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'Clearly we all would've liked to have Sean Cox there on the day but that wasn't to be'

Dunboyne’s juniors won the Meath county title a fortnight ago while the seniors contest today’s final.

IF ST PETER’S Dunboyne win the Meath senior football title on Sunday, it’ll be their first since 2005 and just the third in their history.

DoR7D9HXkAIk7ax Dunboyne after their junior victory two weeks ago

It’s been a difficult 15 months in the local community and while there are some things in life far more important than sport, winning the county title would be a nice way for Dunboyne to finish the year.

When tragedy strikes, a local team can sometimes channel the pain and achieve something special. Dunboyne are on the cusp of managing just that by doing the junior and senior football double.

A victory today would be a fitting tribute to two of their own.

Prominent club member and former chairman Sean Cox was the victim of a brutal attack by Roma fans as he attended a Liverpool game in April, suffering severe brain injuries. He is currently undergoing extensive rehab in the National Rehabilitation Centre in Dun Laoghaire, but it’s still unclear what sort of recovery he’ll make.

“We just hope that we get some resemblance of Sean back,” his wife Martina said last week.

In August 2017 Lyndsey Comer, the wife of junior footballer and former London panellist Barry Comer, passed away.

Two weeks ago, Sean Cox’s son Jack kicked four points from play as Dunboyne annexed the Meath junior title. Captain of that team was Barry Comer, who dedicated the victory to his late wife in a very emotional speech as he collected the cup.

DoSCUUpXUAEEpcZ Barry Comer lifts the Meath JFC title Source: Damien O'Reilly/Twitter

It was an emotionally charged few days. On the Monday, club chairman Fergus McNulty and Jack brought the trophy into Sean in the hospital. He was well enough to hold the cup in his hand with his son.

“It is a very tight community,” McNulty told The42. “Sometimes these things are more unspoken. So yes it was very emotional after the match but in terms of the run-up and preparation.

“I think these things are more quietly acknowledged as opposed to necessarily being front and centre. 

“Certainly after the game it was obviously an emotional day for Barry and his family, it was quite poignant, Jack had a fantastic game and scored four points. Clearly, we all would have liked to have Sean there on the day but that wasn’t to be.

seancoxcvfgtr Sean Cox

“Those are more important things than winning football games but I think the win definitely helps with rallying around Barry and Jack. That certainly gave people a lot of satisfaction on Sunday last.

“Jack is a very talented player, he’s a dual player. He scored seven points in a Junior C final a number of years ago when he was just 18.

“On one level I wasn’t surprised at all. He seems to be a big day player as well which is great. But it was nice for him.”

McNulty is a close friend of Sean’s and praised the work he’s done in his adopted club over the years.

“Sean has been involved in the club for many, many years. He’s a former chairman and secretary so he’s been centrally involved in how the club has grown and developed. His impact has been extremely positive.

“He’s also involved in the athletics club and they have been very supportive with us in terms of getting the campaign up and running.

“We’d describe Sean as a real community leader and somebody who in a quiet way, a very quietly spoken man, has a real interest in where he lives and trying to make the place as positive a place to live and grow up in.

“He’s been a real community leader in that context.”

The club has won just two senior crowns before today but did produce All-Ireland winning manager Sean Boylan and current Royals boss Andy McEntee.

“We have a very strong identity and Sean certainly is very visible around the club as is Andy,” said McNulty.

Donal Lenihan Dunboyne's Meath star Donal Lenihan Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Dunboyne provided five players to the Royals this season – Donal Lenihan, Seamus Lavin, Shane McEntee, David Gallagher and Gavin McCoy. 

A fine club spirit has been fostered in the village as the senior players are heavily involved at coaching underage players and it’s something McNulty is proud of.

“It’s interesting in underage our players get quite involved in supporting the academy on a Saturday and Sunday. 

“That’s certainly one thing we’re trying to emphasise as a club. It’s not just the senior footballers but the ladies footballers – all of our adult teams we encourage to get involved as much as possible in the juvenile section albeit they clearly have to give priority to their teams. That’s something which has a high impact from a club perspective.” 

A year after they led an 11-point lead slip to eventual winners Simonstown in the quarter-final, Dunboyne defeated the same opposition in a semi-final. After a shaky start, they dominated the second-half and outscored the two-in-a-row champions by 2-13 to 0-1 in that period.

Last year’s beaten finalists Summerhill prove the challenge ar 3.30pm in Navan’s Páirc Tailteann.

“In some respects, Summerhill are quite similar in style (to us),” said McNulty. “They’ve been putting up big scores. They have that final day experience which I do think counts for a lot.

“Obviously, they have a number of players who seem to have to hit form so from that perspective there’s quite a similar style between the teams. It’s an intriguing final and I guess whoever maybe gets that edge on the day may shade it.

“(Dunboyne) are a talented group but the final will be a different proposition. Finals are very tense affairs. We know this is a very talented bunch of players so we know they’re capable but at the same time we also know that Summerhill have a lot of pedigree.

“They were in the final last year which will stand to them. I don’t think for a second we’ll be assuming that just because we turned in a good half in the semi-final that that match will be carried through to the final.

DoRXviyXgAQogAg The scoreboard after Dunboyne's semi-final win over champions Summerhill Source: Dunboyne GAA/Twitter

“The clock starts again. On their day they are capable of turning in a very good performance. Finals are very, very difficult to win so we’re certainly not taking that for granted.

“We learned a lot from last year but also we’ve been able to infuse some new players into the team, the likes of Sean Ryan and Liam Byrne have been great additions. They were previously members of the Meath U17 squad from a couple of years ago.

“We knew we weren’t that far away last year it was just one of those things. But we learned a lot and that combined with injecting a bit of new blood into the squad has definitely worked.”

Dunboyne have a good record in finals, winning on their only appearances in the decider in 1998 and 2005. 

“We’ve been trying to keep it low-key with the team. Last week was more about the Junior As following their victory. As we get closer you can feel the level of excitement starting to build-up.

“They don’t come along that often. A lot of the players playing on Sunday were underage players for 2005 and they remember it well actually.

“It’s just an interesting way of looking at it. It certainly doesn’t happen often so in that context it is a big day from a club perspective and one we’re looking forward to.”

Georginio Wijnaldum and Andrew Robertson with a banner for Sean Cox after the game Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Off the field, the club is organizing a fun-run on 29 October to raised funds for Sean Cox.

“It’s essentially an opportunity for the community and beyond to come out and run, walk, jog for Sean. It’s as much about demonstrating solidarity and support for Martina and the family and for Sean. 

“Obviously it’s a fundraiser as well and we’d love to see as big a crowd out as possible. I think we will get a response and it’s something that we’re looking forward to.”

You can contribute to the Support Sean campaign here

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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