Brave O'Dwyer's pipped at the post
O'DWYER'S bid to lift the Under-15 Football Shield ended in disappointment as a powerful Geraldines P Moran side claimed the prize in a compelling final at Bremore Park on Sunday.
Given the current form of both sides, the expectations were high going into the decider and neither team disappointed as the lead changed hands on several occasions throughout a gripping contest.
The pivotal moment came mid-way through the second half when a low 45-metre free was punched to the O'Dwyer's net by Geraldines captain Luke O'Connor, which hauled the visitors back level at a time when the Balbriggan boys were very much in the ascendancy.
Although the home side regained their composure somewhat following O'Connor's goal, it was a body blow from which they never truly recovered and when Jonathan Roach buried a second goal in the final few minutes O'Dwyer's outstanding championship campaign was destined to end in an agonising defeat.
O'Dwyer's boss Niall Mathews spoke afterwards of his pride in the effort displayed by his team, and so he should be proud - because for large portions of the game his troops played and looked like winners.
Tom Downes opened the scoring with a free out of the hand and would go on to cap an exceptional centre-field display with an impressive seven-point tally.
However, his second point would be O'Dwyer's last for 20 barren minutes as Geraldines scored five unanswered points, four of them from the boot of Conor Hurley and the fifth from James Mc Keown, breaking the sequence of a personal shootout between Hurley and Downes.
Clear-cut goal chances were few and far between in the opening period, due in no small measure to the sterling performances by members of both sets of full-back lines.
The studious and efficient approach to defending by O'Dwyer's Darragh Mathews was complemented by the unyielding tough tackling of Diarmuid Tuckey and Seanin Keenan, while Geraldines' Daniel Flatman gave a man-of-the-match performance in the number three position.
Aside from the resolute defending, both teams were guilty of poor shot selection, particularly in O'Dwyer's case as they passed up point-scoring opportunities trying to find the net.
Nonetheless, O'Dwyer's rallied to finish the half in roaring fashion with three superbly taken points in as many minutes from Tom Downes, James Keenan and Eoghan Richardson to tie up the match at 0-5 each at the break.
O'Dwyer's began the second half in the manner they finished the first, with a burst of four points, albeit aided by a stiff breeze. Two points each from Tom Downes and Daniel Hughes gave the home side a 0-9 to 0-5 lead as O'Dwyer's took control of the game around the middle of the park.
Augmented by half-backs Fiach Keenan, Ruairi Devlin and Sam Mc Curdy, midfield pair Mathew Leonard and Tom Downes dominated proceedings at that point, prompting Geraldine's manager to move Daniel Flatman from his full back postion to add much-needed vigour to centre-field.
Along with positional switches, Geraldines introduced the pace of Chris Wong into the mix and his speed and vision jump-started their revival.
Wing-back Mark Thunnessen combined with Dan Mc Sherry to reduce the arrears to three points, before another lightning-quick move ended with Chris Wong raising a white flag.
Seeing more of the ball around the middle, Geraldines began moving up the gears and O'Dwyer's struggled to match the increased tempo.
Another sublime Tom Downes point from distance restored their three-point advantage, but the men from Cabinteely were to force Balbriggan netminder Michael Corcoran into a brilliant save which resulted in the concession of a 45.
From the subsequent kick came the key moment of the match when Luke O'Connor instinctively flicked the ball past Corcoran into the O'Dwyer's net, tying up the match yet again.
James Mc Keown's point edged Geraldines in front, before Tom Downes levelled the match once more going into the last hectic five minutes.
But with the match on a knife-edge, it was the away side who finished strongest. Chris Wong's pace was causing O'Dwyer's rearguard some serious problems and Geraldines were awarded a close-in free for a foot-block which Conor Hurley gleefully converted to give his side a solitary point lead with seconds of normal time remaining.
Despite the home side courageously searching for another score to level the game, it was Geraldines who broke swiftly to put the match beyond the battling Balbriggan side's grasp. Jonathan Roach got on the end of a Giuseppe Coyne cross before blasting high into Michael Corcoran's net, giving the Cabinteely men a four-point cushion.
James Mc Keown's point deep into injury time was the proverbial icing on the cake as Geraldine P Morans took the winners' shield back to the southside.
An understandably dejected Niall Mathews was full of praise for his O'Dwyer's team as he reminded them of their journey from inauspicious beginnings to the brink of championship glory.
Sadly, he is stepping down as team manager due to work commitments, but thanked his selectors and trainers, Stephen Leonard and Sean Keenan, for their valuable input. He also thanked his young statistician Eve Mathews who attended every minute of O'Dwyer's league and championship campaign.
A jubilant Geraldines boss Paul O'Connor was quick to acknowledge how tough their opponents were and cited the introduction of his pacey substitutes as key to their triumph.
O'Dwyer's: Michael Corcoran, Diarmuid Tuckey, Darragh Mathews, Seanin Keenan, Sam Mc Curdy, Ruairi Devlin, Fiach Keenan, Matthew Leonard, Tom Downes 0-7, Eoghan Richardson 0-1, James Keenan 0-1, Peter Lawless, Davy Creamer, Conor O'Sullivan, Daniel Hughes 0-2. Oisin Mc Donald, Paul Mc Nally, Cian O'Maoinaigh, Cormac O'Byrne, Eoin Richardson, Eoin Morrissey, Dan Egan.
Geraldines P. Moran: Evin Coyle, Taylor White, Daniel Flatman, Kevin O'Connor, Jack Scannell, Dan Mc Sherry, Mark Thunness 0-1, Luke O'Connor 1-0, Jonathan Roche 1-0, Cian O'Gorman, Sam Murphy, Ronan Myachi, Leo Boardman, James Mc Keown 0-3, Conor Hurley 0-5, Giuseppe Coyne, Jamie Mc Devitt, Sam Fenton, Chris Wong 0-1, Gavin Dooley.
Referee: Brian Doran (St Colmcilles).