St Fechin’s are proving Judge right
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.’