The shift of power within Louth hurling in recent years from Knockbridge to Pearse Óg has, no doubt, been pondered by many out at Knockbridge. However, today’s final gives them a chance to stop the Dundalk side from claiming a three-in-a-row of senior hurling titles.
The chance to ‘knock them off their perch’ will not be far from Knockbridge minds at Stabannon this afternoon. But, speaking in the build up to today’s final, defender Conor Kerrigan says that isn’t the case.
“It wouldn’t have been something that we would have spoken about at all”, admits Kerrigan. “That is their business and goal for the year I am sure. To be honest, what we want to achieve first and foremost in the final is the strong team peformance we know we are capable of, that is something that went missing in both the 2012 and 2013 finals after showing great promise in the earlier rounds.”
Today’s showpiece event will see Pearse Óg captain Shane Callan cross swords with old rivals Knockbridge once more. For many years Callan has nursed heartbreak after heartbreak (five-in-a-row to be precise) as Knockbridge repeatedly beat Pearse Óg to the county’s top prize. It was a time of suffering and seething. Waiting and planning. Dreaming and even praying.
But, now with Pearse Óg on the brink of an historic three-in-a-row of senior county titles themselves, can the Louth star believe such a thing is within their grasp?
“I’m captain this year and it would be special to me and my family if I could lift the trophy for a 3-in-a-row”, explains Callan ahead of today’s match. “I played in five defeats in a row to Knockbridge and it was hard to envisage getting to this point.”
But here they are. Ready to complete something that was beyond comprehension just five years ago. Having beaten Knockbridge just two weeks ago in the round robin stage of the championship does Callan believe his side have an edge this year?
“I wouldn’t say we’ve an edge”, begins the 29-year-old. “Two years ago we won all our games and last year they beat us before the final, so I think we’re evenly matches and it comes down to the day.”
They may go in as favourites given their recent success in the tournament, but it hasn’t been the best of years for the club in terms of preparation. Manager Brendan Mulholland had to step back from the team for personal reasons, but in his place have come Martin Myles and John O’Brien to fill the void.
It’s sure to be an intriguing clash, with old rivalries and plenty of talent on display. The winner will lift the Paddy Kelly trophy aloft at the end. Will it be town or country though?