Ardee St Marys Minors will bid to bring a first Minor Championship to Ardee in 30 years when they face Geraldines in the Louth GAA Minor Championship final at the Gaelic Grounds in Drogheda on Sunday – and manager Tom Kirk says his young side have the character and determination to deal with the pressure.
Last month’s dramatic semi-final win over Cooley Kickhams paved the way for the Ardee teenagers to move within 60 minutes of a historic first ever Minor Championship for the club as a standalone entry in the competition. They last tasted victory at Minor level way back in 1987, the last of 13 triumphs for the Ardee Minors combination.
Kirk, alongside selectors Dermot Gillespie and Mark Rooney, has overseen the run to the final by a squad that has grown up together and achieved much at the various age levels through the years. Now though this team, six of which were part of Louth’s Leinster Final panel in the summer. stand on the cusp of club glory.
A number of players who will feature for the Minors on Sunday afternoon, such as Jonathan Commins, Carl Gillespie and Tiarnan Corrigan, were part of the Marys’ Under 16 side that suffered Championship final heartache at the hands of St Fechins less than seven days ago.
Having established themselves amongst the Minor ranks earlier in the year, they are now key players and will play a vital role against the side from Haggardstown. Kirk says those players involved in last week’s defeat are raring to go again this time around.
“They are really, really determined,” he told ThisIsArdee.ie. “There was some pitiful sights (last week). Some of those young fellas cried bitterly and you see parents cry bitterly. It was a terrible sight. I said it to them during the week ‘Do you want to see that again?’ The answer was a very firm no. These guys don’t want to go through that again.
“Some of the more experienced Minors spoke out at meeting in the week, and they don’t want to see it,” he continued. “It’s a game of football – 15 vs 15. We believe we’re good enough. We’ve trained very very hard from the first week in March. These guys are ready for the battle.”
To bounce back from last week’s crushing defeat at the hands of the side from Termonfeckin, those players will require determination and courage, traits their manager says they have in abundance.
“There’s character in the team, and hunger to win. That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “We’re probably under a bit more pressure because we haven’t won one in 30 years. This group of lads have been together a long time and they’re used to winning.
“We are confident, quietly confident. It’s going to be tough, like any final. The Geraldines are not coming just to show up, they’re coming to win too. We’re strong all over the field. We have a good squad and we have good subs we can bring in as well. We know we’re going to play a big, strong physical team and we’ll have to be on our guard for them.
Kirk confirmed that the Marys will be without right half back Tom Jackson through injury. “Tom is an exceptionally good player for his years,” he said. Jackson started the semi-final against Cooley in Darver and was also involved with the Under 16s last weekend but won’t be this time around.
That match against Cooley, Kirk believes, helped show his side exactly what was required to win a Championship.
“We were in a group of four and two pulled out,” he recalls. “That left us with one game in the group stage against the Mochtas. We came out then against the Gaels and scored 7-17. It was no contest. We had no tough games and all of a sudden, we played Cooley. They put it up to us.
“They were a different team than we had played before. They really laid into us. But we showed our character in the end. We were five down and won by six in ten minutes. A lot of teams might have fallen apart at that stage, with seven or eight minutes to go.
“We’ve had problems picking teams. We had problems picking tomorrow’s team. When you have 31 players on a panel and you have to pick a team, it’s not easy.