Blues cap fine year with Under-21 title
GAA U-21 Football Final: Newtown Blues 1-12 Mellifont 3-5
With 21 senior titles in the trophy cabinet Newtown Blues know better than most the importance of keeping the conveyor belt on maximum power, and Louth's most successful club appear to be on the cusp of another profitable era.
With seven starters from last month's county final on their teamsheet for Saturday's U-21 decider, Colm Nally's men were warm favourites to see off an equally talented Mellifont amalgamation, and it was no walk in the park as they were forced to summon all of the character and resolve that has yielded two minor and one senior crown over the past number of years.
Up to 12 of Saturday's panel now boast a full compliment of Minor, U21 and senior county medals.
Their opponents were drawing from three clubs with Mattock Rangers, Hunterstown Rovers and Glen Emmets joining forces, and their untroubled passage to the final hurdle suggested they would be no pushover under Darver lights.
That's exactly how it panned out as the Blues appeared to have a tight enough grip on the contest throughout, but were very nearly pipped on the finish line by 14 men.
Bizarrely, both sets of players broke into celebration at the end of the game with an errant point on the referees scorecard sparking some brief controversy at the final whistle.
After converting a late penalty to put the minimum margin between the sides, some of the Mellifont players asked referee Jonathan Conlon for a score-check and were told they were a point up.
It didn't seem to filter through to the whole team as they continued to attack for what would have been an equalising point in the closing stages, but Conlon was quick to own up to the error after checking his notebook.
The lack of a scoreboard at Darver has been a bone of contention amongst supporters for some time, with spectators regularly checking the correct score with each other throughout games at the Centre of Excellence.
A scoreboard would almost certainly have averted this storm in a teacup as players wouldn't have had to check the score with the man in the middle.
If Santa's coming to Darver this Christmas maybe he'll have one one on his list!
It wasn't really an issue for most of the game as they Blues led from virtually from start to finish, only to be pegged back by well-timed Mellifont goals.
Mellifont edged in front around the five-minute mark following a well-worked Glen Matthews strike, but from the 15th minute on they were playing catch-up.
With senior stars Ciaran Downey and Ross Nally in top form, the Blues responded to the early setback to lead by 0-5 to 1-1 and they plundered a vital goal of their own on 23 minutes when Downey passed up a couple of chances to top the ball over the bar in favour of drilling a low shot past Niall Carrie to the bottom corner.
Mellifont showed their resolve by cutting the deficit to the minimum by half-time, 1-5 to 1-4.
But the third quarter belonged to the Blues as Nally and Downey continued to score freely and by the 52nd minute they led by six, 1-11 to 1-5.
But the combination side didn't give up and substitute Shane Hickey rifled home their second goal cut the gap to three.
Ross Nally gave the Blues some breathing space, but Burns held his nerved over a late penalty to set up a frantic finish.
The Blues just about clung on and after some confusion Conro Moore lifted the cup to joyous scenes.
NEWTOWN BLUES: Dean Martin; Ronan Levins, Fergal Donohue, Conor Alyson; Jamie Kelly, John Connolly, Ian Connor; Emmet Carolan, Kevin Carr; Dale Harding, Conor Moore, Ciaran Downey 1-4; Alan Wilton, Tom Reilly, Ross Nally 0-7 (4f). Subs: John McDonnell 0-1 for A Wilton (47), Alan Connor for D Harding (58).
MATTOCK/HUNTERSTOWN/GLEN: Niall Carrie; Alan Caraher, Patrick Taaffe, Cillian Hickey; James Caraher, Brendan Lacey, Jamie Farnan; Robert Byrne, Ryan Ward; Ben McKenna 0-1, Aaron O'Brien, JP Watters; Keelan O'Neill 0-1, Ryan Burns 1-3 (1-0 pen, 3f), Glen Matthews 1-0. Subs: Shane Hickey 1-0 for JP Watters (36), Cathal Clarke for K Farnan (56), Sam Kenny for R Byrne (60).
Referee: Jonathan Conlon.