'It means the world to me' – Luke Dempsey
Pictured above: Luke Dempsey during the Leinster Schools final between St Joseph’s Rochfortbridge and Naas CBS.
Former Westmeath football manager Luke Dempsey added another honour to his impressive collection when St Joseph’s Rochfortbridge won the Leinster Schools SF 'A' title last week.
Dempsey guided Westmeath to All-Ireland success at minor and U-21 level in 1995 and 1999 respectively. And in his first year in charge of the Westmeath senior team, Dempsey memorably guided his adopted county to the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
But last Friday's win for the Rochfortbridge school was among the sweetest of Dempsey's career, with St Joseph’s defeating the defending champions Naas CBS in a pulsating decider in Tullamore.
“I’m entering my last year teaching in September. I’ve been in the school since 1981 as a 21-year-old and have been involved in football all that time. It really means an awful lot to me. It means the world to me.”
That was Dempsey’s understandably emotional post-match assessment regarding St Joseph’s inaugural Bro Bosco Cup win against the three-in-a-row chasing Naas CBS.
St Joseph's victory saw them become the first Westmeath school to win the Leinster Schools SF 'A' crown since Athlone Community College did so in 2008. In total, six Westmeath schools have now won this title - the others being Carmelite College (Moate), St Finian’s, St Mary’s (both Mullingar), and Franciscan College, Multyfarnham.
Reflecting on close to four decades spent in St Joseph’s, Dempsey said: “It was great to see Damien Gavin here today, our first captain when we played ‘A’ football in 1995, and then he went on to captain Westmeath to the All-Ireland minor title. You could see the emotion in his face.”
Dempsey continued: “This victory is for all the teachers who have taken teams over the years. Our school has become a really sporty school and we have battled with 400 boys against the likes of St Pat’s (Navan) with their 1,000 and Naas with their 1,200. Also, I think the greatest achievement by the school from a football point of view was the employment of John Rouse from Tullamore when he came from Knockbeg. He has just been a marvellous help.”
Along with Dempsey and Rouse, Garrycastle's Damien Rushe was also part of the management team.
Dempsey praised the spirit as well as the footballing talents of his players. "Their outrageous camaraderie and willingness to win the 50/50 ball came to the fore in many of the matches this year, not just in the final. That age group live for the day and they are very light-hearted lads who love their football. We kept them busy during the lockdown," said Dempsey, who thanked a number of GAA clubs for their help.
Unfortunately, Covid-19 disruptions mean that there will be no Hogan Cup competition in 2020, but Dempsey was philosophical about the matter, saying “it is what it is".
“When they decided to finish off the provincials but not have an All-Ireland, that was a great decision for us in one sense. Of course, you would love to see how we would compete against the Ulster, Munster and Connacht champions, but that’s not to be in the circumstances," said Dempsey, adding that it was still "marvellous" to be celebrating as Leinster champions.