Revenge sweet for Jocks
A fired-up Naomh Mairtin side gained sweet revenge for last year's Minor Championship Final replay defeat by Newtown Blues when storming to a scarcely-believable 14-point win in Sunday's decider.
Naomh Mairtin 4-14 Newtown Blues 1-9
This Blues team have been a dominant force in Louth underage football for the past few seasons and were chasing a hat-trick of successive Minor titles, but their dreams were extinguished by a ruthless Mairtins outfit who claimed their first-ever MFC crown.
Right from the first whistle there was a tenacity and physicality about the Monasterboice team's play that the Blues simply couldn't match, yet the Drogheda side scored first, courtesy of a good effort from play from Oisin Doherty.
Skipper Sam Mulroy dragged his team back on level terms after seven minutes, and shortly after he saw another towering kick come back off the inside of the upright before being cleared by the Blues defence.
All over the field Mairtins players were winning their individual battles, but their superiority wasn't being reflected on the scoreboard as shots went wide or dropped short. Indeed, coming up to the quarter-hour mark the sides were still level after Jack Murphy's effort for the Monasterboice outfit was cancelled out by a Ross Nally free.
Naomh Mairtin then made their first big move when big Joe McGrane soloed forward from well inside his own half towards the 45-metre line. His attempted pass didn't go to hand, but the ball spun rather fortuitously into the path of Mark McCullough who went one-on-one before confidently stroking a left-footed shot past Dean Martin - 1-2 to 0-2.
The Blues almost conceded a second goal immediately when Mulroy dinked a clever pass over the defence into the path of Conor Whelan, but keeper Martin was out in a flash to make a fine block.
Nally then kicked one point from play and a close-range free in quick succession and the gap was briefly back to one, before Mulroy popped over a 40-metre free to make it a two-point game - 1-3 to 0-4.
The lead should have been greater at that stage, though, and doubts must have crept into the minds of Mairtins supporters as the Blues responded with a run of four consecutive scores.
Nally converted two fairly straightforward frees, and in between the Drogheda side could have had a goal as Nally took a pass from Ian Connor before showing great awareness to pick out Oisin Doherty whose shot rose over the bar.
Captain Connor then kicked a wide before taking a pass from Declan McNamara to put the Blues two clear.
However, the Mairtins had the final score of the first half as Whelan's great foraging out on the right touchline secured possession and the ball was worked via Mulroy to Shane Morgan who popped a fine score over the bar.
Trailing 0-8 to 1-4 at the break, the Mairtins almost conceded straight from the restart as Nally's hooked point effort drifted wide, but the Monasterboice side's response was emphatic. McCullough provided the pass for Mulroy and the big man turned his marker Emmett Carolan in a flash before bearing down on goal and slotting low past the helpless Martin.
Nally converted another close-range free following a foul on McNamara and three minutes into the second half the Blues only trailed by a single point - 2-4 to 0-9 - but they wouldn't score again until deep into stoppage time, and by then the Mairtins had added a whopping 2-10 to their tally.
Blues corner back Adam McGinn denied Paddy Usher a near-certain goal with a toe-poked clearance, but Whelan quickly added a point and the writing was on the wall for Colm Nally's team when Paddy Usher was afforded acres of space to run into before teeing up centre back Eoghan Callaghan who had all the time in the world to look up and take his point - 2-6 to 0-9 after 37 minutes.
Mairtins keeper Luke Mitchell did well to collect a high ball under pressure from Oisin Doherty, and Nally had a point effort deflected wide before missing the target from the resulting '45. But that was the briefest of visits to the Mairtins half and Whelan then put four between the sides, despite losing his footing as he soloed infield.
After a Callaghan wide, Mulroy took a pass from Conor Morgan and tried to engineer a goal for himself before settling for a point. That was the start of a ruthless spell from the number 14 as he made it back-to-back scores before sending a towering 45-yard effort over the bar - 2-10 to 0-9.
Even with 15 minutes still to play, the Blues needed a goal, but as they tried rather unconvincingly to build up an attack from deep, one of their backs was inexcusably penalised for over-carrying when under no real pressure.
That moment summed up their entire afternoon, and the irrepressible Whelan pointed from distance before Mulroy won the resulting kick-out and sent the ball goal-wards towards Joe McGrane. The midfielder's pass into the square was tailor-made for sub Lee Neilon whose glancing touch took the ball past Martin for another three-pointer - 3-11 to 0-9.
Mulroy converted a '45 and wing back Jack McCarville then defiantly blocked a rifled Nally shot from a 14-metre free as the Blues full forward went for goal in desperation. Instead, it was the Monasterboice boys who raised another green flag as McGrane scrambled the ball to the net after Neilon had been foiled by keeper Martin.
Whelan then hit back-to-back scores to take his tally to five - all from play in the second half - and Blues sub Nathan Seery's goal deep into stoppage time was of little consolation to a shell-shocked Blues who will regret not having brought their 'A' game to the big stage.
NAOMH MAIRTIN: Luke Mitchell; Andrew Clarke, Shane Morgan 0-1, Mark Whelan; Sean Faulkner, Eoghan Callaghan 0-1, Jack McCarville; Joe McGrane 1-0, Conor Morgan; Paddy Usher, Mark McCullough 1-0, Jack Murphy 0-1; Conor Whelan 0-5, Sam Mulroy 1-6 (0-1f, 0-1 '45), James Martin. Subs: Lee Neilon 1-0 (for Martin HT), Evan Whelan for C Morgan (44min), Darren Morgan for McCullough (56min), Jake Murtagh for D Morgan (59min, BC), John Holcroft for Murphy (60 +3min).
newtown BLUES: Dean Martin; Adam McGinn, Ronan Levins, Alan Connor; Ciaran McCann, Emmett Carolan, Jamie Kelly; Ian Connor 0-1, Luke Cormican; Reece Levins, Robert Sullivan, Jamie Doherty; Declan McNamara, Ross Nally 0-6 (5f), Oisin Doherty 0-2. Sub: Nathan Seery 1-0 (for McCann 36min).