CHARLESTOWN SARSFIELDS 0-14 BUNNINADDEN 0-8
THERE WERE six points in it at the end but the game was never that comfortable for favourites, Charlestown, as they had to dig deep to hold off the gallant challenge of Bunninadden in the final of the Connacht Club Intermediate Football Championship at Markievicz Park last Saturday.
Bunninadden, going for their first ever Provincial title, suffered a major blow when full-back, Thomas Perry, was sent off for a second yellow card offence in the 20th minute.
But their numerical disadvantage was barely evident as they matched the Mayo champions stride for stride for most of a gripping encounter.
They trailed by just three points at the interval, 0-8 to 0-5, and were the superior side in the third quarter when they dominated possession and took the game to Charlestown with terrific conviction.
Within five minutes of the restart, they had cut the gap to the minimum, 0-8 to 0-7, and went within inches of getting on level terms when Vincent Frizzell's free scraped the outside of the upright as it flew agonising wide.
An equaliser at that stage might well have tipped the scales in Bunninadden's favour but Charlestown, making the most the reprieve, regained the initiative in the last quarter, defending in numbers and hitting the Sligo side with some clever counter-attacking football.
Gradually, the Mayo champions put crucial daylight between themselves and their opponents and Bunninadden, having pushed themselves to the limit to compensate for their numerical disadvantage, simply ran out of steam in the closing stages.
But they never gave up the fight. Right to the end, they pressed forward with great character but perhaps the overall pattern of the contest was encapsulated in the very last act of drama when a Bunninadden onslaught was repelled by Charlestown who swiftly broke up field to claim the final score, a well taken point by the great warrior, David Tiernan.
At the end, there was no disputing Charlestown's overall authority but Bunninadden were entitled to feel that the breaks went against them on the day.
Certainly, the dismissal of Perry, who picked up his first yellow card in the early exchanges and was then booked again for a foul on Anthony Mulligan in the 20th minute, was somewhat harsh.
It meant that the South Sligo side had to restructure their forces at a time when the game was only beginning to take shape.
They had started with the tireless Liam og Gormley sitting in front of the full-back line but this strategy had to be altered after Perry's departure, with Karl Brennan switching to full-back.
Gormley continued to be a highly influential figure, however, as he epitomised Bunninadden's never-say-die attitude with a dynamic performance which must have made him a strong contender for the man-of-the-match nomination, an accolade which went to Charlestown's full forward, Mulligan.
Forced to play with fourteen men for forty minutes, the Sligo Champions spared nothing in effort and it says much for their incredible endeavour that it was only in the closing stages that the physical demands of the occasion began to take its toll.
Charlestown went into the game without a number of key players but they got the tonic of an early score when Richard Haran slotted over a free in the first minute. A short free by Garreth O'Donnell caught the Bunninadden defence off guard and he was allowed to push forward unmarked to take a return pass from Aidan Higgins and fire it over.
Bunninadden carved out a few chances at the other end but it was the Mayo side who struck again in the 8th minute, Mulligan dispatching a 25m free in confident style.
The Sligo Champions finally opened their account in the 10th minute and what a good score it was. Barry Gilhooley and Noel Kerins were involved in the build up and Joe Rogers supplied the finish, firing over from a tight angle.
Almost immediately, Paul Ward swung over a good score for Charlestown and Mulligan pointed a free shortly afterwards to edge the Mayo side into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead.
Bunninadden remained competitive, however. The lively Kenneth Kerins turned beautifully to pick off a great point in the 16th minute and then Mark Gormley was unlucky with a goalbound effort which was deflected away from the target.
The pressure paid off with a pointed free from Frizzell to leave just two points between the sides but then came Perry's dismissal and Bunninadden looked to be in real trouble.
A point from a free by Mulligan gave Charlestown a 0-6 to 0-3 advantage and Ollie Conway put them further in front with an excellent score. Bunninadden got back into it with two points in quick succession from Frizzell before Ward had the last score of the half to give Charlestown a 0-8 to 0-5 lead at the interval.
A full-blooded start to to the second half by the Sligo side yielded two scores from Frizzell frees and suddenly the game appeared to be swinging in Bunninadden's favour.
However, after reducing the gap to a single point, they just couldn't turn their possession into scores at a vital stage of the game and a fine point against the run of play by Enda Casey settled Charlestown's nerves.
As the depleted Sligo side began to feel the pace, two scores inside a minute by Haran and substitute, Colm Maye (free) gave Charlestown some breathing space and further scores from a Maye free and from play by Mulligan extended their lead to 0-13 to 0-7 by the 58th minute.
Kenneth Kerins hit a late score for Bunninadden after a sustained bout of pressure but it wasn't enough to unsettle Charlestown who wrapped it all up with Tiernan's point deep into injury time.
The Mayo side had Ward sent off for a second yellow card near the end but it didn't spoil their celebrations.