Pride of the parish!
Kepak Roscommon SHC Final
Athleague 3-12 Tremane 0-15
One of the tried and trusted clichés in sport and in Gaelic Games in particular is that ‘goals win games’ – and that maxim certainly applied to this exciting Roscommon senior hurling final played before a large crowd in Athleague last Sunday.
“A funny game” is how Tremane manager Seamus Qualter described it in the aftermath.
“It was a funny game, but look, goals win matches and Athleague got three and we got none. They pulled away after the second water break, and when they went four, five, six points ahead we were struggling. Whenever we got a score they could get one back.
“But fair play to them they were the best team on the day and they deserved to win it. It was a good, clean, sporting hurling match with great support for both teams”.
Athleague came good in the final quarter when they were down to 14 men (Alan Moore had been sent off in the 38th minute). The eventual winners knocked over a number of match-winning points to deny the gallant Tremane men.
Athleague manager, Padraig Mannion, praised his side’s determination despite being a man down.
“We have got used to playing with 14 men this year (laughs). We had to do it against Pádraig Pearses and again today and we played super hurling when we went down a man. But I felt sorry for Alan (Moore), he is a legend in this club and our win today was for him and his family,” he said.
It was a unique final pairing in the modern era and the first meeting of the two parish teams in 41 years. There was a carnival atmosphere in Athleague as neighbours and friends gathered to see who would secure the bragging rights.
For most of the first half, it was Tremane who did all the hurling and with Niall Kilroy in magnificent form, it looked like it would be Seamus Qualter’s team taking the Mickey Cunniffe Cup home. But despite playing poorly, Athleague managed to score two vital goals in that opening period which kept them in the game. When they started to play well in the final quarter, those scores proved decisive.
Just a minute before the dismissal of Moore, Athleague got a third goal and it set them up for victory. After the sending off they brought Aengus Lyons out the field and he was superb, and with Ronan O’Meara outstanding, Athleague finally got on top and they deserved to win in the end.
The match was played in perfect weather conditions. It was Tremane who looked the better team for most of the first half. There seemed to be acres of room in front of Niall Kilroy and the county dual star took full advantage, giving the Athleague rearguard a torrid time.
However, in almost their first attack, in the 7th minute, Athleague scored a fine goal when Eoin Ward blasted home after a great long ball in from Gary Fallon. With Kilroy to the fore, it was not long before Tremane were level again, but then in the 17th minute, Athleague were in for goal number two when Cormac Kelly was on target after being set up by Naoise Coyle and Eoin Ward.
It was Tremane, however, who led 0-10 to 2-3 at half-time, with Kilroy accounting for nine of their ten points.
Athleague’s third goal, which came in the 37th minute, was of the very soft variety. A long ball from Cormac Kelly caused consternation in the Tremane full-back line and Robbie Fallon was on hand to tap home.
The sending off of Alan Moore for an off the ball incident looked like it might be a serious blow to Athleague, but they rejigged their forces and started to play some great hurling.
From the 40th minute to the 52nd minute, Padraig Mannion’s team scored six points without, reply leaving them six to the good. They never looked back after that.
Tremane never gave up, but Athleague had made the decisive move of the match and sub Cian Murray knocked over two fine points towards the end. The title was theirs for the 20th time.
Manager Padraig Mannion highlighted the three goals as pivotal moments in the match.
“We said before the game today if we could score a couple of goals and not to concede at the other end would be key. But they got plenty of scores. Niall Kilroy is a super hurler. You can’t stop the points but you can stop the goals and we did that well today,” he said.
“To be involved in this final was really special for the players. They play underage together. It was a really special occasion. This is a fantastic win for us. I am living in Ballygar so I was a bit away from the build-up but I saw what it was like every night I came down to training”.
For Athleague, veterans Niall Connolly and Dave Connell were excellent and Eoghan Coyle did very well at centre half-back. Ben McGahon was once again prominent at midfield, while up front Ronan O’Meara and Aengus Lyons were superb in the second half and Lyons in particular was a definite contender for the player of the match.
For Tremane, it was a disappointing day and their over-reliance on Niall Kilroy for scores cost them dearly on. Sean Melia, Peter Kellehan and Niall Keenan did well for them too, but in the final analysis Athleague were deserved and worthy winners.