Dixon's fairytale return seals incredible run for champions
NEWLY-MARRIED Sean Dixon expected to help out with the running of the team, but instead made a fairytale return to playing in answering a defensive injury crisis to play an important role in the champions copper fastening their place as the most successful team in the history of the Dundalk Junior League after completing six McConville Cup victories in a row and becoming the first to win the league four years running.
The hard fought 2-1 extra-time success over Saint Dominic's last Tuesday night at Glenmuir Park also ensured a clean sweep of the four trophies that the champions could compete for this summer. They earlier annexed the Clancy Cup and also the Top Six trophy.
This was the sixth year in a row that Sean Dixon won the McConville Cup - the previous five years in the capacity of team manager, and says that the McConville Cup holds a the special place in the club. He asserted what's more that the club's aim is to extend their record breaking winning run in the knockout competition which is bad news for other teams and players trying to break their stranglehold on the cup and to get their hands on it.
'Absolutely we will be going for an eight (victory) in a row. We look on the McConville Cup as the blue riband - always the big one.'
The club stalwart returned to playing due to injuries to two key defenders Chris Caulfield and Conor Mulvenna. Sean told 'I was out of Summer League football for five years because of managing the team. I stopped managing this summer because I was getting married. I was asked to sign - as I thought as a bit part player. (But) As soon as I came back from honeymoon I played a game and ended up playing three quarters of the season.'
He explained, 'I wasn't going to play – just give a hand with the team. Chris Caulfield and Conor Mulvenna then got injured - they suffered achillies tendon and groin injuries, respectively'.
He slotted into the centre of the defence, and in typical fashion dedicated himself to the challenge. 'I went away and got myself right. I did a lot of running on my own and gave up smoking'.
The sacrifices paid off for both him and the team, as he helped provide stability in defence and scored two crucial goals, which are rare enough for him. He bagged one of the six goals as the team clinched the title with a 6-2 win over near neighbours Doolargy, and three days later headed what proved the winning goal in the 4-3 win over archrivals Shamrocks in a thrilling semi-final of the cup.
Goalkeeper Jason McConville who was also called into the team because of injury was sent-off early in that game, and the side played with a man short for most of the tie that finished with Shamrocks having two players also dismissed in the dying minutes.
The regret for Jason was that he was denied a chance of playing for the first time in the final of the competition that is so dear to his family, with the cup dedicated to the memory of his grandfather.
Michael Cooney returned between the posts and made a number of telling interventions to deny Saint Dominic's who were the one team who consistently over the teams three meetings, twice in the league and once in the Clancy Cup, threatened to break the champions unbeaten run that they held throughout the season.
They have been beaten only once - last season in the final of Premier division cup by Shamrocks, in three and a half seasons.
The challengers were missing key players and not surprisingly Muirhevnamor enjoyed the lions share of the possession and also created most of the scoring chances. But Dominic's tenaciously stayed in touch, with central defenders Padraig Brown and Mickey Burke leading the resistance, and within seven minutes of Paudie Hearty giving the champions the lead in the 64th minute , equalised when left back Aaron Fretwell rose highest in the crowded penalty box to power a header from ten yards to the net from a corner.
Hearty looked like he snatched a last gasp winner when he rifled a second time a shot into the same corner of the Dominic's net just before the final whistle, but it was disallowed for offside.
An unfortunate slip on the greasy surface by Fretwell just inside his half proved decisive two minutes before the end of the first period of extra-time. Mickey O'Kane pounced and released striking partner Hearty who sped to the endline on the right and showed great awareness and precision to pick out O'Kane who entered the penalty box behind him and shot high into the roof of the net from 16 yards.
Heartbreak again for Saint Dominic's, but can really hold up their heads, as the champions once again were jubilant.
Muirhevnamor: Michael Cooney, Stefan McKevitt, Sean Dixon, Adrian Rafferty, Brian Begley, Paul Mellon (Sean Conlon 55), Philip Duffy, Thomas McShane (Conor Mulvenna e.t), Ray McCann, Mickey O'Kane, Paudie Hearty. Other subs. Conor Murphy, Paudie Blair, Stephen Smith.
Saint Dominic's: Maxi McAllister, Brian McCloskey, Mickey Burke, Padraig Brown, Aaron Fretwell, David Maloney, Eamon O'Neill (John Duffy 81), Stuart Osborne, Gerard Rafferty (Mark Savage 82), Kevin O'Hanlon, Joe Needham. Other subs. John Derry, David Casey, Brian Ryan.