Sunday 21 January 2018

Keith hoping for IFC crown number three - touch wood!

John Savage

Like his captain fantastic Stuart Reynolds, Keith Woods had intended to hang up his boots after O'Connell's relegation last autumn, but he wouldn't see his old teammates and colleagues stuck in their hour of need.

'I was going to give it up this year and then I went to one of the games and they were missing a few. So I togged out and started training again. It's 20 years since the first final I played in. Next year might be the last year, who knows!'

A tour in the Lebanon ruled Woods out of the start of the season and after missing the 2012 decider for the same reason, he is determined to be on the winning side on Sunday. He does have a medal from five years ago, which was his second IFC victory, and now he wants number three.

'The first was way back in 2001 with the Finbarrs, but I was actually away with the army in the Lerbanon for the 2012 final, so I'm really looking forward to this one.

'I was away with the army at the start of this year again and when I came back we were second from bottom in the league and no-one was giving us a chance in the championship, so it's a great position to be in.

'I wasn't the only one. Jason Carroll was away, so was Sean Cairns, Emmet Byrne, Robert Quigley. They're back now too and a few of the injuries have cleared up so fingers crossed we have a clean bill of health on Sunday.'

Looking back on O'Connells campaign, Woods feels the group stage win over his former club was a turning point, and while they haven't hit the same heights since, they know it's in them.

'In the first match against the Finbarrs in Dunleer we played some unbelievable stuff. We didn't play as well against the Young Irelanders, but we picked it up again for the Kevin's game.

'Again we didn't play as well the next time out against the Finbarrs in the semi-final, but we know we can pick it up again for the Clans now.

'We were underdogs the first day against the Finbarrs. They were hot favourites based on league form, but we just blew them away. It was the best we've played for two or three years. They have yet to play the Clans this season, but Woods admits that the Clans have been impressive.

'I was keeping an eye on the league and they have been doing very well. I expected them to give Mattock a good game and it was close to call just like our game. It could just as easily have been Togher and Collon in the final.'

For their part, O'Connells took a while to warm to the task in their derby semi-final with the Barrs, but Andy McCann's sending-off was to prove pivotal.

'For the first 20 minutes or so we were very poor. After the sending off we came into it, but we didn't play all that well so a few words were said at half-time. We missed a lot in the second-half and we can play a lot better, but the extra man probably told in the last 10 minutes and we pulled away in the end.'

While the Clans have been operating in Division 1 this term, Woods doesn't feel it will be a major factor, and if it makes the Dundalk outfit favourites, all the better. 

'I don't think it makes any difference. We were up in Division 1 for the last few years and they've been there this year. But they'll be the hot favourites and that will suit us down to the ground.'

The Argus

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