Date Published: 18-Sep-2009
AN absorbing West Board Minor A Football Final ended in stalemate at Pearse Stadium on Wednesday evening when two evenly matched sides played out a see-saw encounter which was forced to a replay by St. James’ Eoghan O’Regan’s injury-time leveller.
O’Regan was one of St. James’ quieter forwards over the course of a vibrant, enthralling contest, but when the chips were down, he answered the call. With the last kick of the game, O’Regan ensured his colleagues got a second chance with a brave effort from the ’40 after an incredible Micheál Breathnach’s comeback had hoisted the Inverin side into their first lead of the game in the final minute.
Peadar Óg Ó Gríofa’s 60th minute goal looked to have booked Breathnach’s place in the County final with Corofin, capping a storming finale in which they scored 1-4 without reply, but when St. James’ drew level it was inevitable that the final whistle would swiftly follow despite the fact that at least another two minutes of injury time could have been played.
Three times St. James’ led by five points or more, but their opponents’ dogged refusal to buckle led to a wonderful exhibition of point-taking from a variety of angles and distances as stand-out performances from St. James’ Mike Elwood and Micheál Breathnach’s Fiach Ó Bearra emerged amid a host of fine displays on either side.
Elwood was involved in the game’s first score, a St. James’ goal, when he collected Shane Coughlan’s pass and quick hands saw Adam Lee and Lee Vahey also involved before Philip Ryan punched to the net. Vahey quickly added a point and then burst through to create the game’s second goal in the ninth minute as Caomhín Ó Conghaile saved his shot but Coughlan, roaming from the half back line, was on hand to poke home the rebound.
A free from Ó Gríofa and Diarmuid Ó Feinneadha’s point quickly quashed thoughts of a one-sided affair as the nimble-footed Fiach Ó Bearra orchestrated attacks from centre-half forward. His brother MacDara got forward to add their next score before Fiach picked out Ó Gríofa on the edge of the square and, after a quick sidestep, the net bulged to make it 2-2 to 1-3.
Unshaken, St. James’ went back on the front foot, despite Ó Feinneadha and Fiontáin Ó Curraoin dominating midfield for Breathnachs, and Elwood (2) and Ronan O’Connell (free) raised white flags to restore the five point gap by the 20th minute. But with the service to the forwards faltering and Colm Ó Cúiv belatedly offering resistance from full back, Micheál Breathnach’s edged back into the tie with the last four points of the half.
Micheál Ó Conaire and Ó Curraoin bagged the first two after heavy involvement from Ó Feinneadha, and the midfielder then got his second of the game before Ó Conaire left the minimum between the sides, a gap which dissolved when Ó Gríofa got the first score of the second half. Momentum shifted again when Killian Murphy denied Ó Curraoin a goal from close range and O’Connell got James’ first score in 16 minutes after a good pass from the under-utilised Philip Ryan.
Fiach Ó Bearra restored parity with a free, but St. James’ forged ahead once more when Aaron Connolly gathered a rare catch and fed Vahey, whose powerful run ended with a blistering shot which nestled in the top corner. Mike Elwood was by now drafted back to midfield to curb the ball-winning capabilities of the Breathnach’s duo, and the ploy worked for a time as O’Connell pointed from close range before calmly finding the net in the 46th minute after good work from Andrew Burke and Coughlan.
Surely the Micheál Breathnach’s resistance was now at an end, but Ciaran Breathnach has obviously instilled a never-say-die attitude in his squad as a fantastic score from Fiach Ó Bearra, after he and Ó Gríofa had both converted frees, left only a kick of the ball in it at 4-7 to 1-13. Cramp had already caused a long delay when St. James’ Cathal Walsh hit the deck and was eventually carted off, before Ó Bearra suffered similarly with five minutes left.
When the action resumed, Iaos Howlin was next to score for Breathnachs before Ó Gríofa’s marvellous goal had the Inverin natives in the stand in full voice. Eoghan O’Regan’s timely intervention, though, creates a headache for fixture makers as St. James’ also have Junior B and Intermediate finals to contend with over the next fortnight. Here’s hoping, though, that the second instalment of this final can live up to the high standards of this clash.
It is slightly unfair to pick out players from either side for praise when all 33 involved combined to provide such a spectacle, but Johnny Duane’s tussle with Peadar Óg Ó Gríofa on the edge of the square, in which both players excelled at various stages, was a highlight. The tireless Lee Vahey, Ronan O’Connell and Mike Elwood all shone for St. James’, as did Micheál Breathnach’s Diarmuid Ó Feinneadha, Fiontáin Ó Curraoin, and Fiach Ó Bearra.
The way we were – Protecting archives of our past
“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”
For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here
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(After extra time)
For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.