A long time coming for Inniskeen

These days don’t come around too often for Inniskeen as we reflect on the last time they reached a Monaghan SFC final all the way back in 1990. Shaun Casey reports….

NO one imagined it would take over 30 years for Inniskeen to reach another Senior Championship final, especially at half time of the 1990 decider.

Up by nine points against the mighty Castleblayney, thanks to three first half goals, Inniskeen looked to have secured their first county title since 1948. But then, disaster struck.

Little by little, Castleblayney clawed their way back into the game and a late goal from Louth star Stefan White completed the comeback as they embarked on another decade of dominance with a one-point win.

“We blew it big time but ‘Blayney in those days, sure they had a half-county team playing,” recalled Owen Keenan, captain of the last Inniskeen team to line out on the big day. “We hadn’t even got a county man on the team.

“We just had one of those first halves where everything went right, everything we touched turned to gold but sure we didn’t know what to do at half time, we just couldn’t keep it up and we lost our way.

“Castleblayney at the time were one of the kingpins in Monaghan football, them and Scotstown,” added Pete Meegan, player/manager at the time.

“We led by nine points at half time, and we knew there was going to be an onslaught from ‘Blayney but we still scored six-points in the second half, they were just too strong.

“It knocked the stuffing out of us, and we had a reasonably good team but ‘Blayney had maybe five senior county players and I think they had three county minors. The majority of the team were all county players with a handful of medals in their back pockets.

“I thought we’d be back quicker than we were,” added Meegan, who will be cheering on his two sons and two nephews on Sunday as Inniskeen lock horns with Scotstown.

“In 2005 we won the Intermediate Championship in Monaghan and went on and won Ulster and then the All-Ireland.

“I thought then maybe we could make the breakthrough, but we lost a lot of players. Work was scarce at the time, and we lost a lot of players, probably half the team emigrated.

“We thought, like any other team, you’d be in a county final again probably the following year or the year after that but it’s 33 years now,” explained Keenan. “I never dreamed of that happening.

“I think it was the following year (1991), we were actually relegated back to Intermediate, we took it that bad. The bottom just fell out of us. It was very hard and with the young players now, I hope they realise when they get to a county final it could be their last.

“Hopefully not but it could be. It’s not one of those given things that you get every year and Ballybay proved that last year. They won Monaghan and went on and beat Crossmaglen in the first round of Ulster and this year they were almost relegated.”

The emergence of a group of good minors have transformed Inniskeen’s fortunes and while a tough task awaits this weekend, Meegan hopes reaching the final is a sign of things to come.

“There was a big push put into underage football in Inniskeen and it has come through. In 2018 we won the Minor Championship; it was actually the last of the u-18 championships.

“And the year before that, in 2017, we probably had a better team, although we didn’t win the Minor Championship. Between those two teams, we probably have nine or ten of those players now in the senior panel.

“We’re coming strong at the minute and the likes of Scotstown, Clontibret and Ballybay seem to be on the turn so we’re hoping if we can win this one then maybe there could be another one or two in the pipeline.”

While not exactly sticking their chests out with firm predictions, both Keenan and Meegan, the club’s groundsman, believe their side can cause an upset.

“The team knows they have a great chance but we’re not too cocky about it,” concluded Keenan. “It’s going to be a hard game with the talent Scotstown have but if Inniskeen play to their potential then I think we might get it over the line this time. But it’s all on the day.

“The build-up, flags and bunting and everything, there’ll be a big push on but at the end of the day we still have to go and do the job,” warned Meegan.

“Oisin McConville came in for three years and he brought the team to a good level, but I think John McEntee and Tony Kernan have brought them to a new level this year.”

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