Naomh Máirtín's JP Rooney will line out in Sunday's senior final against Newtown Blues in Drogheda. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
If life begins at 40, JP Rooney is having some time of it. A husband, a father, a Louth legend, now a multiple senior championship finalist and playing arguably the best football of his career.
Through his decades of service to Naomh Máirtín, there has never been such a golden period. An underage production line and set-up which is the envy of the county has contributed to The Jocks’ standing rising from just above senior’s dreaded dotted line to its summit, or thereabouts.
Rooney was a part of the management team in 2015 when relegation was avoided courtesy of a play-off defeat of Mattock Rangers.
“It was massive that we stayed up that year because we knew what crop was coming,” Rooney told The Democrat.
“A lot of young players come through and they’re just maybe happy enough to be on the panel, but this crop of youth are used to winning and driving everyone on.
“Whatever about winning, there is nothing like playing with lads that are so intelligent. You’re coming to training and it’s obviously brilliant because of the calibre of player that’s there. We’d have 40 or 50 training here most nights.
“Winning’s maybe everything to some people, but it’s so enjoyable at the minute.”
Ultimately, though, victory is all-encompassing where Sunday afternoon is concerned and the experience of last year - the heartbreak - can reduce the sense of occasion to a degree, whereby Máirtín’s can digest the task at hand, which is to return a first Joe Ward Cup to Monasterboice.
“The expectation was: this is where we want to be, and we would have set out at the start of the season to reach the final again and hopefully go one step further. So it was no real shock to the system, it was just job done after the semi-final.
“Probably for a long time staying up was a good year. Maybe it was about belief because there has been a lot of good players who have gone.
“The club, it’s never reached these heights. The parish will be all hyped up and it’s all everyone is talking about, but, still, the players are just looking at it as another game.”
He added: “For a long time, up until last year you probably felt you were going to finish with nothing. The Division One (win of 2017) was the first bit of silverware we won here.
“If I look back I’d still say I enjoyed my career even though I mightn’t have any medals to show, but the experience of walking behind the band or playing in a final, the bunting around the parish, it is a great buzz.”
Reborn at 40 might be a more accurate expression.