AIB Connacht Club SFC Semi-Final
Pádraig Pearses 1-8 Mountbellew-Moylough 1-7
Tom Butler has made many a significant contribution to Pádraig Pearses over the years, many times as a sub too, but by far his most important contribution to date came at drizzly Dr. Hyde Park last Saturday in the fourth minute of injury-time when he lofted over a splendid point from 35 metres out to put his side through to their first ever Connacht club final after a dramatic and incident packed game.
There were unruly scenes after the final whistle as several members of the Galway team rounded on referee, Jerome Henry, who was pushed at least once, and stewards had to escort the Mayo official off the field. The Mountbellew-Moylough contingent were furious at a number of important calls that they felt went against them late in the game.
From where this writer was sitting, there were a couple of dubious calls against the Galway men, and one ‘mark’ for Barry McHugh that was not given late in the game was hard to explain, but Pearses were the better team on the overall play and deserved to win.
In truth, it was a difficult game to referee. Two highly motivated teams went at each other hammer and tongs from the start, and it was an almighty battle throughout in poor conditions. No surprise then that there were no fewer than five black cards and a red shown, not to mention five yellows.
There was a big crowd at Hyde Park for the game that was played in mild but very damp conditions with drizzly rain falling for most of the game. Hubert Darcy, who was deployed in the midfield area, opened the scoring after four minutes with a fine point, but Mountbellew-Moylough were level a minute later when Leo Donnellan was on target.
In the 7th minute, Colin Ryan spotted Barry McHugh inside the Pearses cover and his pinpoint pass was fisted to the net by the corner forward. But in the follow up McHugh clashed with Pearses goalkeeper Paul Whelan and he was shown a black card.
We saw no further scores for 14 minutes as both sides adopted an ultra cautious approach. But then in the 21st minute, Pearses were level. Niall Carty did the spadework along the end line, and Paul Carey was on hand to fist to the net. Then a minute later Darcy fisted over when it looked like another Pearses goal was on.
In the final couple of minutes of the half, Mountbellew-Moylough scored two splendid points – from Eoin Finnerty and Colin Ryan – to send them in leading at the break by 1-3 to 1-2. Indeed, there was further drama in injury-time when Mark Richardson was black carded for a pull off the ball.
The second half was even more intensely fought and the large Galway following roared their side on. But Pearses were able to make crucial changes and they were never out of the game.
Barry McHugh and Ronan Daly exchanged points within four minutes of the restart before points from Michael Daly and McHugh (a free) saw the Tribesmen ahead by 1-6 to 1-3 by the 38th minute. But with Ronan Daly and David Murray driving them forward, Pearses came again.
Darcy and Conor Daly were on target with excellent points, and when Ronan Daly completed a super Pearses team move in the 47th minute, the sides were level at 1-6 apiece.
The flurry of black cards continued in the 45th minute when Shane Moran from the Galway champions was given ten minutes on the line for another off the ball incident.
After the final water break, Gary Sweeney edged the visitors ahead in the 49th minute, but Pearses subs were to have a big say as the game crept towards the final whistle. Emmett Kelly, who was on for Shane Carty, kicked a mighty point on the run in the 53rd minute and the exchanges were now at fever pitch with the sides level going into the last few minutes.
Mountbellew-Moylough were becoming increasingly frustrated with referee Henry as a couple of marginal decisions went against them. In the 58th minute, midfielder Matthew Barrett was sent off for a second yellow card offence as the tension rose even further.
Barry McHugh then made a spectacular catch in the second minute of injury-time but no mark was given and then two minutes later Pearses snatched it at the death when another sub Tom Butler, slotted over a brilliant point from 35 metres.
It was good enough to give the Roscommon men a dramatic victory and there was even time for the referee to issue two further black cards before the final whistle to John Daly of Mountbellew-Moylough and Niall Carty of Pearses for a clash close to the stand sideline.
At the final whistle, the Galway champions gave full vent to their frustrations with referee Henry, but Pearses had done enough and now they will be confident as they prepare to face Knockmore in the Connacht final in early January.
They were best served on the day by Mark Richardson, who played well after he came back from his black card. David Murray and Ronan Daly were again outstanding, with Murray just about edging the ‘man of the match’ award after another brilliant display throughout. Conor Daly did well at midfield while Niall Carty and Hubert Darcy were the pick of the Pearses forwards.
For a shell-shocked Mountbellew-Moylough, Colin Ryan, John Daly, Michael Daly, Eoin Finnerty and Barry McHugh were most prominent but they will lament a lack of discipline, which was especially evident as the second half wore on.