Dempsey glad there will be ‘finality’ to an historic year for St Joseph’s
The Covid-19 lockdown measures have wreaked havoc on countless aspects of Irish society since mid-March, but the senior footballers from St Joseph’s, Rochfortbridge were particularly unlucky to have been deprived of their inaugural Bro Bosco Cup final appearance by a matter of just two days.
However, patience has its rewards and it’s now all systems go for Luke Dempsey’s talented young charges on Friday in Bord na Móna O’Connor Park (throw-in 4pm), where they will attempt to prevent hot favourites Naas CBS from completing a historic hat-trick of Leinster ‘A’ titles, a whopping 125 days on from the original fixture.
Understandably, the aforementioned Dempsey, while conscious of the fact that the virus has far from disappeared in this country, “is delighted that there is a finality” to the saga. “We’ve met the lads a few times since we got the good news and they are in good form. Bar a few niggles for Jack Torpey and Kenny Ruzzell, they are all fit,” the bainisteoir clarified when speaking to the Westmeath Examiner last Thursday.
“Once we were allowed to meet, we did so. Last Friday we were allowed into O’Connor Park by (Offaly chairman) Michael Duignan and we played Leinster ‘B’ finalists Tullamore CBS (Coláiste Choilm) in a challenge. The pitch was like a carpet. Seanie Hynes (chairman of Mullingar Shamrocks) is letting us into Springfield tomorrow (Friday, July 10).
Also, the goodwill shown by busy clubs which have allowed us to train, St Mary’s, Rochfortbridge, and Coralstown/Kinnegad, has been wonderful, while club managers who have players in our squad have been mindful of our lads when it came to playing challenges. They are delighted that we are in a Leinster final,” the Kildare man added.
Of course, ‘normality’ as we once knew it has not fully returned to the playing of sport in Ireland. In this regard, Dempsey, who was loud in his praise of Leinster Schools Officer, Noel Delaney, whom he labelled “a gentleman”, explained what will be involved on Friday afternoon, as follows: “We can only turn up at the ground, we can’t go into the dressing rooms, we have to get the jerseys on us in an outdoor venue, discuss tactics, and then play the match. The lads must bring their own water bottles, and sanitise their hands coming and going. The physios are restricted as to what they can do with the players. Hopefully, the weather will be OK. Only 200 people will be allowed in, all told. This is a Government decision, and not the GAA.”
The latter fact is clearly going to discommode many players’ relations and ordinary supporters. Panellists will be allocated two tickets each.
“The lads are great and I’ve explained all this to them. From day one, they’ve taken on board the whole Covid-19 business. They have been very compliant. In general, Westmeath people have a love of football, and I would have expected 1,000 fans there from the county in normal circumstances. I foresee a scramble for tickets in the few days leading up to the game, but’s up to the management to see that the distractions don’t get to the players,” Dempsey stated.
The former successful inter-county manager continued: “Honestly, I have no idea what the Naas CBS lads have been up to during lockdown. They are a formidable outfit and when I am up in Kildare training Johnstownbridge, everybody talks about their star names. They are a very good side and it’s a huge school.
“The Naas club U16s have been dominant in the county for four years and it’s all those lads, together with a couple of Wicklow players, who make up the team. The town of Naas is spoken of as ‘a sleeping giant’ in terms of senior football in the county with all these lads coming through. They are justifiable favourites on Friday as they are going for three in-a-row.
“From our point of view, we are just looking after our own ship are delighted that this group, most of whom are sixth years, are getting the chance to finish off what has been a very unusual year. It’s remarkable that they are still meeting up in July, and they are in great old form.
“They are now talking to me as a team manager, rather than as a teacher. There’s much better banter because of that. They are so looking forward to it, and so are their parents,” Dempsey concluded.
The match will be refereed by Patrick Coyle from Meath and it has to be finished on the day. Regardless of whether that means 60 or 80 minutes, or the dreaded penalty shootout, all Westmeath Gaels will be hoping that sky blue and navy ribbons will adorn the coveted Bro Bosco Cup by teatime next Friday.
– Gerry Buckley