A Flanagan Cup winner in 1990 with Mullingar Shamrocks and an ultra-successful manager for over two decades in the intervening period, Luke Dempsey will be all out to prevent his former club from winning the trophy in 2018 as he attempts to guide St Loman’s, Mullingar to a senior championship four in-a-row next Sunday in TEG Cusack Park.
Luke concurs with that the general perception that the Mullingar blues “have not been firing on all cylinders”. Nonetheless, they are just an hour away from a four-timer.
“That’s where you take your hat off to the new lads who have stepped in. It is hard on any club team to lose a range of quality players,” the Kildare man opines.
“It is all to do with lads’ lifestyles now where they go abroad, and also injuries to senior players from years and years of hard training when they were very young.
Stressing that he had only six of the starting 15 from last year’s county final on the team which played Coralstown/Kinnegad in the last round robin game of this year’s championship, Luke highlights injuries to the marquee duo of John Heslin (“he was Westmeath captain in 2018 but probably shouldn’t have played any football since the Leinster campaign of 2017 due to a flexor muscle problem”) and Paul Sharry (“he had a disc operation and is currently working in Abu Dhabi which is not ideal”).
The St Joseph’s, Rochfortbridge teacher emphasises that he had “four very happy years as a player with Shamrocks”, wryly adding that the reason he has never managed the green and white-clad side is because “I was never asked”!
He considers next Sunday’s rival manager Ned Moore and the Springfield-based club chairman Sean Hynes to be “good personal friends”. Luke’s son and two daughters all played with Shamrocks (the girls “under the legendary Terry O’Dowd”) and he retains “happy memories” of those days.
Ironically, Luke’s two successful years managing Kildare side Moorefield (dramatic winners in last year’s Leinster final against St Loman’s) both involved all-Newbridge finals against Sarsfields, with one of the titles won after a replay.
“Local derby finals bring great banter and colour to the town and next Sunday will be great for the town of Mullingar,” he reflects.
Shamrocks have undoubtedly got momentum coming into a decider not many expected them to reach. Luke agrees, stating: “They have all their key players back fit. They are an excellent team and are in the final on merit. They are strong in defence and in the middle third, and were very impressive against Tyrrellspass in the semi-final.
“Micheál Curley in defence, Paddy Fagan and Denis Corroon at midfield, and Donal O’Donoghue, who is showing no signs of becoming a veteran at centre half forward, are all formidable players, as are Simon Quinn and Killian Daly.
“We will need to be at our best to beat them. Every player is going to have to excel and it’s fingers crossed that lads who are carrying injuries will get through the game, and that new players won’t be overawed.
“Everybody knows that this is not the same St Loman’s team as last year. Every match this year was a battle and a dogfight, and next Sunday will be no different,” Luke concluded.