Dramatic late score keeps derby epic alive
Shannonside FM SFC semi-final replay
Castlerea St. Kevin’s ................................................... 1-14
Western Gaels ............................................................ 1-14
Is there no end in sight? The Roscommon senior football championship served up another enthralling encounter in the Orchard Park, Elphin on Saturday evening last as not even 80 minutes of pulsating football could separate Western Gaels and Castlerea in a replay which had everything.
With Western Gaels on the verge of exiting the championship at the semi-final stage it took an extraordinary point from substitute Niall Murray with the last kick of the game to rescue his side’s ambition and prolong their stay in this year’s senior championship.
Both teams will make arguments that they should have won the game but the fact remains that this result boils down to the economics of football. Western Gaels dominated proceedings for the most part but could not convert the majority of their possession into scores while Castlerea were far more economical in front of the posts – Gaels’ 16 wide’s to Castlerea’s 6 tells its own story.
Having said that neither team deserved to lose this game and if they drawn encounter seven days previously was a disappointing contest then this replay was nothing short of spectacular and was certainly the most entertaining game of the championship thus far.
The opening score of the contest arrived in the 2nd minute of proceedings when wing-forward Thomas Mahon was fouled and Derek Moran duly converted the resulting free. Castlerea responded through a Ger Heneghan free moments later but Moran was on hand again to restore his side’s slender advantage with another placed ball.
Western Gaels were enjoying the better of the exchanges early on and when Kevin Higgins fed Moran, the full-forward left the Castlerea defence in his wake and dispatched an unstoppable shot into the corner of the net to hand his side a fairytale start to proceedings – 1-2 to 0-1 after only five minutes had elapsed.
Castlerea responded with a score from centre-forward Nigel Dineen before Moran – who was ‘on fire’ in the opening quarter – scored a sublime point with his favoured right foot to re-establish Gaels’ early four-point lead.
John Donnellan’s side were now dominating proceedings at this stage in the contest but Castlerea hauled themselves back into contention with an intricate move involving Heneghan, Dineen and Ronan Curran – the latter producing a neat finish to raise a green flag for the Castlerea men.
The sides were then level by the 10th minute through a Heneghan free after Enda Kenny had been fouled before the Gaels were handed the ideal opportunity to seize the initiative once again shortly afterwards.
Castlerea corner-back Gary Tiernan was adjudged to have fouled industrious Western Gaels wing-forward Thomas Mahon – however Derek Moran seen his spot-kick drift wide of the post at what was a crucial stage in the game.
The teams exchanged points for the remainder of the opening period with Nigel Dineen and John Duggan finding the range for the Castlerea men and Chris Collins and Gerard Nolan accounting for the Gaels scores to leave the contest delicately poised at the midway point – 1-6 to 1-6.
Castlerea goalkeeper Geoffrey Claffey denied Kevin Higgins after the restart before three points from Ger Heneghan – two from frees – handed Castlerea a three-point advantage in the third quarter of proceedings.
Chris Collins pointed for Gaels in the 40th minute before three Moran frees between the 48th and 52nd minute of the contest handed their side the lead once again as the pendulem swung back in the Gaels’ favour.
Western Gaels could now smell victory but with the game entering its dying moments two frees from Ger Heneghan on the stroke of full-time looked to have won the day for Denis Carney’s side.
However there was still time for a further twist in the tail and when Mahon fed Gaels roaming wing-back Donal Ward deep into injury-time the young Western Gaels man held his nerve to point and hand his side a deserved draw at the death and send the game into extra-time.
Both sides regrouped during the interval but it was Castlerea who engineered a winning position for themselves in the opening period of extra-time with three points from Enda Kenny (0-2) and the extremely impressive Nigel Dineen.
Gaels’ only response came through wing-forward Kevin Higgins who pointed moments before the half-time whistle sounded to keep his side within touching distance at the midway point of extra-time.
Substitute Dermot Lyons pointed on the resumption and at this stage in the contest one would have been forgiven to think that it was going to be the Castlerea men’s day. However with the game appearing to be slipping away from John Donnellan’s side the Gaels displayed their mental strength and enormous character yet again.
A Moran free and a Higgins point from play put the minimum between the sides with little or no time remaining in the contest and just when it seemed Castlerea had done enough to hold on for the win substitute Niall Murray popped up to level matters deep into injury-time with an incredible effort which sent the Gaels’ following into raptures.
With that the final whistle sounded and Western Gaels had once more masterminded another great escape and sent this incredible semi-final encounter to a third day out.
Castlerea St. Kevin’s: G. Claffey; E. Creaton, P. Duignan, G. Tiernan; N. Curran, M. Raftery, D. Flahive; M. Killilea, J. Duggan (0-1); C. Dineen, N. Dineen (0-3), D. Creaton; R. Curran (1-0), E. Kenny (0-2), G. Heneghan (0-7, six frees). Subs: B. Carty for D. Creaton (18 mins.), S. Heneghan for C. Dineen (39 mins.), N. Collins for E. Creaton (45 mins.), D. Lyons (0-1) for Carty (55 mins.), C. Dineen for R. Curran (64 min.s), B. O’Regan for Duggan (80 mins.).
Western Gaels: E. Queenen; A. Freyne, D. McGarry, S. McDermott; D. Ward (0-1), J. Nolan, E. Ryan; D. Jordan, A. Dockery; K. Higgins (0-2), M. Drury, T. Mahon; G. Nolan (0-1), D. Moran (1-7, six frees), C. Cregg. Subs: C. Collins (0-2) for Drury (28 mins.), M. Higgins for Ryan (45 mins.), N. Murray (0-1) for G. Nolan (50 mins.), J. McDonnell for Collins (61 mins.), S. Mahon for McDonnell (78 mins).
Referee: Haulie Beirne.
Man of the Match: Nigel Dineen (Castlerea St. Kevin’s)
This award goes to Castlerea stalwart Nigel Dineen who rolled back the years and gave an impeccable display throughout. His ball-winning skills and distribution to others were eye-catching from the moment the ball was thrown in – not to mention his three crucial points from play. Other who impressed were Geoffrey Claffey, Enda Kenny and Ger Heneghan. For Western Gaels, Donal Ward, Seanie McDermott, Adrain Dockery and Kevin Higgins made vital contributions on the day.