Plenty of Offaly interest as Coláiste Choilm and Joseph's seek Leinster glory
There will be plenty of Offaly interest in two Leinster Schools football finals taking place tomorrow (Friday), July 17.
Coláiste Choilm, Tullamore are preparing to face Cnoc Mhuire, Granard in the Leinster Schools Senior ‘B’ football final, which will take place at TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar (throw-in 1pm).
Bidding for their first title at this grade since 1990, Coláiste Choilm are managed by Tullamore senior football manager Niall Stack, who is assisted by James Buckley, John Lydon and Ronan Farrell.
Irrespective of the result of the final, Coláiste Choilm have decided to compete at the ‘A’ grade in the next school term.
Coláiste Choilm will be without the services of Harry Plunkett (Tullamore) and Kieran Dolan (Shamrocks) through injury, but they are still optimistic of victory against their north Longford opponents.
Later in the afternoon (4pm), Bord na Móna O’Connor Park in Tullamore will host the Leinster Schools SF ‘A’ final between St Joseph’s Rochfortbridge and Naas CBS.
Tullamore man John Rouse is the St Joseph’s co-manager along with the vastly experienced Luke Dempsey. Rhode’s Aaron Kellaghan, a son of former Offaly star Paschal Kellaghan, is a key player on the St Joseph’s side.
The Covid-19 lockdown measures have wreaked havoc on Irish society since mid-March, but the senior footballers from St Joseph’s were particularly unlucky to have been deprived of their inaugural Bro Bosco Cup final appearance by a matter of just two days.
Luke Dempsey, while conscious of the fact that the coronavirus has far from disappeared in this country, “is delighted that there is a finality” to the saga.
“Once we were allowed to meet, we did so. Last Friday we were allowed into O’Connor Park by Michael Duignan (Offaly GAA chairman) and we played Leinster ‘B’ finalists Coláiste Choilm, Tullamore in a challenge. The pitch was like a carpet,” said Dempsey.
Defending champions Naas are seeking their third Leinster title in a row.
Dempsey said: “Honestly, I have no idea what the Naas CBS lads have been up to during lockdown. They are a formidable outfit and when I am up in Kildare training Johnstownbridge, everybody talks about their star names. They are a very good side and it’s a huge school. The town of Naas is spoken of as ‘a sleeping giant’ in terms of senior football in the county with all these lads coming through. They are justifiable favourites on Friday as they are going for three in-a-row.”
Of course, ‘normality’ as we once knew it has not fully returned to the playing of sport in Ireland. In this regard, Dempsey explained what will be involved on Friday afternoon, as follows: “We can only turn up at the ground, we can’t go into the dressing rooms, we have to get the jerseys on us in an outdoor venue, discuss tactics, and then play the match. The lads must bring their own water bottles, and sanitise their hands coming and going. The physios are restricted as to what they can do with the players. Hopefully, the weather will be okay. Only 200 people will be allowed in, all told.”
The latter fact is clearly going to discommode many players’ relations and ordinary supporters. Panellists will be allocated two tickets each. “The lads are great and I’ve explained all this to them. From day one, they’ve taken on board the whole Covid-19 business. They have been very compliant,” Dempsey stated.
“From our point of view, we are just looking after our own ship and we’re delighted that this group, most of whom are sixth years, are getting the chance to finish off what has been a very unusual year. It’s remarkable that they are still meeting up in July. They are now talking to me as a team manager, rather than as a teacher. There’s much better banter because of that. They are so looking forward to it, and so are their parents,” Dempsey added.
The ‘A’ final will be refereed by Patrick Coyle from Meath and it has to be finished on the day.