Gers go extra mile to book date with Dublin champions
GERALDINES made the long journey home from Wexford with a spring in their steps after qualifying for the AIB Leinster Intermediate Club football championship final in Piercestown on Sunday last.
The decisive winning kick was finally landed by midfielder Michael Rogers from a free at the death of extra-time, and it was greeted with relief as much as elation by the visitors as they had earlier squandered leads of six and four points respectively.
St. Fintan's hit the ground running with early points from Cathal O'Brien and Tomás Power (free), but eight of the next nine scores went in favour of the wind-aided Geraldines as they quickly found their feet and applied constant pressure.
The accurate Shane O'Hanlon had them level by the eighth minute with efforts from play and a free, and they surged 0-5 to 0-2 clear courtesy of O'Hanlon again (free), Johnny Breen and a fine solo effort from full-forward O'Hanlon whom St. Fintan's never got to grips with.
While Tomás Power stopped the rot for the Wexford side at the start of the second quarter, the Geraldines replied with three more points from the lively Barry Hamilton, O'Hanlon and Michael Rogers.
St. Fintan's repeatedly played themselves into trouble, with five of those points for the opposition arising from turnovers. Their build-up play around the middle third was far too slow, and they finally seemed to work this out for themselves in the 26th minute when Joey Wadding ran directly down the middle and set up Cathal O'Brien for a point.
When county Minor Donal Shanley added another it left the situation manageable approaching half-time (0-8 to 0-5), but Geraldines doubled their lead with a crucial late strike right at the end of the half.
It highlighted how games can change in an instant, as Conor Sinnott wasn't able to control a handpass from Tomás Power which hopped away from his grasp when a goal looked on. Within seconds the Geraldines initiated a counter-attack and a long, high delivery was gathered by Shane O'Hanlon whose low shot to the corner of the net left the Eamonn McEneaney's men with a 1-8 to 0-5 interval lead despite kicking seven wides to their opponents' one.
If St. Fintan's were rocked by this goal they certainly didn't show it on the re-start as a storming third quarter yielded five points without reply to bring the gap down to one. Pádraig Doyle, Tomás Power (free), Conor Sinnott and Donal Shanley (two frees) piled the pressure on before the game switched again in favour of the visitors.
Barry Hamilton earned a vital free which Shane O'Hanlon converted as he continued to take up the slack caused by the absence of team captain Jim McEneaney from the attack. Michael Rogers and O'Hanlon (free) made it 1-11 to 0-10 with just over ten minutes left, before a long delay ensued after Conor Sinnott and Tiarnan Hand had to be substituted after a heavy collision in a 50-50 challenge.
The Geraldines heaped unnecessary pressure upon themselves in the 58th minute when a pass was attempted across their own goal from the right corner as Tomás Power made a nuisance of himself. Netminder Nathaniel Cooney got into serious bother as substitute Niall Moore dived in to fist the ball to the net, and only a point separated the sides.
Michael Rogers stabbed a goal chance wide at the other end moments later when a high ball broke to the left of the square, but a Glen Traynor point left the Geraldines one step closer to a final meeting with Naomh Olaf of Dublin.
However, St. Fintan's showed the spirit which has yielded back-to-back county titles and brought them to last year's Leinster Junior decider as they forced extra-time with points from frees by Tomás Power and Donal Shanley in the 61st and 63rd minutes (1-12 each).
The Geraldines resumed with wind advantage once more and took control with four unanswered points from Shane O'Hanlon, county Minor Josh Arrowsmith, Glen Traynor and O'Hanlon again.
However, just before the next break they suffered another setback when a Donal Shanley '45 came back off the left upright and Joey Wadding, now at full-forward, was on hand to guide the rebound to the net (1-16 to 2-12).
It took just 25 seconds for team captain Kevin Day to land the equaliser on the resumption, but that proved to be their last score as tired bodies succumbed to cramp all over the field.
Both sides were also reduced to 14 men after an off-the-ball incident five minutes in, with Fintan's substitute Paddy Keane collecting a straight red while Shaun Callan of Geraldines was dismissed on a second yellow.
Shane O'Hanlon kicked an uncharacteristic wide as the tension mounted before the Geraldines struck the winner as we entered the tenth minute of the period. Initially an umpire put his hand up for a Geraldines '45 but changed his mind after consultation, with referee Fergal Barry throwing the ball in on the '21.
Possession was vital and it was won by the Geraldines seconds before a needless free was conceded, with Michael Rogers calmly stepping up and firing it over off the ground.
St. Fintan's had one last half-chance when Donal Shanley pumped in a long free, but a defender was pushed and the Louth men were left to celebrate a Leinster final appearance on Sunday week.
Geraldines: Nathaniel Cooney; Seán Watters, Nickey Mackin , Tiarnan Hand; James Craven, Gerard Hoey, Kevin Pepper; Michael Rogers 0-3 (0-1f), Stephen Reidy; Seán Thornton, Johnny Breen 0-1, Patrick Hoey; Glen Traynor 0-2, Shane O'Hanlon 1-9 (0-4f), Barry Hamilton 0-1. Subs: Shaun Callan for Watters (37), Josh Arrowsmith 0-1 for Breen (40), Brendan Connolly for Hand (55), Dara Hamill for Thornton (ET), Liam Boyle for Traynor (69).
St. Fintan's: Patrick McDonnell; Adrian Murphy, Eoin Whitmore, Jimmy Staples; Brendan Hughes, Frank Staples, Kevin Day 0-1; Pádraig Doyle 0-1, Joey Wadding 1-0; Conor Day, Conor Sinnott 0-, Donal Shanley 0-4 (0-3f); Jim Rossiter, Cathal O'Brien 0-2, Tomás Power 0-4f. Subs: Niall Moore 1-0 for Whitmore (21), Paddy Keane for C. Day (47), Shane Sinnott for C. Sinnott, inj. (55), Jason Pettit for Doyle (66), Brian Lacey for J. Staples, inj. (76).
Referee: Fergal Barry (Kildare).