BUNNINADDEN 3-11 ST. AIDAN'S 3-10
IT'S A game that will be talked about in Sligo football circles for years to come after Bunninadden staged a revival of epic proportions to pip favourites, St. Aidan's in a pulsating Connacht Intermediate Football Championship semi-final at Kiltoom onSunday last.
Twelve points in arrears entering the last quarter, Bunninadden looked to be heading for the exit door on their first ever excursion into the Provincial intermediate sphere. But the gallant Sligo champions refused to settle for second best and somehow managed to dig deep into their reserves of energy and character to launch a dramatic late revival.
With the game drifting out of their grasp, the Bunninadden mentors took remedial action, switching Mark Gormley back to midfield and giving Vincent Frizzell a more adventurous role.
And the gamble paid off handsomely as bit by bit, the Sligo Champions chipped away at St. Aidan's big lead.
The Roscommon side, who had looked so assured early on, were suddenly at panic stations, hanging on for their lives as Bunninadden threw everything at them in a sensational finish.
And the edge-of-the-seat drama continued right into injury time when substitute, Shane Kerins, snatched a match-winning goal for Bunninadden to set up a Connacht final showdown with Charlestown.
Inspired by midfielder Paddy Neary and Johnny Coyne's clever distribution, St. Aidan's were supremely dominant in the opening half and there was little Bunninadden could do to contain them. The contest looked as good as over at half-time when the Roscommon side led 2--7 to 0-2. Quite frankly, there was little indication then that the Sligo outfit could salvage anything from the game and that trend continued in the third quarter as St. Aidan's continued to hold the upper hand.
But what at extraordinary last quarter unfolded as Bunninadden stormed back into contention and eventually got over the line with Kerins' dramatic winner.
James Coyne got the ball rolling for S. Aidan's after three minutes when he pointed after gathering in Keith Waldron's delivery from the right wing. Bunninadden could have grabbed an early goal but Martin Kenny saved brilliantly from Gormley.
Then St. Aidan's won a penalty in the ninth minute when full-forward Martin Connolly was hauled to the ground by a combination of goalkeeper David Flannery and full-back Thomas Parry. Johnny Coyne made no mistake from the spot to give his side a dream start.
Joseph Rogers opened Bunninadden's account when his fisted effort bounced off the crossbar and over before Frizzel showcased his accuracy from frees with an 11th minute effort when Rogers was fouled by James Coyle. But Aidan's soon disappeared over the horizon. Two excellent scores from Terence Kelly were followed by Francie Grehan side's second goal in the 17th minute. Martin Connolly's attempt for a point came back off the crossbar and Kelly couldn't miss from a few yards out.
Coyne tagged on a '45 before the same player set up Kelly for an eyecatching score from the left wing. There was still time for Connolly and Coyne to find the target before the break to give the Ballyforanbased side what seemed like an unassailable 2-7 to 0-2 advantage. The contest's momentum didn't shift at the start of the new half, although Michael Gormley did score a fine point for Bunninadden on the run and Barry Gilhooley found the target with aplomb from the right wing.
But Aidan's remained in control with a point from play from James Coyne sandwiched between pointed frees from Neary and Waldron. Aidan's led by 2-10 to 0-4 after 43 minutes and there seemed to be no way back for the Sligo men.
When Frizzel beautifully bisected the posts from a '45 in the 46th minute, the score barely raised a cheer. Then the same player, now plying his trade on the edge of the square, pointed a 30-metre free. In the 48th minute, Gormley fielded majestically, and Frizell set up Gilhooley for a well-worked goal.
One could see the panic beginning to set in among Aidan's ranks and a free from Rogers was followed by a goal by the same player following a brilliant run by Michael Gormley. When Kenneth Kerins' speculative effort from distance dropped over the bar to leave just two points between the sides in the 51st minute, Bunninadden were well and truly dreaming again.
But they were rocked by the concession of a 54th penalty when Waldron was fouled, which resulted in the dismissal of Liam Óg Gormley for a second yellow card. James Coyne found the net and Aidan's seemed to have weathered the storm.
Not so, as frees from Rogers and Frizzel were complimented by a fine score from veteran Padraig Doohan. As the game ticked into injury-time, Frizzel's delivery from the left was contested by Shane Kerins and Kenneth Kerins, the former's fist directing the ball beyond Kenny.
D. Flannery; L. Óg Gormley, T. Perry, P. McManus; J.McLoughlin, Michael Gormley (0-1), K. Brennan; V. Frizzel (0-4, three frees, one '45), P. Doohan (0-1); J. Hodgins, N. Kerins, K. Kerins (0-1); J. Rogers (1-3, two frees), Mark Gormley, B. Gilhooley (1-1). SUBS USED: S. Leamy for McLoughlin (half-time), S. Kerins (1-0) for Hodgins (35 mins)
M. Kenny; C. Dowd, S. Beirne, J. Coyle; S. Higgins, J. Kenny, J. Moran; D. Hoey, P. Neary (0-1, a free); K. Waldron (0-1, a free), Johnny Coyne (1-2, one pen., one '45), A. Higgins; T. Kelly (1-3), M. Connolly (0-1), James Coyne (1-2, one penalty). SUBS USED: N. Corbett for Johnny Coyne (52 mins), E. Mulry for Coyle (52 mins), P. Higgins for Hoey (57 mins), F. Coyne for Dowd (60 mins).