St Enda's talisman Joe Maskey looks forward to All-Ireland semi-final against Connemara outfit Spiddal
JOE Maskey has become firmly established as a cult hero at St Enda’s during the Glengormley club’s run to the Ulster Intermediate Championship title.
After Saturday night’s four-point win over Cavan champions Mullahoran, smiling kids in black and amber crowded around to have their pictures taken with the giant midfielder and a chorus of ‘Joe-Joe, Joe-Joe-Joe-Joe, Joe-Joe-Joe-Joe, Joe-Joe Maskey’ boomed out of the St Enda’s changingroom as the players celebrated an historic victory.
“It’s the first time any of us have ever experienced this,” said Maskey as he took in the jubilant scenes on the pitch at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday night.
“Frank (Fitzsimons, the manager) told us in the changingrooms that this could be the last time we’ll ever be here, hopefully it’s not but it’s a class feeling now.”
The towering midfielder popped up all over the Athletic Grounds in Saturday’s win. One minute he was plucking a kickout out of the air, the next he was clearing the danger from under his own posts. He scored a crucial second half goal and even volunteered to go into nets after goalkeeper Paddy Flood had been sent off late in the game.
Maskey (21) has already lined out for the Antrim senior hurlers and, although Terence McNaughton has warned him “not to lose his soul” to football, he could certainly make the switch at inter-county level if he wanted to.
“Neal Pedan (the new Antrim hurling manager) texted me yesterday,” Maskey revealed.
“I’ll be back to the hurling soon hopefully.”
He won’t be back in an Antrim jersey until this St Enda’s journey comes to an end and that won’t be until January 18th at the earliest. St Enda’s, who’d never won a county title before this year nevermind an Ulster title, face Galway and Connacht champions Spiddal.
The Connemara outfit beat the Míchael Breathnach club in their county final after extra-time in a replay.
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“We’ll give it a go and I’d be fairly confident,” said Maskey.
“Now we’re Ulster champions, not just Antrim champions, and Ulster is a very good standard. I’m sure Spiddal will be confident too but I can’t wait for it.
“We have loads to look forward to.
“We’re a very fit, fast team and it will take a good team to have a go at us. They (Mullahoran) came at us today but thankfully we showed that wee bit more character and got over the line.”
Maskey was one of many outstanding performers in a fit and talented St Enda’s side including full-back Mick McNamee who battled hard to shackle Mullahoran full-forward Paul Brady, James McAuley, who led the side from centre half-back, and pacey forwards Kristian Healy, Eoin Nagle and Odhran Eastwood.
“I’m proud of everyone,” said Maskey.
“I’m not an overly great, skilful footballer, I just work hard. Tonight it wasn’t high-scoring, everyone just worked hard and gritted their teeth and thankfully we got there.”
St Enda’s (who never behind in the game) led by Kristian Healy’s goal at half-time but Mullahoran were level within four minutes of the start of the second half. The Glengormley men pulled away again but Cormac O’Reilly came within a whisker of levelling the game when he hit the crossbar.
St Enda’s broke and Maskey had the ball in the Mullahoran net just seconds later and that, despite a late penalty for ‘the Dreadnoughts’ was that.
“They came out and scored three on the bounce but we had it in our heads that we couldn’t go behind and thankfully we came back again,” said Maskey.
“We knew they would go for it but thankfully they ran out of steam a wee bit.
“They got that penalty – Paddy had to take their guy down because it was a certain goal – but thankfully we didn’t squander our lead. That wee bit more experience from losing those U21 semi-finals and basically choking in our championship we’ve learned from it and here we are now.”