Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Four Roads blocked by Cappataggle in a thriller

AIB Connacht Club IHC Final

Cappataggle (Galway) .... 0-14

Four Roads ……………...… 2-7

Seamus Duke 

As heart-breaking defeats go this is about as bad as it gets because Four Roads deserved at least a share of the spoils – if not more – in this pulsating Connacht club intermediate hurling final played in reasonably good weather in Athleague last Sunday.

  In the aftermath of the game, Four Roads players, mentors and supporters were extremely angry at a couple of refereeing decisions that went against them – particularly a penalty claim that they had with three minutes to go. From where I was sitting, it looked like a certain penalty, however Mayo referee Joe Conway saw it differently and it was to prove a crucial decision in the end.

  David Dolan levelled the scores with a Four Roads point in injury-time but then in the 33rd minute Galway intercounty senior goalkeeper James Skehill coolly drove over a free from 70 metres out and it proved the winning point in a welter of excitement.

  I know it won’t be much consolation to Four Roads, but this was easily the best game of club hurling that I have attended this year. It was competitive, hard-fought and close all the way through and there were some passages of excellent play from both sides to warm the hearts of the huge crowd, many of whom had travelled to Athleague from Cappataggle.

  The Galway champions had won their county title only the week previously, and they were first to score when Declan Cormican pointed from 30 metres in the 3rd minute. David Dolan had Four Roads level less than a minute later with a fine point on the run.

  Then in the 8th minute, good work from Brendan Kelly and John Moran for Four Roads, coupled with indecision in the Cappataggle defence, saw Ray Mulry on hand to fire to the Cappataggle net for the first goal of the game. Alan Dolan followed up with a Cappataggle point from a free in the 10th minute.

  Ray Mulry drove over a Four Roads free from 30 metres in the 21st minute and the action was end to end with both defences playing brilliantly. Just a minute later Emmett Malone rattled over another Cappataggle point to leave it 1-2 to 0-3 for Four Roads. Then there were eight scoreless minutes before we had a rush of scores before the break.

  Tomas Lennon scored a great point from 35 metres in the 29th minute before Alan Dolan replied with a free, and in injury-time the sides exchanged points from the always-dangerous John Moran for Four Roads and Padraig Dolan for Cappataggle to leave the score Four Roads 1-4 Cappataggle 0-5 at half-time.

  The exciting action continued unabated on the resumption and Ray Mulry grabbed the first score of the half from a free in the 5th minute. However in the next ten minutes Cappataggle assumed control and they knocked over five points on the trot. Alan Dolan (2), David Kenny, David Byrnes and Padraig Dolan were all on target and the Galway champions had now gone two points ahead, 0-10 to 1-5.

  In the 17th minute Ray Mulry reduced the gap to one with a free from 20 metres but Galway senior player Damien Joyce extended the Cappataggle lead again with a lovely point in the 18th minute, and a minute later the gap was three points when Alan Dolan was again on target with a free.

  Four Roads were playing well and they always looked dangerous and with 7 minutes to go in normal time the Roscommon champions scored as fine a goal as was seen on any hurling field this year. Mark McLoughlin’s clearance reached John Moran out on the right wing. Under pressure, Moran brilliantly flicked the ball up to John Coyne who made twenty yards before hand-passing the ball inside to sub Ronnie Kennedy who drove low and hard to the Cappataggle net for a fantastic goal. Now the sides were level.

  The intensity rose further as the sides battled for possession in those final minutes. With three minutes left Four Roads were awarded a free 30 metres from the Cappataggle goal but incredibly Ray Mulry’s effort went wide of the posts.

  Then Four Roads looked like they were denied a certain penalty when Ronnie Kennedy appeared to have been tripped in the large square – but the play was waved on.

  A minute later Cappataggle were awarded a free inside their own ’65 and Skehill came out from the goalkeeper’s position to drill the ball over the bar from all of 90 metres out. But Four Roads came up with a brilliant equaliser just as the game was heading for injury-time. A lightning-fast move ended with John Moran being fouled and David Dolan drove over what looked like the point that would send the game into extra-time. 

