Hodson Bay Group SFC Final
Pádraig Pearses 2-10 Roscommon Gaels 1-10
“I’ve failed over and over again. That’s why I succeed”
Basketball legend Michael Jordan may not have had Pádraig Pearses in mind when he made that statement but it certainly applies to the men from Taughmaconnell, Moore and Creagh as, after appearing in seven finals with no return, they finally got their hands on the Fahey Cup and their first ever Roscommon SFC title at the eighth time of asking at Dr. Hyde Park last Sunday.
The three-point margin would suggest a closely fought encounter, however Pearses thoroughly deserved to win the game on the balance of play. They did however stutter with the winning post in sight and that opened the door for a Gaels team who were well beaten, but refused to throw in the towel. Maybe it was the weight of history on their shoulders and the enormity of what they were about to achieve, but Pearses retreated into their own half and almost paid the price.
In fact, the final fourteen minutes of the match were tension-filled and dramatic. In the 55th minute, Pearses led by seven points when Roscommon Gaels were awarded a free. A mini-melee broke out with players on both sides involved. When the dust settled referee Marty Parker decided to issue two straight red cards to Cian Connolly and Bryan O’Gara, which incensed the Gaels management and many supporters as they felt that both sides were equally guilty, yet Pearses had escaped without sanction.
It could be argued that Roscommon Gaels played their best football when they were down to 13 men as they scored a goal and a point after that incident. But despite over eight minutes of injury-time, during which the town team were camped in the Pearses half, there was to be no more late drama and Pearses held out for a historic victory. When they look back this week the new champions will wonder how they made it so difficult for themselves as they were by far the best team for most of the game.
Pearses won this game in the twenty minutes leading up to half-time. Conor Daly was majestic as he popped up everywhere around the middle. The Gaels midfield was under pressure and Pearses played some wonderful football in that twenty-minute spell. Conor Payne’s goal in the 13th minute was beautifully constructed. Super points from Paul Carey, Emmet Kelly and Conor Daly increased their lead, and then when Emmet Kelly and Paul Carey set up Hubert Darcy for another great goal in the 23rd minute, Pat Flanagan’s men were on their way.
By contrast, the Gaels were under pressure and struggling to cope with Pearses’ power game. A seven-point half-time lead (2-7 to 0-6) was no more than Pearses deserved.
But credit to the Gaels, they changed formation in the second half and brought John McManus and Mark Nally into midfield and it strengthened them in that area. But the town team could still not find the spark they needed to trouble Pearses. In truth, it was only in that final frantic period that they gave Pearses a fright. Another spectacular goal from Richard Hughes in the final minute of normal time was just too little too late.
A lot of the after-match talk centred around Pearses having played against tougher opposition on their way to the final. It was surely a factor that Pat Flanagan’s men had come through tough battles against Clann, Western Gaels, Brigid’s and Boyle, and it certainly appeared that this left them better prepared for last Sunday’s decider.
Anthony Butler, Mark Richardson and Davy Murray were outstanding in defence and Niall Carty and Niall Daly were once again very effective around the middle third, while up front Lorcan Daly turned in his best performance of the year. Not far behind him were Paul Carey and Hubert Darcy. However my Man of the Match was Conor Daly. He was majestic from the first whistle and his leadership and clever use of the ball was key as Pearses built up that strong first-half lead.
It was a day that anyone who has ever been associated with the Pearses club will never forget. I met many former players and officials out on the field after the game who had tears of joy in their eyes. They have waited 57 long years since the foundation of the club to get their hands on the Fahey Cup. There have been so many near-misses and heartbreak over the years but all that was washed away last Sunday.
Spare a thought for Roscommon Gaels who have come up short once again this year. They have been so close over the past four or five years and once again they have found that it was not to be. Too many of their players under-performed on the day and it cost them dearly. In the cold light of day they will admit that they were beaten by a better team, but under Liam McNeill they have become a formidable force. They put in a huge effort this year and left no stone unturned in their preparations and they will be heartbroken to have lost. The big question now is, will they have the resilience to come back and give it another try in 2020?
But to the victor the spoils, and after waiting almost six decades Pádraig Pearses are now the Roscommon senior football champions. Sport is like that. Dreams actually do come true and as Michael Jordan says, you fail over and over again and that’s why you succeed.
Paul Whelan; Shane Carty, Mark Richardson, David Murray; Anthony Butler, Ronan Daly, Gavin Downey; Niall Daly, Conor Daly (0-2); Lorcan Daly (0-1), Niall Carty, Paul Carey (0-2); Emmet Kelly (0-3, 1 free), Hubert Darcy (1-1, 1 free), Conor Payne (1-1).
Subs used: Tom Butler for Kelly (47), Alan Duffy for Carey (49), Sean Ryan for Payne (63), Sean Fahy for Downey (66), Niall Finneran for L Daly (67).
James Fetherstone; Tim Lambe (0-1), John McManus (0-1), Mike McNeill; Kevin O’Gara, Richard Hughes (1-0), Paul Gleeson; Mark Healy, Kieran Kilcline; Scott Oates, David O’Gara, Brian Kelly; Ronan Carolan (0-2, 1 free), Cian Connolly (0-5, 4 frees), Peter Gillooly (0-1).
Subs used: Mark Nally for Gillooly (39), Bryan O’Gara for Healy (42), Ronan Gleeson for McNeill (44), Cathal Dineen for Kelly (49), James O’Gara for K O’Gara (62), Richard Walsh for Kilcline (66).
Referee: Marty Parker.