O’Rourke strikes late to save Tulsk
Incredibly, for the third time in four years a decider involving Oran ended all square and this match was no less enthralling than the previous two. In fact, it was probably even more dramatic and for the neutral it was a tremendous contest played in perfect weather conditions.
When the hugely talented Darragh Walsh kicked a spectacular 35-metre point for Oran in the fifth minute of injury-time to put his side ahead, it looked like Oran’s wait for a first title since 1997 had come to an end.
However, there was still time for Tulsk to go downfield where Thomas O’Rourke pointed a free to ensure they’d have to do it all again this Saturday.
There is no doubt that Tulsk will be the happier side. In fact, they probably got out of jail as Oran played most of the football but the maroon and whites hung on and got a share of the spoils.
When lion-hearted Mike Dwyer kicked an inspirational point for Oran in the 38th minute Billy Donnellan’s men led the pre-match favourites by ten points, and were full value for that lead as well. Some of the football they had played in that opening 40 minutes was scintillating. But injuries, and an improvement in Tulsk’s play saw Oran wilt, and the momentum swung towards Gerry Lohan’s side as the second half went on.
With a number of Oran players injured or doubtful, Tulsk took to the field as the hot favourites to break their championship duck. But despite starting with three 18-year-olds and three 19-year-olds, Oran ripped into Tulsk from the opening minutes and played some of the finest attacking football that this writer has seen in many years on the Roscommon club scene.
With James Regan, Mike Dwyer, Gearoid Keenan (and after him Thomas Fetherston) lording the midfield exchanges, there was plenty of possession for Oran’s quicksilver young forwards and they lapped it up showing for the ball brilliantly, and repeatedly beating their markers to claim superb accurate passes that were being put in front of them.
Tulsk were stunned as this talented Oran side ran rings around them defensively, and not surprisingly the scores began to pile up. By the 23rd minute it was 2-5 to 0-1. Ciaran Lawless, Charlie Carthy, Darragh Walsh and James Fitzpatrick had the run of Hyde Park and it was fantastic to watch.
The goals arrived within sixty seconds of each other. In the fifth minute Ciaran Lawless blasted home after a brilliant run from Darragh Walsh and a minute later Charlie Carthy looked to have lost possession but steadied himself before putting the ball in the top corner for another spectacular score.
Tulsk were like a swimmer struggling with the current and gasping for air as the fleet-footed Oran youngsters played ducks and drakes with them. And while Tulsk gave themselves a glimmer of hope with three points from Robbie Kelly and two from Thomas O’Rourke (1 free) in the last five minutes of the first half, there was still eight points between them: Oran 2-6 Tulsk 0-4.
When Oran came out and kicked the opening two scores of the second half from Ciaran Casey and Mike Dwyer, it looked like curtains for Tulsk. But they made several switches and eventually they began to get some traction. Indeed some of the Tulsk subs made a huge contribution to their revival.
The comeback started in the 40th minute when Padraig Scott’s delivery was fisted to the Oran net by Daniel Connolly and points from Callum Fahey and David Coyne reduced the gap to five by the 46th minute.
James Fitzpatrick lifted the siege with a wonderful point for Oran in the 51st minute and with less than ten minutes to play there was still a gap of six. But the Rockfield men were tiring now. They had lost Gearoid Keenan early on to injury and his replacement Thomas Fetherston (who had played brilliantly), was also struggling. The supply lines into that lethal attack were drying up.
Tulsk kept coming. Thomas O’Rourke converted two frees, and in the 56th minute Tadgh O’Rourke burst through and flashed the ball over from close range to reduce the gap to three.
And just when it looked like Oran would hang on, a late desperate Tulsk attack involving Tadgh O’Rourke and Daniel Connolly saw Callum Fahey finish high into the Oran net from close range.
The drama wasn’t over yet however as young Darragh Walsh swung over a spectacular point in the fifth minute of injury-time to put Oran in front once more. Tulsk had just about enough time for one final attack and when they were awarded a free 30 metres out Thomas O’Rourke pointed to send it to a replay. A great score under pressure.
For a Tulsk side that was in terrible trouble for 40 minutes, Ryan Galvin was outstanding, David Coyne put in a huge shift at midfield while Thomas O’Rourke and subs Daniel Connolly and Callum Fahey were also excellent.
Oran were best served by veteran Mike Dwyer who was outstanding all through, goalkeeper Mikey Monaghan, Kieran Whyte, Thomas Fetherston, Darragh Walsh, Ciaran Lawless and Charlie Carthy were also superb.
Have Oran missed the boat and can Tulsk ever play as poorly again? Some of those questions that will be answered in the replay. One thing is for certain: no one will be writing off Oran. It’s all to play for.
Tulsk: Regan Fahey; Niall McNamara, Darragh O’Rourke, Stephen Lennon; Evan Flynn, Gerry Galvin, Ryan Galvin; Tadgh O’Rourke (0-1), David Coyne (0-1); Robbie Kelly (0-1), Thomas O’Rourke (0-5, 4 frees), Cathal O’Rourke; Jack Conlon, Padraig Scott (0-1), Timmy Fitzmaurice. Subs: Fergal Moylan for D O’Rourke (b/c 16), Daniel Connolly (1-0) for Fitzmaurice (35), Callum Fahey (1-1) for Conlon (41), David Carlton for Scott (49), Liam Cribbin for Kelly (53), Dara Jones for Coyne (60).
Oran: Mikey Monaghan; John Martin, Colin Walsh, Kevin Concannon; Eoghan Grady, Mike Dwyer (0-1), Kieran Whyte; James Regan, Gearoid Keenan; Ciaran Casey (0-1), Ciaran Lawless (1-1), Ray Farrell; James Fitzpatrick (0-2), Darragh Walsh (0-3, 2 frees), Charlie Carthy (1-2). Subs: Thomas Fetherston for Keenan (11), Jack Earley for Farrell (30 +2), Paul Kenny for Casey (45), Shane Casey for Grady and Eamon Kenny for Fetherston (59).
Referee: Kevin Naughton