St Fechin’s are prov­ing Judge right

Mid Louth Independent - - SPORT - JOHN SAV­AGE

EU­GENE Judge hasn’t ven­tured too far from New­foundwell over the years, but he’s look­ing to main­tain a 100 per cent strike rate on Sun­day.

Al­most 25 years ago to the day, he helped Na Piar­saigh to a Ju­nior Cham­pi­onship ti­tle, but un­til this year, that was his one and only ‘ex­ter­nal’ gig.

He has taken the reins at his beloved Blues a few times and earned his stripes at var­i­ous lev­els with Louth, but St Fechin’s pulled off a bit of a coup in at­tract­ing the New­town Blues’ le­gend to Beaulieu.

The short com­mute no doubt helped to twist his arm, but he also saw big po­ten­tial in this St Fechin’s group and they’ve cer­tainly proved him right so far.

‘Jack Malone asked to come up to Na Piar­saigh in ‘93 when they won the ju­nior cham­pi­onship, but other than that it’s only been the Blues and Louth.

‘I did Louth mi­nors and U21s with Ea­monn Dunne, but I sup­pose the main one was the seniors un­der Paddy Clarke. Like any­one who has worked with Paddy he taught me ev­ery­thing. He was way ahead of his time and I don’t think Louth foot­ball knew just how good they had it with Paddy. But that’s an­other days work.’

‘I did feel there was some­thing in this Fechin’s team. Peo­ple use the word un­der­achieved a lot, but I’d be more in­clined to say well they just weren’t good enough in that mo­ment and that’s prob­a­bly been the case since the got to the fi­nal in 2014.

‘They could have won that game [against Sean O’Ma­hony’s] de­spite only play­ing for about 15 min­utes. If they had got their noses in front it might have been dif­fer­ent, but look, over­all they were prob­a­bly a bit too neg­a­tive.

‘It takes a bit of time to get to know play­ers too, but they’ve been great. There was a bit of play­ers be­ing boxed off be­cause it suited a cer­tain sys­tem, but we want them to think for them­selves on the pitch and go and ex­press them­selves.’

Sun­day’s finalists have sur­prised many ob­servers, but Eu­gene feels that the In­ter­me­di­ate grade in gen­eral is hard to pre­dict.

‘I wouldn’t say I was sur­prised, be­cause when you look at In­ter­me­di­ate you’d have to say there are a lot of teams at the same level or fairly even any­way. There’s a few in Di­vi­sion 1 so they have a more com­pet­i­tive league cam­paign, but if you went back through all the game in in­ter­me­di­ate there wouldn’t be much in any of them and it’s prob­a­bly more com­pet­i­tive than se­nior in that re­spect.

‘We didn’t set goals as such, but I would have liked to do bet­ter in the league. I’d be a firm be­liever that if you play eleven games in the se­nior league you’ll re­ally come on as a team, it al­lows you to ac­cli­ma­tise to se­nior foot­ball, as op­posed to hav­ing maybe two or three cham­pi­onship games.

‘But it didn’t work out for us [in the league] this year. We were al­ways down four or five through in­ter-county com­mit­ments or in­jury. I’d reckon Ro­nan Hol­croft, Be­van Duffy and Paul Matthews missed about four games each and I some­times won­der why in a county like Louth that we feel like we need star games. Over the last six or eight weeks some clubs have played noth­ing, so you have to ask your­self why you need to play games ear­lier in the year with­out your best play­ers.’

Nei­ther side have any­thing to worry about in that re­spect this Sun­day and they know each other well.

‘I think it shows now that is was a very tough group be­cause our­selves and the Mochta’s are in the fi­nal. The first win was vi­tal be­cause beat­ing Hun­ter­stown meant we knew go­ing into the Mochta’s game that we had a bit of wrig­gle room.

‘There was noth­ing in that game. I think they hit the top of the cross­bar and we went down the other end and nicked a score so there was only a hop of a ball in it.

‘They’re strong down the mid­dle, and they’re very work­man­like and well-bal­anced. The teams are quite sim­i­lar with McCooey a great foil for De­clan Byrne in­side a bit like Ro­nan Hol­croft and Niall Devlin and both teams have strong run­ners around the mid­dle of the field. I sup­pose both clubs have been a bit starved of suc­cess too so we’ll both be try­ing to put that right on Sun­day.

‘It’s a fi­nal, and the re­al­ity is that some­times one team doesn’t show up or for an­other team ev­ery­thing just clicks. But look­ing at this one I’d hon­estly say it’s 50/50.’

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