’t the anxiety that wasn’t there in the last two years.”