Looking back on the record books ahead of today’s final, it’s hard to find an abundance of history between these 2 clubs, but if you take into account their most recent head to heads, predicting a winner could be undeniably risky.
Last year, they met in the semi finals, and it took 2 matches to separate them before Emmets emerged victorious in the replay. This year, their meeting in the Group Stages was only decided in the dying minutes when Ronan Grufferty and Stephen Healy notched-up late scores to see Emmets narrowly over the line. And by that stage, Dunleer had already lost Carlos Lambe through an early red card.
While in their Division 3 League clash back in June, it was even closer, so much so that it finished honours even at Pairc Ui Mhuiri.
That 2 point victory in the C’ship Group Stages, set Emmets on the road to topping the section, and with it, a Q-Final clash with the John Mitchells.
Lannleire on the other hand, stayed on course for Runners-up spot, but looked to have a tougher task to overcome in the form of recently crowned Div 3 League winners Hunterstown.
Emmets were always in command against Mitchells at a wet and soggy Stabannon, but it was Lannleire’s victory in Ardee the same weekend, which caused the greatest stir. The Dunleermen scored 2-14 on their way to dispatching the C’ship second favourites, and just to prove it was no fluke, they were equally ruthless against the Sean Mc Dermotts in the semis. Building-up a sizeable fourteen point advantage by the 3rd quarter, they simply ran Mc Dermotts ragged, and although they could be accused of dropping into ‘casual’ mode in the latter stages, it can sometimes be difficult to maintain such a strong momentum to the finish.
And what about Emmets, who proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a team’s League status doesn’t matter one iota when it comes to the cut and thrust of C’ship knockout. Having done nothing out of the ordinary in their 4 earlier matches, they faced the hottest of favourites in the guise of the Oliver Plunketts.
But the men from Tullyallen duly belied their Division 3 status, with a performance of hard graft, guts and determination, on their way to a richly deserved 3 point victory, and a place in their second consecutive Final. Not even an early 5 point deficit or a late equalising goal could deny them the victory, and the way they went about their business the last night, shows they’re in rude health entering today’s showdown.
But the same could be said of Lannleire, who’ve also found their best form in recent weeks.
12 months ago, Glen Emmets left Dunleer, having come off second best against a rampant St Fechins side.
Emmets only raised a single white flag in the opening half that day, and by the short whistle, had the look of a beaten team, bewildered and crestfallen.
The Termonfeckin men have since gone on to prove themselves as Intermediate c’ship pedigree, but that won’t be much consolation to Emmets, who are desperate to avoid a 4th Junior C’ship Final defeat, since their solitary success of 1997.
Lannleire too, have some demons to banish.
They were at this very same juncture 4 years ago, earning a draw with St Nicholas in the first match in Haggardstown, before losing the replay in Drogheda.
Like Tullyallen, the Main Street in Dunleer has been bereft of much C’ship celebration over the years.
Although there was an Intermediate title to savour in 1994 and a Senior Final appearance 4 years later, one has to go all the way back in 1985, for the last time the Bellew Cup was handed over to a Dunleer man, on that occasion, current club PRO Aidan King.
Either way then, today’s victors are going to be deserving of their win, if not for some of the performances they’ve strung together in the knockout stages, then for the fact that they’ve had to play the waiting game for their day of glory to return.