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Melia a Wee bit special for Joe's

St Joseph's 2-7 St Patrick's 0-9 Louth SFC final IRELAND'S beleaguered soccer manager, a man who knows a fair bit about GAA in the Wee County, would have appreciated the contrast between himself and another famous Stephen from Louth yesterday.

While Steve Staunton was being pursued by a lynch mob elsewhere, Stephen Melia was also getting mobbed in Clanna Gael Park, Dundalk but for a very different reason.

When St Joseph's won only their second county SFC title, and their first since 1996, there was an inevitable pitch invasion.

But the excitement was even outshone by everyone's delight at seeing Melia pocket his first county senior medal at the tender age of 44. Even supporters of beaten favourites St Patrick's queued up to shake his hand and this was no 'token' appreciation.

The oldest man on the pitch was wearing 11 on his back but may as well have had a Superman logo on the front, such was his contribution as player/trainer.

Melia started at 14, then went to centre-forward but quickly dropped back to play 'sweeper', giving the sort of defensive master-class for which he became legendary.

Having lost an intermediate final, and been playing his club football in Dublin in '96, this was actually his first senior decider and afterwards he quipped: "I have a 100 per cent record!"

As part of the Louth backroom team, Melia had already won a Division 2 National League title and Tommy Murphy Cup this season. "But this, this is the icing on the cake!" he grinned. "Winning anything with your club is very, very special."

Underdogs

Joe's had beaten both of last year's county finalists en route but still went in as underdogs to a Pat's side who won back-to-back titles in 2003-04 and were powered by county stars Paddy Keenan, Colin Goss and Ray Finnegan. But the Darver/Dromiskin club looked sharper throughout, got goals at crucial moments and had star performers also in Keenan's county midfield partner Martin Farrelly, tireless half-forward Cian Smith and two former county stars, Ollie McDonnell and David 'Skid' Reilly.

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And it certainly looked like St Pat's three-game semi-final tussle with Cooley had taken its toll, particularly in the miserably soggy conditions which mitigated against flowing football.

Joe's raced two points clear before nippy forward Derek Mulligan and defender David O'Donoghue combined to put Reilly through to punch home their first goal on 19 minutes.

They then went scoreless for 10 minutes while Eamon Carroll's free-taking and Keenan's only score of the first-half left just a goal between them but a brilliant point by McDonnell kept them 1-4 to 0-3 ahead at the break.

Interception

A great Damien White interception had deprived them of a second goal chance and the worry was that they had not made enough of their first-half dominance.

Keenan led Pat's expected third-quarter fightback but they shot four terrible wides in five minutes and seven from their 11 in the second-half.

In contrast, David Reilly settled Joe's with a brilliant free early after the re-start and they got a soft second goal on 49 minutes when wing-back Declan O'Sullivan found Mulligan unmarked in a swift counter-attack.

St Pat's, led by Keenan and Paudie Mallon, battled bravely but Farrelly heroically blocked their only goal shot from Finnegan as Joe's packed their defence to close out their historic victory.

MAN OF THE MATCH - C Smith

SCORERS - St Joseph's: D Reilly 1-3 (1f); D Mulligan 1-0; O McDonnell and M Farrelly 0-2 each. St Patricks: P Keenan 0-5 (1f), E Carroll 0-4f.

ST JOSEPH'S - P McEnteggart; D O'Donoghue, E McKeown, B Campbell; D O'Sullivan, M Gorham, T Yore; M Farrelly, C Murtagh; C Smith, S Melia, D Reilly; B O'Donoghue, O McDonnell, D Mulligan. Subs: C Maguire for B O'Donoghue (50); T Smith for C Smith (59).

ST PATRICK'S - S Connor; E Zamboglou; C Goss (capt), L Oliver; D Finnegan, P Buckley, D White; P Mallon, P Keenan; E Carroll, R Finnegan, S Hynes; D Kirwan, K White, D Murphy. Subs: J O'Hare for Oliver (35); D Connor for Murphy (36); J Keenan for Hynes (50); A Breen for Kirwan (52).

REF - T McEnteggart.


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