Ger-eat day for Big Mac's young pups
THE Geraldines took out an advert in Sunday's match programme promoting their 'Night at the Dogs' next month, and it proved to be one hell of an omen as Eamonn McEneaney's young pups bolted from the traps like a Derby favourite to win a one-sided contest pulling up at Dowdallshill.
It was so emphatic that a hotly anticipated tussle against their nervous and lacklustre neighbours St Bride's was all over by half-time, as captain fantastic Jim McEneaney inspired his troops to a 1-9 to 0-3 interval lead.
The Louth hitman could do no wrong in the opening half as he kicked a whopping eight points, including four peaches from open play, a '45' and three frees.
Everything he touched turned to gold in a near-perfect first-half display, but the fair haired one was well supported all over the park by a team that truly 'clicked' on the day.
McEneaney's Louth colleague Gerard Hoey anchored a water-tight defence, which belied the awful conditions with some touch-tight marking and assured handling. The rearguard action was so impressive that Bride's final tally of 2-6 was actually a bit flattering, while it's also worth noting that 2-2 of it came in the final 12 minutes when the champions elect had retreated almost onto to their own goal line.
At midfield Michael Rogers and Stephen Reidy completely dominated and, while McEneaney was the biggest threat up front, five of the Ger's six starting forwards got on the scoresheet, as did second-half sub Josh Arrowsmith, who had captained the club's minors to a third county title in seven seasons just seven days earlier - as if anyone needed reminding of the seemingly endless conveyer belt of talent at McGeough Park.
St Bride's had plenty of hot young prospects in their ranks too, fresh from a minor final win over their neighbours in 2011. But it just didn't happen for David Reilly's men this time around as they froze like a hare in the headlights.
There was one brief rally midway through the first-half when they cut a 5-1 defeicit to 5-3, and had Conaill Devin's flick of the fist to meet an Aaron Hoey '45' sneaked inside an upright instead of crashing back off it, the game might have followed a different path.
But after that let-off Geraldines kicked 1-4 without reply in the lead-in to half-time, and looked every inch a senior outfit in doing so.
The goal came late and really shattered Bride's diminishing resolve. If Reilly was hoping to get his troops in at half-time for a badly needed pep-talk, his best laid plans flew out the window when Shaun Callan ghosted through one-on-one with Darren Breen. Like Devin's effort he also struck a post, but the ball nestled the right side of the upright this time around.
Even the most optimistic of Bride's supporters would have been hard pushed to plot an imaginary course back into the game at the interval, but no-one was under any illusions within five minutes of the re-start as Glen Trainor pounced to slot home a rebound from a Michael Rogers shot that had been well saved by Nat Cooney.
Geraldines could do as they wanted at that stage and added four more points to a solitary Kevin Kirk score to lead by a whopping 15 points with just over 10 minutes left on the clock.
Instinctively they dropped deep to protect that unassailable lead as the finish line approached, and although Bride's kicked 2-2 in the closing stages, what they really needed was a miracle. The fact that veteran fullback David Dunne plundered both goals summed up a frustrating afternoon for their dangermen up front.
Still searching for a first major title since 1967, it's back to the drawing board for David Reilly and Co., and with Aaron Hoey, Ray Kelly and David Dunne not getting any younger, the journey from minor glory to the senior ranks is still a daunting one.
Geraldines will vouch for that. Their minor successes of '07 and '08 have ultimately taken five years to bear fruit at adult level, but many within the club, and even those looking in, will feel Sunday's victory is just another leg of an exciting journey.
They don't have happy recent memories of the senior ranks as Intermediate successes of 1995 and 2005 only yielded a year in the top flight on each occasion. But there is more reason to be optimistic this time around.
For Eamonn McEneaney it was a satisfying first season at the helm. The former Louth chief first acquainted himself with the bulk of this squad as fresh-faced under-10s, guiding them to countless underage titles, including those minor successes of 2007 and 2008.
But a coming-of-age moment? Not just yet!
GERALDINES: Nathaniel Cooney; Sean Watters, Nicky Mackin, Tiarnan Hand; James Craven, Gerard Hoey 0-1, Kevin Pepper; Michael Rogers, Stephen Reidy; Sean Thornton, Jim McEneaney 0-9 (0-5f, 0-1 '45'), Shaun Callan 1-0; Glen Trainor 1-1, Shane O'Hanlon 0-2, Barry Hamilton 0-1. Subs: Josh Arrowsmith 0-1 for B Hamilton (23), Paddy Hoey for S Thornton (56), Brendan Connolly for S Callan (56), Aaron Murray for S Reidy (60+), Johnny Breen for G Trainor (60+).
ST BRIDE'S: Darren Breen; Andrew Smyth, David Dunne 2-0, Cillian Kirk; Niall Mackin, Conor Deane, Greg Kehoe; Patrick Reilly, Shane Kerrigan 0-1; Ross Kehoe, Ray Kelly, Joseph Hanna; Kevin Hearty 0-1, Aaron Hoey 0-3 (0-2f), Conaill Devin. Subs: Aidan McNally for N Mackin (29), Richard Halpenny for K Hearty (ht), Kevin Kirk for C Devin (36), Paraic Marry for J Hanna (39), Paul Prendergast for C Kirk (55).
REFEREE: Tony Dolan.