Saturday 24 March 2018

Job Dunne by Devlin

BLESSINGTON see off St Pat's in Dunne Cup final.

The Blessington Senior footballers finished the season on a high last Saturday afternoon in Arklow when they saw off a stiff St Patrick's challenge, thanks in no small part to a brilliantly worked late goal from substitute Eoin Devlin.

It looked as though extra time was on the cards after Jonathan Daniels had fired over a free from 14 yards to level the scores at 1-07 to 0-10 on 26 minutes. St Patrick's should have been in front by a handful of points at this stage but they wasted a plethora of scoring chances and they just couldn't shake a battling Blessington side.

After Daniels' free, Blessington came calling on four occasions. The first time saw full forward Curtis Gerathy find Eoin Devlin, but his shot was deflected out for a 45.

The second visit to the St Patrick's danger zone was from the 45, which was taken short to Stephen Flanagan by Daniels who took the return and fired it wide of the target.

On the third attempt the ball found its way into the hands of St Pat's keeper, Colin Smullen, who won a free out, and it was from this free out that Blessington won lay siege to the St Pat's goal for the fourth time, and this time they would not leave empty handed.

The hard working Jonathan Daniels gathered possession out the field. He passed to Curtis Gerathy who offloaded to Eoin Devlin who was in the St Pat's danger zone and he slipped it low to the bottom corner of Smullen's net.

What was really special about the goal was the speed of the passing that led to the ball finding Devlin and of course the finish was very fitting and noteworthy in itself.

Gail Dunne sent Garry Duffy into the full forward position in a desperate bid to rescue his side and force extra time and while he got his hand to one ball, this was a lead that Blessington were just not going to give up and Anthony Nolan's full time whistle decided the home of the Dunne Cup for the next 12 months.

Overall this was a very entertaining clash with a decent standard of football. From the unstoppable force that is Paudge McWalter who was a pleasure to watch to the defensive skills of both full backs, Padraig Higgins for Pat's and Paul McLoughlin for Blessington with McLoughlin being very impressive and even getting forward to score a point in the first half, there were plenty of highlights over the 60 minutes.

St Pat's half back Dean Healy put in a good shift and really came into the game in the second half when he produced some tenacious defending that would have pleased Wicklow boss Harry Murphy now that Healy has performed a U-turn on his decision to quit the Senior county football panel.

Paul Earls and Brian Coen won some quality ball in the St Pat's full forward line but wasted a large percentage of it and whether that's down to the time of the year, the end of the season or a more serious lack of confidence only time will tell.

One extremely positive aspect of this game from Gail Dunne's point of view was the performance of centre half forward Stephen Duffy who has recently returned from Canada. Not short on bulk and certainly not to be found wanting in terms of skill or passing ability, the brother of Garry Duffy was a very effective playmaker over the course of the 56 minutes he managed on the field and would be a major addition to the squad come the start of next season.

For Blessington the win and the victory over Rathnew in Aughrim the week previous (the first in 23 years apparently) gives them a welcome boost as the season ends. A lot will be expected from this bunch of players next season and one major concern from this final is the fact that none of the starting full forward line scored in this game. Much of the reason for that statistic is down to a very tenacious full back line for St Pat's. John Crowe, Padraig Higgins, and Sean O'Brien put in a good shift but will be disappointed at leaking the two goals.

Brian Coen had the first effort of the game after a foul on Stephen Duffy by Blessington corner back Stephen Bohan. Coen would fire wide.

At the other end Blessington won the ball, Jonathan Daniels passed to Davi Boothman and he did the honours with a fine score after two minutes and with Kevin Hanlon starting very well from centre half back.

Hanlon would be to the fore a minute later when his defending set up Mikey O'Connor to pass to Gerathy who supplied midfielder Sean Byrne with the ball which Byrne bombed over the bar. The Blessington boys were playing with a passion and an industry in the opening stages. Byrne fired wide after five minutes thanks to good pressure from St Pat's midfielder Richard Murphy.

St Pat's were playing with a two-man full forward line of Brian Coen and Paul Earls with Shane Morley playing deep around midfield while McWalter was liable to appear anywhere at any time.

In fact McWalter got St Pat's up and running with a nice score and after 10 minutes Paul Earls showed real class to win a 50-50 ball, turn and fire over the bar.

But Blessington looked dangerous in the St Pat's end and a long ball from Gerathy to the on-running Stephen Flanagan who had slipped his marker saw the half back slide the ball sweetly to the bottom corner Colin Smullen's net.

Another wide from Coen from a free at the other end was the reply from St Pat's and then a lovely, patient build up from Blessington saw full back Paul McLoughlin get on the end of the move to point and leave the scores at 1-03 to 0-02.

But from here on in for the remainder of the first half it was all St Patrick's. Points from Brian Coen, Shane Morley, after beautiful hands from Paul Earls under serious pressure, Paudge McWalter, a possible own point from Paul McLoughlin after a dangerous high ball into the Blessington square, a real beauty from Stephen Duffy from close to 50 meters out, and one from half back Conor Ffrench at the death of the first half sent St Patrick's in leading by two points 0-08 to 1-03.

Blessington started brightest after the restart with a point from centre half back Kevin Hanlon and another from Jonathan Daniels to level the scores. Blessington introduced Barry O'Donovan for David Boothman after six minutes of the second half.

Moving the ball at a blistering pace saw St Pat's return to the lead with a fine score by Rory Marron and an exquisite free kick by Brian Coen was replied to by Blessington with a Jonathan Daniels effort. A Dean Healy foul on substitute Jack Gilligan and his protests led to referee Anthony Nolan bringing the fre kick forward and Jonathan Danils had little trouble in adding the levelling score.

And then Blessington came knocking on the St Pat's door and they just wouldn't take no for an answer and eventually they got through the defences and Eoin Devlin was on hand to fire home the winning goal of the Dunne Cup final of 2013.

Scorers - Blessington - Jonathan Daniels 0-03 (1f); Paul McLoughlin 0-01; Stephen Flanagan 1-00; Kevin Hanlon 0-01; Sean Byrne 0-01; David Boothman 0-01; Eoin Devlin 1-00.

St Patrick's - Brian Coen 0-03 (1f); Conor Ffrench 0-01, Daragh McEvoy 0-01; Paul Earls 0-01; Shane Morley 0-01; Paudge McWalter 0-01; Stephen Duffy 0-01; Rory Marron 0-01.

Wicklow People