Oldcastle manager Jude McNabb (second from left) with selectors Marcus Morrison, Niall McNelis, Declan Mullen, Mick Kavanagh and Michael Cantwell.

McNabb promises a battle to the end


Jude McNabb is not in the business of making outlandish predictions before games but one thing the Oldcastle manager is promising ahead of Saturday's IFC final is a battle. He says if favourites Trim want to win the Mattie McDonnell Cup they will have to sweat for it. They'll have to take the scenic route; the long, hard way.

"All the talk is about Trim and yes they are a very, very good side but county finals are notoriously choppy affairs and this game is going to go right down to the wire I can assure you that. We're hoping to come out of it as county champions," he says before elaborating further. "There won't be a kick of a ball in it and it I don't think they're going to fancy playing us."

To back up his viewpoint the Oldcastle manager points to how the teams met in the Corn na Boinne back in June and Trim only emerged with a 2-11 to 2-9 victory. He talked about how his team "got about" the Trim defence in that game, scored two goals and could have got more. "We are underdogs but it is going to be a real tight affair and we're looking forward to it."

That tag of underdog is something McNabb is perfectly happy to take on believing that all the heat will be on a Trim side who have lost the last two IFC finals.

"The pressure is on Trim, it's their third final in a row and we want to sow that seed of doubt at some point. We want to see if they are up for the fight because we are going to bring a serious fight to Trim, ask serious questions from the get go."

Someone who clearly thinks deeply and often about Gaelic football and how players, and teams, can be made better, McNabb comes from a family steeped in the game. He turned out in the colours of his home club Trillick for 14 years, nearly always as full-back. A senior club they didn't land a Tyrone SFC crown in his time with them, although they went close a few times. His cousins include Ryan McMenamin, the durable, sometimes controversial Tyrone defender who won three All-Ireland medals and an All-Star. After Trillick, McNabb played with Dunshaughlin for a few years before turning his attentions to coaching.

An employee of Salesforce the cloud-based multi-national, McNabb is married to Eilis Ni Murchu, who was part of a very successful Monaghan Harps ladies football team, ensuring that when it comes to football matters he doesn't have to look too far for advice. They have three children and live these days in the Bettystown area.

McNabb served his apprenticeship as a coach looking after under-age teams at local club St Colmcille's and was very successful in that role. He won a series of county titles and led one of his teams to the All-Ireland Div 1 semi-final in the 2018 Feile.

In more recent years he has coached at Simonstown Gaels and when he was asked to take over at Oldcastle he was intrigued. He knew they survived an IFC relegation play-off last year but he also felt there was promise there so he turned down offers from elsewhere and switched his attention to north Meath.

"Seamus (Oldcastle chairman Seamus Maxwell) sold me the project. I knew some of the players, I thought they had plenty about them. Even though the journey to Oldcastle is a one-hour drive I thought it would be the perfect kind of job."

McNabb has sought to bring structure, organisation, consistency to the set-up, believing that's what players want. He also feels it's important that players have no doubt in their minds what's required of them once they cross that white line. "Players under me are never in any doubt what their contributions have to be on a given day. Collectively they know exactly what they are about, the tactical plan, and individually they know their job.

"When I came into the club we didn't have a video analysis room, now we have a hi-tech video analysis room. I work for Salesforce so I was able to help Seamus (Maxwell) and the boys kit out that room and that's really the core of what we are about. We really go to town in analysing teams to death."

He talks about Trim like he knows them inside out. "Trim are a wonderful side, they've got some wonderful players, (James) Toher at six, a big midfield, (Alan) Douglas at 11, very good player, young (Ciaran) Caulfield, a wonderful talent at 10, young (Mikey) Cullen in the corner and their marquee player, Aaron Lynch, whose mother is from Trillick. We have to do our homework on those boys but every team has their weakness, Trim have, so have we."

McNabb is not making any promises - except Trim will not have it easy. "We certainly believe we can put up a serious challenge to these boys and ask questions of them," he adds with feeling. Just how serious those questions will be remains to be seen.