November 30, 2001
Gerry Robinson recalls Geraldines' brilliant Joe Ward Cup heist of 19 years ago. Ah, them was the days...
Sometimes, when all's quiet on the western front, it's nice to take stock, to count our blessings, to celebrate our successes and overlook our failings . . . even if just for a few moments. The Geraldines had a quiet enough 2001, so what better time to cast our minds back to 1982 and their most recent senior football championship success?
Nineteen-eighty-two was the fifth occasion on which Geraldines won the Louth senior football championship, the Haggardstown/Blackrock combination having previously tasted the big time in 1913, '15, '16 and '20. However, it was the first and only occasion on which the club captured the famous Joe Ward Cup, which was inaugurated in 1949.
Porkys was the big hit at the cinema at the time but my mammy wouldn't let me watch it. Just as well there were other things going on that long, warm summer. In Haggardstown and Blackrock, the heat was turned up as excitement hit fever pitch - and not a cinema screen in sight.
What was all the fuss about? Well, at the epicentre of the euphoria was the bridging of a 62-year gap by the parish's heroic football team.
The county final at St Brigid's Park was the first ever meeting of Geraldines and Kilkerley Emmets at this level, a confrontation that was set up when the Gers caused a major surprise on the last Sunday in August by eliminating holders and competition favourites Newtown Blues in a semi-final replay at The Grove, Castlebellingham.
That 0-12 to 0-10 victory sent ripples of surprise through the Wee County's GAA establishment and was a harbinger of what was to come in the decider.
The semi-final replay was the defining moment in Geraldines' historic year and they were full value for their victory in a match which kept a crowd who paid gate receipts in excess of £1,300 on the edge of their seats.
It was the first time they had reached the county final in 13 years and what made their return to the main stage that little bit sweeter was the fact that it had been none other than Newtown Blues who had defeated them in the 1969 final at Ardee.
As in the drawn semi-final of August 15th (when the sides shared 18 points), Geraldines refused to be intimidated by the great record of their opponents in this competition and completely upset the Boynesiders with tenacious tackling, terrier-like chasing of every ball and a determination that was simply indominatable.
Crucially, they also won the tactical battle.
The novel pairing for the final came as a breath of fresh air. As Mick O'Dwyer's Kerry crusaders had crippled the national game with an utter dominance that rendered it pointless, Newtown Blues and Cooley Kickhams were threatening to do something similar to the Wee County scene with a duopolous stranglehold. Between them, the pair had accounted for 15 of the 21 SFCs contested since 1960!
Adding poignancy to the occasion was the not so small matter of the County Board having held its silver jubilee presentation dinner on the previous Friday evening, honouring the All-Ireland winning team of 1957. Reminiscences of that side are always sure to spark heroic endeavour.
Nineteen-eighty-two marked Kilkerley's first ever appearance in a senior county final. Geraldines, on the other hand, had been a tremendous force in Louth football long before the Kilkerley Emmets club was even formed (1939).
The Geraldines club was conceived in Dublin Street in 1904 and ironically the very first game was against Blackrock - part of the parish from which the present side is drawn! They won their first minor championship in 1906 and went on to contest seven successive county finals between 1910 and 1916 inclusive. They collected their first SFC in 1913 against Ardee at the Shamrock Lodge Grounds in Drogheda.
In more recent times, however, the achievements of the two clubs had mirrored each other - Geraldines returned to senior ranks when defeating Gaels by 2-8 to 1-4 in the 1978 intermediate final, Kilkerley having won the Seamus Flood Cup the previous year.
0-13 to 0-8 quarter-final victors over St Mochtas, Geraldines reached the '82 county final without conceding a solitary goal in three outings (one of those extended to 90 minutes) en route . . . a tribute to goalkeeper Colman Rushe. One of only two non-natives on the team, Colman was - like wing forward Mick Murray - from the west of Ireland.
The county final was staged on Sunday September 12th and saw the Gers capture the biggest prize in Wee County football for the first time in 62 long years. The comprehensive 1-12 to 0-9 victory sparked celebrations that ran on into the following Tuesday evening - and beyond.
Despite the unfavourable conditions, the final produced some wonderful football, especially from the winners. The blustery weather dictated that exchanges were scrappy at times but Geraldines supporters didn't mind in the slightest when the final whistle sounded and their heroes became the twelfth club to have their names inscribed on the Joe Ward Cup.
The scoreline also earned them the distinction of coming through the entire campaign without conceding a goal.
Those two tough semi-final encounters with the Blues certainly did the winners the power of good and any weaknesses they might have had hitherto were effectively removed by the backroom team, led by Kevin Lynch.
Geraldines looked particularly effective up front where an intelligent running game characterised their play. Indeed, all 15 players worked extremely hard for each other throughout the field.
With the elements in their favour during the first half, Geraldines moved quickly and dismantled their opponents with sharp thinking and precise execution. To their credit, Emmets did make a fight of it in the third quarter when they twice drew within four points but young Malachy Rogers hit a purple patch when re-assigned to midfield to put the Haggardstown men back on track.
Geraldines won the toss and, having elected to play with the wind, delivered a number of telling early blows. The game was still in its first minute when left corner forward Aidan Prendergast popped over a point after being set up by right corner forward Colm Mackin.
The game's only goal arrived in the fourth minute when Prendergast mercilessly fastened onto an excellent delivery from captain Pat Lynch to bulge the net and send the Blackrock/Haggardstown congregation amongst the supporters wild with delirium.
The Kilkerley defence was at sixes and sevens and but for a few excellent saves from Willie Quigley would have been dead and buried within the first quarter-hour.
In the 12th minute he blocked from Mackin following a trademark Jimmy McDonnell searing run; a minute later, he stopped a fine Prendergast effort but the corner forward was alert and gathered possession on the rebound to grab his third score.
Forty yards man McDonnell was next on the mark to make it 1-3 to 0-0 in Geraldines' favour.
Kilkerley responded with a brace but the rampant Geraldines finished the half strongly with points from Pat Lynch, Mal Rogers and McDonnell to give themselves a commanding 1-6 to 0-2 interval lead.
It became apparent that it was going to be Geraldines' day when the teams emerged for the second period and the wind appeared to have dropped. Geraldines counted their blessings and then ruthlessly hit two quick points.
Within 20 seconds, midfielder Padraig McDonnell sent one over and this was augmented by another Prendergast score in the 34th minute.
Kilkerley fought back and had crept within four points (1-8 to 0-7) at the midway point in the second half. But the Geraldines bench acted quickly and moved Mal Rogers out to midfield where he was to exert a major influence on the game's closing acts.
A point from Colm Mackin and a brace from McDonnell left it 1-11 to 0-8. The game was virtually over and as it ebbed out of existence and into the history books, McDonnell added Geraldines' final score.
Geraldines, 1982 Louth Senior Football Champions:
Colman Rushe; M Lynch, M Thornton, John Smith; John Thornton, Pat Lynch (capt, 0-1), Jim Reneghan; Paul Reneghan, Padraig McDonnell (0-1); M Murray, Jim McDonnell (0-5), Gerry Connor; Colm Mackin (0-1), Malachy Rogers (0-1), Aidan Prendergast (1-3). Sub: Jim Sloane.
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