Dundalk Young Irelands in final
DERMOT Mone is enjoying every minute of Dundalk Young Irelands upturn in form and fortune as the oldest club in the land prepares for a Leinster final this weekend.
A win over Offaly champions St Brigid’s at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday (1.30) would crown a fairytale year for Mone and his teammates, who were pretty much down and out this time 12 months ago following a double relegation.
‘This time last year we had 13 or 14 boys up at training, that’s why we got relegated. But now there’s 24 or 25 up every night and it makes it all the better and there’s a bit of craic again too.
‘We lost the very first game of the year against Dunleer and deserved to lose it. The lads were coming back like Derek [Maguire] and Mark Savage and we hadn’t just clicked into this system we’re playing this year, but that was a probably a catalyst. We took a long look at ourselves after defeat and we didn’t want another year like that so we kicked on from there and got some momentum.’
Rumour even has it that new manager Adrian O’Donoghue floated the idea of a Leinster run way back before a ball was kicked in anger last February and if that sounds a bit crazy after the season they had just endured, Mone insists it was exactly that kind of positivity that triggered the turnaround.
‘Everybody who knows Adrian knows he’s a bit loopy anyway!’ he jokes. ‘But Adrian sets his sights on things and doing that after the season we had losing every game bar one, it was a complete change in mentality and we went out expecting to win every game. That’s been a key driver in how we’ve performed this season.
‘In the Championship there were a few performances we wouldn’t have been happy with, but coming into Leinster we seem to have hit form at the right time and hopefully we can carry that form into Saturday’s game.
The Irelanders have shown both their resilience and flair on the provincial stage, eking out a narrow win in Westmeath, before sending Laois champs Annanough home from Dowdallshill with their tails between their legs. Then came a tricky semi-final hurdle in New Ross against Kilkenny outfit Tullogher Rosbercon and Mone feels it’s been a character-building journey.
‘We knew the Westmeath boys had a few good players and we just got over the line. We were well ahead, but didn’t kick on and they even missed a penalty with the last kick of the game. We had a few fortunes of luck between the late interception in the Louth final and them missing that penalty, so again we had a look at ourselves.
‘With Laois next we thought it would be a much tougher game than it was, but you have to just take it one game at a time, even though that sounds like a big cliche,
‘Coming into these Leinster games it’s hard to know what to expect. Adrian I’m sure looks at match reports and the like, but it’s hard to know who the danger men are and what style of football they play. There was a lot of talk that we’d beat Kilkenny handy because they are a hurling county, so you’re trying to block that out.
‘The conditions were horrific, but we got off to a good enough start and they came back into it. At half-time we weren’t that happy so we knew the first 10 minutes of the second-half could be decisive and thankfully we kicked a couple of scores and it made the difference.’
Dermot admits that like the previous rounds he knows very little about St Brigid’s but he doesn’t need a full scouting report to know they’ll be a good side.
‘We don’t know much other than they’ve come this far, so they’re going to be a good side, and every bit as good as us. But we just have to concentrate on ourselves. We have a full squad to pick from and in some of the games this year the guys coming off the bench have been the difference, particularly the Westmeath game, so hopefully it will be the same on Saturday.
‘We’re going to enjoy the experience. Even if we weren’t in a Leinster final we’d be nearly getting ready for pre-season for next year so it’s great to have a bit of motivation.’
it was a complete change in mentality and we went out expecting to win every game.
Dermot Mone forces a save from Annanough goalkeeper Sean Hennessey during their Leinster quarter-final clash at Dowdallshill.