Pleas­ant de­tour for Bl

CAR­DI­NAL O’DON­NELL CUP FI­NAL

The Argus - - SPORT - JOHN SAVAGE

IF a se­nior cham­pi­onship twoin-a-row re­mains the dream des­ti­na­tion, Newtown Blues took a plea­sur­able de­tour on Satur­day night.

A bat­tling five-point win over 14-man Naomh Mairtin se­cured a 13th League ti­tle for Louth’s most suc­cess­ful club, but the cel­e­bra­tions were short and sweet as the sat­nav was im­me­di­ately re­con­fig­ured to next week­end’s SFC quar­ter-fi­nal clash with St Joseph’s.

Ro­nan Phillips’ side are the clear favourites for Joe Ward suc­cess this au­tumn and a near-per­fect league cam­paign fol­lowed by knock­out wins over Mat­tock Rangers and the Jocks has only bol­stered the odds on them re­tain­ing their county ti­tle next month.

The pre­tenders to their throne - Naomh Mairtin in­cluded - may take some so­lace from what was lit­tle more than a work­man­like per­for­mance, but in dank, slip­pery con­di­tions, their abil­ity to carve out vic­tory with­out ever hit­ting top gear was as omi­nous for their ri­vals as it was heart­en­ing.

The Jocks will still feel that they missed an op­por­tu­nity, how­ever.

There was noth­ing be­tween the sides in the open­ing 20 min­utes and the Mairtin’s were the bet­ter team in the sec­ond pe­riod, but a dis­as­trous 10-minute spell be­fore the break ul­ti­mately de­cided the con­test.

Blues opened with points from John Ker­mode and Ross Nally, but when Sam Mul­roy was dragged down by Ciaran Downey to win a penalty, the Louth man quickly dusted him­self down to slot the spot-kick past Craig Lynch.

Eoghan Cal­laghan added a point soon af­ter, but Downey brushed off the penalty con­ces­sion and con­verted a brace of frees to draw the Blues level at 0-4 to 1-1.

The sides were still level when Wayne Camp­bell picked up the sec­ond of two yel­low cards in the 22nd minute, but by the in­ter­val the Blues had opened a 1-6 to 1-1 cush­ion.

The red card was bad enough for the Jocks, but within a minute they were caught by an­other body blow as Downey dropped a free on to the edge of the square which Conor Moore some­how turned goal­wards.

The Blues turned the screw with a free from Downey and point from Conor Brani­gan, pris­ing out a five-point half-time lead, 1-6 to 1-1.

It didn’t look great for the Jocks at that stage, but they didn’t let those first-half set­backs weigh on them af­ter the break.

Mul­roy cut the deficit to three with a quick brace straight af­ter the break, but a bril­liant piece of strength and skill by Ross Nally quashed the come­back be­fore it had ever re­ally be­gun.

The Louth at­tacker used an in­jec­tion of pace and some old-fash­ioned brute force to fash­ion the chance, but the fin­ish was pure fi­nesse as he picked his spot just in­side the far post, giv­ing Lynch no chance.

Again, Naomh Mairtin re­sponded well and the Blues needed a su­perb save from Dean Martin to main­tain a bit of breath­ing space.

They were able to keep the gap at four points, but Martin was forced into an­other su­perb save when Cal­laghan teed up JP Rooney at point blank range.

David Fedi­gan lev­elled the num­bers up with 10 min­utes re­main­ing, dis­miss­ing Fer­gal Dono­hoe with a straight red card.

But this Blues team doesn’t scare eas­ily and de­spite rid­ing their luck at times in the sec­ond pe­riod they showed all of their poise and knowhow in the clos­ing stages. And two of their most ex­pe­ri­enced sol­diers made

Conor Brani­gan as­sesses his op­tions as Conor Healy closes in.

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