Ironically, 23 years on from when he lifted the Flanagan Cup for the fourth successive year for his beloved Mullingar Shamrocks, the Springfield-based club’s manager nowadays, Ned Moore, is now just 60 minutes away from preventing his one-time colleague in green and white, Luke Dempsey, from guiding St Loman’s to a similar quadruple success.
This rivalry between long-time friends Ned and Luke adds spice to what is already guaranteed to be a hotly-contested county final next Sunday in TEG Cusack Park. Ned is full of praise for the Kildare man, stating: “We had great times together and I loved playing with Luke. He was one tough cookie, and you knew that when Luke was beside you had somebody to watch your back and, hopefully, it was vice versa. Those years, and the players I played with, will live forever in my memory.”
The first ever all-Mullingar senior final truly promises to be a unique occasion. “At the start of the year, everybody expected St Loman’s to be there, but not many gave us a chance. But it was different in the Shamrocks camp,” Ned opines.
“At different times during the year, you’d be wondering if you were on the right track but we kept persevering, and kept taking each game as it came along. At the end of the day, we got to where we wanted to be. It has been a long journey.”
While Shamrocks’ somewhat surprising progress has been partially due to the return from injury of crucial players, Ned is quick to point out that he still has ongoing worries in that regard: “Seanie Daly has been injured all year and is a big loss, while Brendan O’Reilly has a hand injury, and Darren Keena has an ankle injury. Darren had been playing very well early on in the campaign.”
Ned feels that the hype involved in an all-Mullingar final will pass by players on both sides. “I remember when we were playing in county finals the Mullingar Steak Festival used to be on, but we’d never see it or be at it. It all bypassed us,” the former teak-tough defender recalls.
In general, in relation to football in Lake County’s capital town, Ned is pleased with the progress made over the past four decades. He reflects: “I remember the time when Mullingar was the poor relation of the GAA in Westmeath.
“I made my senior debut back in 1976 in a relegation battle with Kinnegad. We lost that but it was St Loman’s who went down. So you can see how far both teams have come on.”
Ned reckons that there are no definite areas where the game will be won or lost. “It’s all about the hunger that you bring to the game and the little bit of luck that every team needs on big occasions. Of course, St Loman’s have their mojo players in the last couple of years, but so have we.
“People will have them as hot favourites, and rightly so, as they have been streets ahead of every other team in the county in the past few years. But that’s history, it’s all on the day, and we are fortunate to have Enda Monaghan on board this year as our trainer. I rate him as the best in Westmeath and one of the best in the country.
“Everyone is clapping us on the back for getting to the final, but when you get to a final you want to be winning it. For the underage, the coaching staff, and for everybody involved with Shamrocks, it’s great to have us back up there again. And we have to stay there,” Ned concludes.