Sunday 25 February 2018

Bride's enjoy their big day

St Bride's 1-12 - Naomh Fionnbarra 0-12

John Savage at John Markey Park

If the Intermediate Championship was David Reilly's primary target when he settled back into the St Bride's hotseat last winter, restoring the club's Division 1 status must have been a very close second on his wishlist.

Arguably, teams residing in both Division 2 and the intermediate grade might benefit more from securing league promotion first, thus acclimatising and exposing players to the top level away from the inevitable pressures of the senior championship.

It may not be by design, but a largely youthful St Bride's squad will now be afforded that luxury in 2018.

After crashing out of the IFC at the hands of Naomh Fionnbarra, they exacted sweet revenge on Saturday night to clinch the Division 2 title and promotion.

It was winner-takes-all in Ballygassen, as although Bride's boasted a two-point cushion at the top of the table, a Barr's win would have earned them the crucial head-to-head advantage in the title and promotion races. A rule that tripped them up last year when Clan Na Gael secured promotion.

With home advantage, Patrick White's men also played down the hill and with the wind in the opening half, but after a bright start, they soon hit turbulence.

William Woods opened the scoring with a trademark free from almost 50 metres and Conor Osborne doubled their lead moments later, firing over what looked like a promising goal chance.

Bride's had yet to even launch an attack of their own, but when a high ball into the square caused a bit of unease in the home defence, Emmet Kirk was handed two opportunities to find the net. He obliged at the second attempt.

Bernard Osborne levelled it up a couple of minutes later, but thereafter St Bride's eased into a lead that they never really relinquished.

They never really got on top at midfield throughout the 60-plus minutes either, but they looked far more dangerous in the final third with Kirk, Sean Marry and Sean Brennan particularly menacing.

And with veteran Aaron Hoey on hand to punish any indiscipline from frees, the visitors opened a 1-4 to 0-3 cushion.

But William Woods, Bernard Osborne and Jack Butterly are equally hard to handle and despite never really finding their rhythm, the Barrs hung in there.

They missed the injured John Doyle at midfield and losing corner back Paddy McGrane after just eight minutes didn't help the cause, but adjourning a goal down after playing with the elements, they needed a big improvement after the break.

It didn't come immediately as a Hoey free and points from Kirk and Marry made it 1-10 to 0-7, and left the home side really chasing the game.

They should have been presented with a lifeline when Darren McConnon was hauled to the deck for what looked like a certain penalty, but the Stephen Murphy waved away the appeals and booked the midfielder, presumably for dissent.

A Woods free had closed the gap to five that stage and Bernard Osborne pulled another back on 43 minutes, but just as they appeared to be making headway, Marry and Brennan struck again to leave six between the sides again.

With the finish line now in sight, St Bride's, perhaps understandably, wobbled a bit.

In fact Brennan's point on 47 minutes turned out to be their last and from there on they dropped deep, perhaps too deep.

But while Woods managed to cut the deficit in half with a free and two points from play, the Barrs were always going to need a goal, and despite some late pressure and a few nervy moments around the square, they never really carved out anything clear-cut.

In fact it was the visitors who looked more likely to add a second as gaps inevitably appeared in the home defence.

Bride's were reduced to 14 men for injury-time when Michael Keane picked up a second yellow, but they held firm as their hosts bombarded them with high balls in those final few minutes.

The relief and joy was palpable when Stephen Murphy eventually brought the contest to a close.

All's not lost for Nomah Fionbarra by any means. They still have a derby championship semi-final against O'Connell's to look forward to the weekend after next. They can still win promotion to Division 1 though the play-offs, but with Newtown Blues getting themselves tangled up in a relegation fight, it will take a big effort for St Joseph's, Hunterstown or the Barrs to follow St Bride's into the top tier.

ST BRIDE'S: Darren Breen; Ronan Bailey, Cillian Kirk, Padraic Mackin; Michael Keane 0-1, Andrew Smyth, Conor Deane 0-1; Patrick Reilly, Alan Dunne; James Coatelloe, Aaron Hoey 0-3f, Sean Brennan 0-2, Sean Marry 0-3, Emmet Kirk 1-2 (1f), Kevin Hearty. Subs: Ross Kehoe for K. Hearty, Mark Hoey for A. Hoey, Conaill Devin for E. Kirk, Laurence Steen for S. Marry.

Naomh Fionnbarra: Andy McCann; Hugh McGrane, Kieran Lenehan, Patrick McGrane; Conor Lenehan, Oisín McGee, Pádraig Butterly; Hugh Osborne 0-1, Darren McConnon; Máirtìn Murphy, Conor Osborne 0-1, Jack Butterly 0-1; Nicholas Butterly, Bernard Osborne 0-2, William Woods 0-7 (4f). Subs: Michael McArdle for Patrick McGrane, Chris McGlynn for Michael McArdle.

REFEREE: Stephen Murphy.

The Argus

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