Kepak Roscommon SHC Semi-Final
Athleague 0-18 Pádraig Pearses 2-12 (Athleague win 2-1 on penalties after extra-time)
History was made in Athleague on Sunday as Athleague hurlers became the first senior club team in Roscommon to win a major championship game on penalties when a dramatic and incident-packed semi-final couldn’t separate the two teams after extra-time.
After the excitement of Tremane’s win in the day’s first semi-final earlier, there was even more pulsating action for spectators as 14-man Athleague pulled the game out of the fire in normal time and again in injury-time to force this shootout with Padraig Pearses.
The earlier rain showers had cleared, but the conditions were still difficult for both sides. Athleague were on top for most of the first half but two goals in a minute for Pearses saw them go in at the break in front.
Pearses suffered a big blow at the very start of the match when the influential Shane Naughton went down with a serious shoulder injury. He was unable to continue.
Ben McGahon was unerring from the placed ball as Athleague moved 0-7 to 0-4 in front after 30 minutes. However, they were down to 14 men after referee Matthew Farrell sent David Flaherty off for a foul on Daniel Glynn in the 24th minute.
Pearses were struggling, but when they grabbed two injury-time goals that scoring burst rocked Athleague back on their heels. In the 33rd minute Tadhg Cogavin forced the ball over the line after Athleague goalkeeper David Connell lost the flight of a high lob in the bright sunlight. A minute later, Matthew Comerford was on target after good work from Dara Finn and Tadhg Cogavin. At the break it was Pearses who led by 2-4 to 0-8.
With McGahon so merciless with his frees, Athleague were always in this game. The sides were level on no less than four occasions in the second half. Cathal Kally, Matthew Comerford, Oisin Kelly and Dara Finn were doing well for Pearses, while Niall Connolly, Ben McGahon, Ronan O’Meara and Cormac Kelly were prominent for Athleague.
It looked like Dara Finn might have won it for Pearses when he pointed from 50 metres in the 60th minute, but in injury-time Athleague sub Cian Murray levelled the scores (0-16 to 2-10) to send the game into extra-time.
Two Daniel Glynn frees and a Ben McGahon placed ball were the only scores in the first half of extra-time. As players tired on both sides, the only score in the second period came from the stick of Cormac Kelly in the final minute of play. With the score at 2-12 to 0-18, it was down to a penalty shootout.
Just three of the ten penalties taken were scored in that shootout, with Ronan O’Meara and Daniel Glynn both on target with the first penalty for their respective teams. After a number of misses and two great saves from David Connell in the Athleague goal, it was left to Niall Connolly to score Athleague’s fifth penalty. When Connell saved from Cathal Kenny it confirmed Athleague’s place in the final.
Now, with Athleague and Tremane advancing, we await a first SHC final between these two teams from the same parish since 1980. What a day it was in Athleague and what a build-up we will have over the next week or two.