Newcastle West manager Joe Lee
THERE is no hiding the fact that reaching the Limerick SFC Final was a target and perhaps even an expectation for Newcastle West.
“First of all the goal was to try and come out of the group and top it, which we done and then after that to get to the final,” accepted manager Joe Lee.
But what of opponents Adare?
“I couldn’t lie - I would have to say no,” said Lee when asked if Adare would have been on his short-list at the outset of 2017.
”I remember early on in the year and I was chatting to Billy (Lee, Limerick football manager and Joe’s brother) and he said ‘you need to go and see these fellas’. They were in the other group so I hadn’t seen them but he was very impressed. I did see them and then again against Ballylanders - they are well organised and well structured and the boys over them like Joe Redington and Jerome Stack have huge experience and know what they are about. They have them well set-up,” outlined Lee.
”That’s dangerous from our point of view - youngsters don’t see any fear, they just go out and play and these boys can play football. They are all well able to play football.”
Lee said all “makes for a very interesting final”.
”I think it will be an open game. I know finals tend to be tight but there are two teams who want to play football and when the nerves go out of it, it should be a good game - maybe a shoot out. Our fellas do know how to defend from the last couple of years with Antoin McFadden, although we have tried to change that this year.”
Joe Lee and company are in year one at the helm in Newcastle West but took over a team who were 2015 champions.
”Adare actually beat the boys two years ago in the third round in Rathkeale and the boys went on to win it - that was the kick of two years ago.” recalled Lee.
This season there was also a “kick” for The Magpies.
“We started well but the first two games were probably a bit unrealistic - while we scored well, we conceded heavily enough as well in both games. There was no way we were going to continue like that and maybe some fellas got false notions about themselves. We drew with Ballysteen and then losing to Oola was definitely the kick that the boys needed. We went into the St Kierans game and it was winner-takes-all - we won and we were into a semi final and they lost and were out, they were the small margins,” outlined Lee.
“The boys were in a good place since that Oola game on,” said Lee.
”If you come through a group undefeated you can get caught out and might not know where you are really at but at least when you do get beaten it resets the goals and resets the mind-set for the players and management - you can get carried away with results and that’s not healthy,” outlined Lee.
After that group phase, Newcastle West had a timely County League Division One Final win over Drom-Broadford ahead of the championship semi final with Monaleen.
“That was a decent game for us - playing Drom-Broadford is a local derby and there wasn’t going to be a back foot taken by either team so it was a good intense game and it definitely helped in our preparation for the semi final,” said Lee.
Then came the Monaleen semi final – the champions of 2016 against the champions of 2015.
“For our fellas it was a game that they wanted - they want to be challenged. Not being disrespectful to any other team but Monaleen are up there and these are the teams that the boys want to be playing,” said Lee.
That semi final win saw Newcastle West continue to use some of their underage talent like Diarmaid Kelly, Sean Murphy and Sean Ivess.
“We always had a decent enough panel but it is only a strong as who good you are on any given day. When the boys won the county minor in 2015 and 2013 Seamus O’Connor was over both teams and they have come through now and Seamus knows them very very well, while I would know the older lads probably better,” explained Lee.
”There are a lot of options there and competition for places, which is brilliant. At the end of the day x-amount will probably guaranteed to start but there is competition for places then and if someone isn’t going well we know we have fellas that can go in and do a job for us. Some might be a bit inexperienced at senior level, even though they won would a lot done at underage level,” he said.
Lee is back for his second stint as manager but was more than happy to grasp his second-coming.
”When the boys approached us; myself, John (Donovan) and Seamus (O’Connor) to come in, we had a meeting and decided we were interested so we said we would have a go of it.”
Added to the management team was highly rate coach Martin Horgan.
A former full-time coach with Kerry GAA, Horgan is a former Castleisland footballer and current chairman of Scartaglen GAA Club.
”He is a very very good coach. Very enthusiastic and I would say he will be an inter-county coach - he is probably the best coach I have ever seen in terms of his thinking. I couldn’t speak highly enough of him,” said Lee.