  However there was more drama. Cappataggle were awarded a dubious-looking free 70 metres from the Four Roads goal and Skehill duly obliged with another great strike. Then Four Roads were given a lifeline in the 34th minute wheh they were awarded a free 75 metres from the Cappataggle goal – but Shane Curley’s strikes was wide and shortly after it was all over and Cappataggle had survived to win by a point.

  It was a heart-breaker for Four Roads and ecstasy for the hundreds of Cappataggle followers who had made the journey to support their team.

Four Roads deserved at least a chance to play extra-time and those crucial decisions that went against them cost them dearly in the final few minutes. 

  Mark McLoughlin played really well at full-back for Four Roads and in a brilliant defence Brendan Kelly, Michael Kelly and Padraig Kelly were all outstanding in the half-back line. Liam Gately and Tomas Lennon did well at midfield, while up front, John Moran was a constant threat to the Cappataggle defence while others to do well for Four Roads were David Dolan and Ray Mulry.

  For Cappataggle James Skehill, Tom Broderick, Padraig Dolan, Damien Joyce, Emmett Malone, David Byrnes and man of the match Alan Dolan were best.

  It was a cracking game of hurling and it begs the question as to why the idea of the Roscommon champions playing in the IHC wasn’t mooted a long time before now. It proved that Roscommon clubs are very competitive at this level and that a Connacht and even All-Ireland IHC title is a legitimate ambition for Roscommon clubs into the future. 

Cappataggle: James Skehill (0-2); Jonathan Shaughnessy, Tom Broderick, Michael McLoughlin; Gerry Broderick, Michael Broderick, Stephen Creaven; Damien Kenny (0-1), Padraig Dolan (0-2); Damien Joyce (0-1), Daniel Loughnane, Emmett Malone (0-1); David Byrnes (0-1), Declan Cormican (0-1), Alan Dolan (0-5). Subs: Cathal Cormican for Loughnane, Martin Broderick for Cathal Cormican.

Four Roads: Padraig Mulry; Shane Curley, Mark McLoughlin, Noel Cunniffe; Brendan Kelly, Michael Kelly, Padraig Kelly; Liam Gately, Tomas Lennon (0-1); John Moran (0-1), Damien Lohan, Brendan Mannion; David Dolan (0-2), Ray Murly (1-3), John Coyne. Subs: Ronnie Kennedy (1-0) for Brendan Mannion, Paul Connolly for Noel Cunniffe.

Referee: Joe Conway (Mayo). 


Match at a Glance

Man of the Match: Michael Kelly (Four Roads)

There were many candidates in what was a fine game of hurling. For the winners Tom and Michael Broderick, Padraig Dolan, Damien Joyce and Alan Dolan were all outstanding while for Four Roads John Moran, Ray Mulry, Mark McLoughlin and Brendan Kelly were in top form but Michael Kelly was in brilliant form all through and he is fast becoming the finest hurler in the county. Another fantastic display from him.

Weather/Pitch: 

The weather was overcast and there were a few light showers but it was mild and ideal for hurling and the Athleague pitch was in fine shape. 

Entertainment: 

This was the best game of club hurling I was at in 2008. From the first whistle it was tremendous stuff as both sides went at it hammer and tongs. There were no nasty incidents and there were some fantastic scores, including a peach of a goal from Four Roads late in the second half from Ronnie Kennedy, which brought them back level. Great stuff – especially for the neutral.

Crowd: 

A very big crowd in attendance, with massive support for Cappataggle. There were long queues at the entrance gates and the match programmes ran out early. Clearly the authorities did not expect such a big crowd and there was a great atmosphere throughout the game.

Referee Watch: 

Joe Conway from Mayo was a late call-up for Aidan Mac Suibhne and he did not endear himself to Four Roads with some baffling decisions, especially late in the game. He should have awarded Four Roads a late penalty and the decision not to do so proved crucial.