Naomh Máirtín celebrate last year's Cardinal O'Donnell Cup success. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
It’s been difficult to establish exactly how Naomh Máirtín came to be known as The Jocks. Some say it goes back to when the Monasterboice area was represented by one of the forerunners of the Máirtín’s. And there were eight of those.
It began in the 1880s with, appropriately enough, Monasterboice, and after that came Fieldstown Emmets, Round Towers and Shamrock Rovers. Yes, Shamrock Rovers - and that was before there was a lesser known team of the same name playing out of Glenmalure Park...
Rovers were succeeded by St. Boice Emmets, and then came Brian Boru’s, Tower Emmets and O’Toole’s. Naomh Máirtín was settled on in 1957, and that’s how it’s been ever since.
One source says it was a result of an incident that happened after a “rowdy” game, as he put it, between the Monasterboice team and their Clogherhead counterparts. There was a fight, and during it the Monasterboice lads were called ‘jocks’, for what reason it’s not known.
It’s been there ever since and is a nickname that’s been happily worn by Naomh Máirtín. Stand close to supporters and you’ll rarely hear the team being urged on by anything else.
The Jocks will have their name up in lights on county final day for the first time next Sunday. Having gone close on numerous occasions, they have at last made it, taking on a Newtown Blues side seeking a second successive title. They’ll be popular among neutrals, as is nearly always the case when there’s a fresh face on view.
But will it concern Blues that nearly all but their own will be rooting for the opposition? Don’t bet on it. The many-times champions have been in a similar position often in the past, and it’s never impeded their challenge. Only last year they came up against Dundalk Gaels, who, you could say, were the people’s choice, and it didn’t require thunderous applause to get Blues home. They’ll respect The Jocks, but won’t be lavishing them with favours, or anything like it.
Not that Máirtín’s would want it that way. The first-timers have made it through on merit, and having got to within one step of the final on seven previous occasions, they can be expected to empty the tanks, taking a first stab at senior final day glory.
The records show that Máirtín’s have won only one major championship. That was the intermediate, 30 years ago. Yet, it’s interesting to note that having moved up in grade the following year, they haven’t been out of senior since.
That’s a record that’s open to the closest scrutiny, because there’s only one club currently competing alongside Máirtín’s with a longer unbroken record, and that’s Newtown Blues.
Winning senior trophies, however, is not foreign to Máirtín’s. They put their name on last season’s Cardinal O’Donnell Cup for the first time, beating Dreadnots in the final. Much the same bunch of lads are still involved. Among them is Sam Mulroy, one of the best prospects around. And there’s JP Rooney, who, let’s say, could give Sam a year or two.
Take a glance at the Máirtín’s team sheet on Sunday and you’ll find there’s a Berrill, a Sullivan, a Healy, several Morgans, a Winters, and a McCullough. All of them come from sound Monasterboice stock, their fathers, in most cases, having toiled for many years in the blue-and-white.
Blues and Máirtín’s met in a minor championship final three years ago. A replay and a period of extra-time was needed before a decision was reached, and even then just one point divided them, Blues getting the verdict.
The man in charge of the first game, Jonathan Conlon, has said it was the best game he ever refereed, and it wasn’t his own performance he had in mind.
Jonathan Conlon? That’s ‘Wiggy’ to you, your first-cousin and just about everyone who knows him, including his mam. A ‘Bellinghan boy, he’s the third from the O’Connell’s club to take charge of a senior final, following in the footsteps of Damien Murtagh and Peter Bannon.
There’ll be several from the 2015 final involved on Sunday, and what the ref wants is as good a game. Good luck to all involved.