Roscommon champions win final battle in Ballina
AIB Connacht Club SFC Final
Pádraig Pearses 1-13 Knockmore 1-11
Magnificent Pádraig Pearses wrote their own piece of football history in the county when they became only the fifth Roscommon club to win the Connacht Club Senior Football Championship title following this thrilling decider played at James Stephens’ Park in Ballina last Sunday.
It was not all plain sailing for Pat Flanagan’s men, who looked to be in total control a number of times throughout the contest, as Knockmore battled back to within striking distance on at least three occasions, leaving the final outcome in doubt right up to the final whistle.
But to win big titles you need heroes, players who stand up to be counted on the big day, and Pádraig Pearses had many last Sunday, but none more so than young corner forward Paul Carey. The 20-year-old (he celebrates his 21st birthday next week) came of age last Sunday with a sensational display of point kicking (0-8) from play and frees and Knockmore were simply not able to deal with him.
Niall and Conor Daly were immense too. Niall played in front of the defence and was a superb link man between defence and attack while Conor drove forward throughout and set up many a dangerous move. Anthony Butler was also superb at full-back, driving out with the ball time after time. A word too for Hubert Darcy, who calmly slotted home a penalty in the third minute and who ended up as a goalkeeper for a ten minute spell after Paul Whelan received a black card in the 22nd minute.
It was a massive team effort once again from Pearses with the substitutes’ bench playing their part once again, as Tom Butler and Emmet Kelly grabbed vital late scores when the game was in the melting pot.
The wide count (14 to 2) might suggest that Knockmore dominated the match, but in truth many of those errant shots from the Mayo men were from far out the field and impossible angles. At the other end, Pearses were clinical.
On a dry and dull day, the big crowd were treated to a cracking contest played in a great spirit by both sides. Pearses led by 1-1 to no score after only five minutes. In the second minute Shane McHale up-ended Niall Carty and Hubert Darcy sent Colm Reape the wrong way with the resultant spot kick, and Carey then started his scoring spree with a great point in the 5th minute.
Knockmore goalkeeper Colm Reape pointed from distance in the 6th minute to get them off the mark, before eight scoreless minutes, during which the Mayo side kicked three wides from distance. Their best player, Aidan Orme, then pointed from a mark in the 21st minute to narrow the gap to three,
But just when it looked like Pearses were in control, Paul Whelan carried the ball out from his goal, was caught in possession, and was deemed to have fouled Aidan Orme. Referee James Molloy showed Whelan a black card and he was off the field for ten minutes. Pearses re-jigged their team and it was Hubert Darcy who took up duty between the posts.
Aidan Orme pointed the resultant free to narrow the gap further. However, before half-time Carey struck over another super point before Orme’s free from 25 metres saw the teams go in at half-time with Pearses ahead by 1-3 to 0-4.
Back to a full compliment of players, Pearses played their best football in the third quarter. Five points from the rampant Carey (three frees) and another fine effort from Hubert Darcy saw the Roscommon side in a commanding 1-9 to 0-5 lead by the 44th minute.
But the game was far from over. Aidan Orme and Peter Naughton pointed for Knockmore to reduce the gap, and in the 47th minute sub Darren McHale’s long ball was fisted past Paul Whelan by another sub Charlie Burke, and suddenly the gap was down to just two points.
Pearses response after the second water break was superb however. Carey kicked another wonder score from way out near the sideline (the point of the match) in the 51st minute, and when that was followed by inspirational points from Emmet Kelly and Ronan Daly the gap was out to five points again.
There was one more kick in Knockmore. As the winning post came into view, Keith Rutledge kicked two fine points, and Peter Naughton another, and as the game slipped into injury-time the gap was down to two again. ‘Super sub’ Tom Butler lifted the siege with a great point for Pearses in the 63rd minute and then in the last attack of the game Orme raced through for Knockmore and blasted the ball low and hard but it just flew over the Pearses crossbar and the Roscommon men had survived.
Having won their first ever Roscommon title just two years ago this Pearses team were anxious to write their own bit of history and make their mark in Connacht. They have done that now in no uncertain terms, and next up is a clash with Dublin kingpins Kilmacud Crokes in the All-Ireland semi-final at the end of the month. What a mouth-watering prospect that is.
But that’s for another day and as the Shane McGettigan Cup heads for Taughmaconnell Moore and Creagh, the Pearses supporters, players and club members who were there will never forget this momentous day in Ballina.