Friday 23 March 2018

Reynolds didn't expect a final fling

John Savage

After the disappointment of relegation and then losing some key players before a ball was even kicked this season, few gave O'Connell's much hope of being in the mix come the first week of October.

Even veteran goalkeeper/defender/attacker Stauart Reynolds didn't see it coming - but he's been around long enough to know that you have to take your chances when they arise.

'Probably not after last year,' he admitted when asked if he saw a final appearance in the stars at the start of 2017.

'It was a really bad year for us. One or two things didn't go right and then at the start of this year we lost a few players through travel and whatever. But we knuckled down and brought in five or six and bred them in the league.

'We didn't get the results even though we played okay, but in the last three or four months we put the shoulder top the wheel and I think we've only lost one game in the last six or seven, so it's going well now.'

The former Louth net-minder planned to take a step back from playing duty this term, certainly from the first team, but when the call came he was only too glad to oblige.

'I semi retired last year, but the lads asked me to come back and then they made me captain. They asked me to play in goal and I was delighted to be part of the panel and I'm glad I did [come back] looking back now.'

Reynolds played outfield when O'Connell's beat the Clans in the 2012 final and he points out that the Castlebellingham outfit will be sporting quite a few changes from their Seamus Flood Cup winning side.

'Seven or eight are gone off the panel and they were probably mostly starters. But the young fellas came in and they've been wonderful. As an elder statesman myself you can feel it when they're buzzing around you in training. We got Robbie (Quigley) back too and when you have lads with pace like Niall Conlon, Jackie Agnew and Conor McGuill, you always have a chance.'

But apart from having a bit of experience of the big-match build-up, which Clans also possess in abundance, Reynolds feel the 2012 showdown will have little influence on Sunday's clash.

'The build-up to the final will be the same, but in terms of the game itself, I don't think it will have much bearing. They have gotten stronger and we've lost a few, but it's a final and it's 50/50. We'll set up as we normally do and we go into it felling as if we have nothing to lose. We've taken it one game at a time and look where it's taken us.'

Two of those game were against O'Connell's near-neighbours Naomh Fionnbarra, and Reynolds was in doubt that they were his side's toughest assignments.

'The Finbarrs games were really tough. I had a chat with them in the dressing after the semi-final and they were down, but I told them they're a young team and they'll come back. They have great footballers, so they will be back. I think I've lost five intermediate semi-finals so I know how they feel.

'In the semi-final Jackie Agnew was superb in the last 10 minutes, but to be fair we've been finishing games stronger as the season has gone on.'

Going a step further and winning Seamus Flood for the second time in five seasons would be a huge boots for the club, Reynolds insists and it would be a major milestone for him personally too. 

'It would be massive for the club. I've played all my life with the O'Connells, I think it was '96 or '97 when I started, and it would be brilliant for the village to win it again. You can't beat [wining with] the club. Playing with Louth for eight years was fantastic, I loved it, winning national medals and all that, but another championship medal with the club would go down a treat now.'

The Argus