“Semi-finals are a horrible place to lose and it’s great to get back into a final. It’s a feeling of total relief.”
So said Ned Moore, a legend as a player with Mullingar Shamrocks and, ironically, a man who held up the Flanagan Cup on all four occasions when his beloved club dominated the Westmeath football landscape from 1992 to 1995, following a nail-biting win last Sunday against Tyrrellspass, thereby setting up his team for an attempt to prevent St Loman’s, Mullingar from replicating this quadruple next Sunday week.
The winning bainisteoir continued: “I was happy enough at half-time but I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. For whatever reason, we have found it hard to play into that goals (the scoreboard end of TEG Cusack Park) in recent games.
“Tyrrellspass have been phenomenal over the past few years and we knew right well that it was going to be very, very tough. Nobody gave us a chance from the start of the year but we’ve gradually kept coming and coming, and believing in ourselves and our own way of playing.
“We’re now where we wanted to be and we’re totally delighted. I haven’t got one player in that panel of 34 who does not give 100 per cent.
“Mullingar Shamrocks are a big club, we are not a small club. When those lads got the bit between their teeth this year, they knew there was only one place they wanted to go and that was a county final.
“We were very, very confident coming in today, although Brendan O’Reilly broke his hand against The Downs, and Eddie (Moore) and Paddy Joyce had flus coming into the game.”
When asked if he was worried when Denis Corroon was sent off and Tyrrellspass soon drew level, Moore responded with a smile: “I’m always worried! Some managers can relax on the sideline, but I can’t.
“It’s great to get there but St Loman’s are going to be favourites in the final, and deservedly so. My good friend and former colleague, Luke (Dempsey), and I are, I think, the two oldest managers in the county now, so maybe the two of us should step away from management before we end up with our legs up in the air on the sideline!
“Not too many people have outfoxed Luke. His record is there for everyone to see. But we’ll be giving it everything and it will be great for the town of Mullingar to look forward to this final.”
Meanwhile, St Loman’s, Mullingar manager Luke Dempsey said that he was delighted with the manner in which some of his younger charges handled Garrycastle’s running game, in Sunday’s other SFC semi-final.
“We saw Garrycastle and how they destroyed Athlone with their running game, 14 points to seven, and they really looked impressive,” said Dempsey. “We knew they were going to run at us in the second half.
“I was delighted with the way our full forward line worked so hard to try to stop them in that zone, and I was delighted for some of the younger players who made their semi-final debut.
“You can play in as many group matches as you like and play well, but for them to come of age in a teak-tough semi-final – I was really thrilled by that,” the former Westmeath boss added, heaping praise on youngsters Chris Gilbert and TJ Cox in particular.
When interviewed by the press after Sunday’s semi-final, Dempsey did not yet know which of the clubs in the other semi-final would face his charges on October 21. As it transpired, Mullingar Shamrocks will face off against their old town rivals – the first such meeting in the history of the Westmeath senior football championship.
Dempsey will surely relish taking on, as manager, the club with whom he enjoyed much success as a player during the 1990s.
“There’s nothing easy about winning a county final, and there’s nothing easy about winning a semi-final, so we’ll prepare as well as we can, and the best team will win,” he said.
“It was good to see Paul Sharry making his introduction today, and John [Heslin] is much fitter than he was against Tyrrellspass, the last game he played.
“So we’re coming right at the right time. Ronan O’Toole got a very bad tackle at the end of the first half and was concussed, while young Chris Gilbert came on and got a bad gash on his shin. David Whelan came off with a bit of a hamstring strain he’s been nursing all year.
“But I don’t think there’ll be anything serious injury wise. If we got the few lads back from Vancouver and Dubai and other places, we’d probably have a full compliment!”