Vincent's 'Dun' despite heroic display
Meath GAA JFC Final: Dunboyne 2-11 St Vincent's 1-12
After playing arguably the best football over the 80-plus minutes, there was nothing but agony and disappointment for brave St Vincent's at the end of this pulsating JFC Final at Pairc Tailteann on Saturday.
The Ardcath men defied all the odds to be within touching distance of lifting the Peter McDermott Cup when they led by the minimum with the game deep into added time.
The clock had ticked well past the allotted four minutes of injury time when the experienced Stephen Moran faced up to a pressure 35-metre free kick in front of the St Vincent's posts. Moran, a second-half substitute, held his nerve to snatch the equaliser and send the game to extra time.
As is often the case, the additional 20 minutes proved something of a lottery, with Darragh Nolan pouncing for what proved to be the decisive goal just before the sides changed ends for the final time. Nolan reacted quickest with a ground shot after Ben McBrine's effort was blocked by keeper Cathal Tallon.
Leo Corry, from a free, and Nigel Hand with a fine point had St Vincent's back to within the minimum a minute into the final period of extra time, but they were unable to force an equaliser and Moran struck for the insurance point just before the final whistle.
As St Vincent's reflect back on what might have been, they can take enormous courage from what was an outstanding display of calm and mature football from a young and inexperienced outfit. The Ardcath men were not in the least bit fazed by the occasion or indeed their much more battle-hardened opponents.
Their refreshing brand of football was a joy to watch at times and their hunger and desire seemed at a different level than that of Dunboyne.
Dunboyne, with several ex seniors, were forced to play second fiddle for long spells, but the introduction of the wily Stephen Moran proved a game-changer.
Moran didn't play any part in his side's semi-final victory over Ballivor due to injury, but he made an almost instant impact and his goal on 48 minutes was crucial to his side's survival hopes. His presence was invaluable to his team who were struggling in several areas of the pitch.
Dunboyne had the advantage of a considerable breeze in the opening half and the game seemed to be going along expected lines as they raced into a four-point lead by the 10th minute. Jack Cox (two), Barry Comer and Sean McGrath were on target for the eventual winners and the game was 13 minutes old before Thomas Field opened St Vincent's account.
An earlier promising move had ended with Shane O'Brien finding the side netting.
Jason Daly and Darragh Nolan stretched the lead for Dunboyne, before Richard O'Sullivan had a second point for St Vincent's. The Ardcath side's third score from Shane O'Brien left it 0-3 to 0-7 at the break, and considering the elements the game was evenly poised at that stage.
A third point from Jack Cox within a minute of the restart left Dunboyne five clear, before Richard O'Sullivan had the large St Vincent's support on their feet after he buried the ball in the net.
It was a fine move involving Patrick McGill, O'Brien and Ryan Hand and was just the spark that the game needed.
That goal proved the beginning of a purple patch for St Vincent's as Nigel Hand and O'Brien both shot excellent scores, before McGill pointed them ahead for the first time on 39 minutes.
Hand then doubled his side's advantage before Moran pounced for what was a fortuitous enough goal. Cox then left his side two clear on 50 minutes, but again St Vincent's showed admirable courage to respond and snatch back the lead.
Two pointed frees from the cool-headed Thomas Field regained parity and with the clock ticking towards the hour mark an opening was created for Richard O'Sullivan, but his effort was brilliantly blocked by the alert Johnny O'Connor in the Dunboyne goal.
O'Sullivan's 63rd-minute point seemed to have won it for the underdogs, only for Moran to show nerves of steel with that equaliser right at the death.
St Vincent's day of misery was completed in the additional 20 minutes.
DUNBOYNE: Johnny O'Connor; Pauric Lavin, Gary Timoney, Colin Clarke; Ben McBrine, Shane Westin, Eoin Ryan; Barry Comer 0-1, Sean McGarrell; David Clarke, Darragh Nolan 1-1, Patrick Conway; Jason Daly 0-2, Sean McGrath 0-1, Jack Cox 0-4. Subs: Stephen Moran 1-2 (1f) for Conway (39), Mark Daly for McGrath (46), Ben Carolan for Ryan (53), Johnny Meehan for Lavin (58), Fergal Watters for D Clarke, Ronan Fitzmaurice for C Clarke, Tommy O'Connor for Cox (all e/t).
ST VINCENT'S: Cathal Tallon; Ciaran Brangan, David Tallon, John Corry; Mark Crawley, Niall Tallon, Barry O'Sullivan; Robert Tallon, Ryan Hand; Shane O'Brien 0-2, Patrick Arnold, Nigel Hand 0-3; Richard O'Sullivan 1-2, Thomas Field 0-3 (2f), Patrick McGill 0-1. Subs: Leo Corry 0-1 for McGill (44), Daniel Murphy for B O'Sullivan (51), Eoghan Corry for Arnold (52), Martin Fox for R Tallon (54), Jack Byrne for O'Brien (56), Andrew McEntee for Brangan, Robert Lynch for Field, O'Brien for R Hand, Field for McEntee, Declan O'Sullivan for R O'Sullivan (all e/t).
REF: Gerry McGivney (Simonstown).