Anchor Tours Louth SFC Final | Sunday 7 November 2.30
“Every team needs a Philly, and we have him, thank God.”
Kieran Quinn may have transformed Philip Englishby from a fullback to a centre forward, but his value to the St Mochta’s cause is undiminished.
The man who caught Mickey Harte’s eye as a possible corner back during winter trials, even popped up with a rare goal in St Mochta’s semi-final win over St Mary’s.
Ultimately it proved to be a vital strike as St Mochta’s edged the last-four clash to book their first ever County Final appearance.
By their very nature, St Mochta’s lack neither confidence nor self belief, but reaching the Louth showpiece is the stuff of dreams for Englishby and his teammates.
“I didn’t think we’d ever get to a senior final but when you see the amount of work the young lads put in in the gym here, it has brought lads on miles and, it’s finally paying off. There’s serious work going on up here with underage, every night you come up it’s packed with kids. It’s just great to see it and we’re finally getting the rewards.”
Englishby was one of those “young lads” himself back in 2008 when St Mochta’s won a Junior title and went all the way to the Leinster final.
That may seem like a lifetime ago, but in many ways it was the springboard for the club’s current bounce in fortunes.
While he might be too modest to admit it, Englishby has been a long-time role model for many of those young players that have now burst through to the senior ranks.
“I’m not going to blow smoke up anyone’s...you know, but Decky (Byrne) is my inspiration behind it all and I think a lot of people feel the same. The way the man trains, I don’t wanna say he’s like Ronaldo, we don’t want to give him that big of a head, but he’s first man here and last one out every night. And for any young fella looking to play football, just do what he does, you’ll not go too far wrong.
“People just see what goes on on Sunday afternoon for that hour at the game, but to get to this level you have to train maybe three, four nights a week and we’ve trained most Sundays. There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes. The game’s totally evolved since we were in junior. There’s a lot more tactics and we’re watching videos now ourselves. Stuff that wasn’t done years ago and you probably didn’t have to do. But if you want to become one of the top teams you have to do it and to be fair to Kieran and the lads they’ve put in serious work on that side of things.
“But I suppose it’s no use having all the tactics if you’re not fit to run and I’m tipping on a bit so I’m not as fit as I’d like maybe, but when you the young fellas like Craig (Lennon) and Conor (Garland) around you you can get away with it.”
Kieran Quinn has been around the houses in Louth, most notably with Newtown Blues, St Mary’s and Geraldines, but since arriving in Louth Village in 2018 prior to the club’s Intermediate win, it’s been a match made in heaven.
Englishby is certainly a fan and hails Quinn’s tactical nous, as well as his ability to read the opposition.
“The thing with this team is we’ve changed our midfield, we’ve changed our fullback, centerback. Everyone’s just told during the week this is where you’re playing. No-one questions about it, you just go and do it and I think that’s one of the big differences, because lads are just happy to get a jersey at the minute. You saw against the Pats our bench probably won us the game and Mattock as well. The bench is a big thing and luckily ours is strong.
“Kieran came in the middle of 2018 to give us a hand and he really was a big help in changing things around. I don’t know what happened, we just seemed to click with him and things are going right. He’s getting the match-ups right at the minute, but we’ll have to get them right on Sunday, that could be more difficult.”
Englishby is under no illusions as to the task facing the first-time finalists. He concedes Noamh Mairtin are like a juggernaut that can be impossible to stop once they reach top speed and if you don’t have your wits about you early, that could happen very rapidly indeed.
“I was at the semi-final and after the first 15 minutes, I was just kind of numb thinking about it. How are we going to keep the ball away from these lads. There’s so many, Sam (Mulroy), John Clutterbuck, Eoghan Callaghan, Whelo, even JP (Rooney), he kicked a sideline against the Blues and you wouldn’t see it at Croke Park. You could name them all, they’re all outstanding, but that’s the challenge we face, but we’re going to embrace it. We never thought we’d be here, so no matter who is in front of us we want to give it a lash and see what happens.”
While a county final is familiar territory for the Mairtins, St Mochta’s to their credit seem to be embracing the whole experience, including the build-up. They know they’ll be heavy underdogs on Sunday, but that suits them just nicely.
“We probably don’t carry the favourites tag very easily, but luckily enough we don’t be favourites too often. We’re the underdog, so there’s no pressure and we can go off the cuff and give it a good whack on the day.”
If they do pull off the mission improbable, St Mochta’s will have seized Joe Ward the hard way, having not played a team outside of the top five or six in the county en route to the decider.
“Wouldn’t it be great to say we won it and beat the best teams in it. We said at the start if we get out of this group with ourselves, Ardee and the Pats we have a chance. When Ardee beat us the first night we kind of knuckled down and we had two weeks to the Pats game and the training was outstanding. We were really ready for that game. Decky said we’ll get to the final if we get out of this group and he was right.
“Against Mattock we were probably favourites and we went six or seven points up and they pinned us back. When we went behind and the subs came in and kind of got us over the line. So it’s been a tough campaign, the semi-final against Ardee was point-for-point and we couldn’t just get far enough ahead to get away from them, but luckily enough we just got over the line again.”
Philly’s rare, rare goal played major part in that, but he doesn’t care who gets on the scoresheet on Sunday as long as the Moch’s come out on the right side of it. Even the thought of it sends shivers down his spine.
“The goal was a collector’s item,” he laughs. “You don’t see too many of them around here, hopefully I can get another one in the final and we can come out on the right side of it.
“When you ask me what would it mean and I think of Louth Village as senior champions, it’s giving me goosebumps. I don’t actually know what would happen, the place would just erupt. There was great celebrations after the semi-final and fair enough, it was our first ever senior final. But we knuckled down again and if things go our way on Sunday, it’ll be some craic around here.
“We’ve won junior and intermediate, but this is the one you want. Me and the boys all we do is go to watch football every weekend and we were talking the other day about the Pat’s, and I was saying County Final day is what you’d associate with Paddy Keennan, Ray Finnegan and (Colin) Goss and now we’re going to be walking behind the band. We won’t let that get to us. No-one remembers who was bet in a final. It’s great getting there, but we need to go one step further now.”