Hodson Bay Hotel SFC Semi-Final
Pádraig Pearses 0-18 St Brigid’s 2-10
Pádraig Pearses are back in their third county senior final in a row after they edged out St. Brigid’s in a thrilling semi-final played in perfect weather conditions at Dr. Hyde Park on Saturday evening.
This was a tremendous game of club football, one of the best seen in the county in a number of years. There was outstanding play from both sides, great scores, controversial incidents and a breathtaking finish. In the final analysis, Pearses probably just about deserved to win it, but Brigid’s could easily have stolen it at the death.
There were so many talking points as fortunes swayed one way and then the other. We had the red cards of two high profile county players, Conor Daly and Brian Stack, in separate incidents in the first half. Pearses manager Pat Flanagan was sent from the sideline too. We saw two spectacular goals from St. Brigid’s, and some outrageous point-scoring on both sides. Then in injury-time, Brigid’s had a claim for a penalty turned down and in the 77th minute the Kiltoom side had a chance of a match-winning goal, but Brian Derwin’s fisted effort went wide. It was fantastic entertainment in front of a good-sized crowd.
There were superb performances on both sides. For Pearses, Davy Murray, Anthony Butler and Shane Carty were superb in defence, while Niall Daly led from midfield. Hubert Darcy had his best game in a Pearses shirt while Paul Carey and Conor Payne were also in top form for the 2019 champions.
St. Brigid’s’ Paul McGrath was the best player on view. He popped up all over the field and scored one of the finest goals seen at Dr. Hyde Park in many a long day. Not far behind him was Ben O’Carroll. This superb player’s movement and skill are rare qualities indeed. Shane Cunnane also did well, as did Darragh Sheehy and Gearoid Cunniffe.
Pearses started on the front foot. They dominated early on and led by 0-5 to no score after ten minutes, with Darcy winning great ball up front. However, Brigid’s were back in the game in sensational fashion in the 15th minute when McGrath blasted into the top corner from 25 metres. It was a spectacular goal by any standards.
Then in the 17th minute, tempers flared as players on both sides became embroiled in a mini-fracas close to the stand sideline. After consulting with his linesman, referee Brendan Healy showed a red card to Conor Daly. Pearses manager Pat Flanagan was also sent from the sideline for his protests over the decision.
Just four minutes later, there was another major talking point after Lorcan Daly went down in almost the same spot. Referee Healy (after more consultation) showed a red to Brigid’s’ county star Brian Stack following another dust-up. Now it was 14 against 14. Both sides argued afterwards that both reds were harsh.
Thankfully it was the football that won out on the day. Pearses were keeping their noses in front until Brigid’s scored another wonderful goal in the 30th minute when young O’Carroll cut his way through the Pearses defence and sold two dummies before planting the ball in the net. In first-half injury-time, Paul Carey pointed two frees and Shane Cunnane replied with a long-range effort for Brigid’s. At the break it was Brigid’s 2-3 Pearses 0-9.
Conor Payne kicked three great points on the spin to give Pearses an ideal start to the second half, but every time they pulled ahead Brigid’s were able to strike back. By the 37th minute, Pearses were ahead by 0-13 to 2-4. Then Brigid’s hit a purple patch, scoring five points with reply. Fantastic scores from McGrath (a brilliant team score), Cunnane (from the sideline) and O’Carroll (from a seemingly impossible angle), saw the defending champions ahead by two points by the time the second water break came around.
To their great credit, Pearses dug in and came with a winning run in the final quarter. Sub Emmett Kelly (2), the outstanding Darcy (2) and Sean Ryan all pointed to leave their side three ahead going into injury-time.
Brigid’s attacked in desperation. Brian Derwin shot for goal and claims of a foot block were waved away by the officials. Derwin pointed a free in the 6th minute of time added on to leave two in it. In the last attack of the game O’Carroll’s cross was fisted wide by Derwin. With that it was over and Pearses had survived.
Pearses have come into form at just the right time and with their experience they will be hard to beat in the county final. But what a game this was. It was a pity there had to be a loser, but that’s championship football.