Monday 19 February 2018

Garrycastle's greater hunger delivers final berth



FOR A club only born in 1981, it's a remarkable achievement that Garrycastle can start looking forward to their first All-Ireland senior final on St Patrick's Day against Crossmaglen.

For all the talk about old school mates and families coming together, for all the hype about two tribes clashing and friendships being put on hold, the bottom line is that the Westmeath men wanted it more. Time and time again they emerged with the dirty ball and put their bodies on the line -- and that's what saw them through.

And though they pulled off something of a surprise at Pearse Park yesterday by putting their more fancied Lough Ree neighbours to the sword, their non-stop work-rate and a superb start to second half was enough to prevail in front of 6,000 people.

The geographical confines suggested that this affair was always going to be a tense and fiery encounter and so it proved with 12 yellow cards and one red brandished.

St Brigid's were most people's fancy coming into this semi-final but they only played in patches and with a howling wind at their backs in the second half, they surrendered a two-point lead and stuck way too many men behind the ball when they should have pressed further up the pitch.

When Garrycastle lost their influential midfielder David O'Shaughnessy to a second yellow card after 45 minutes, it should have propelled the Roscommon men to greater heights but instead they totally lost momentum and lacked any urgency.

That said, Garrycastle's corner-forward Gary Dolan should have put the match to bed minutes before the end when his brother Dessie sent in the most sublime of passes only for Gary to blaze wide from just yards out. Had they lost this game, the Westmeath champions would also have lived to regret their rigorous approach -- they clocked up eight yellow cards in the first half alone and conceded a lot of frees throughout.

However, when needed most, Dessie Dolan and Patrick Mulvihill were there to do the right thing at the right time. Dolan is the reason they are here in the first place because he saved their bacon in the county final in Westmeath. Yesterday, his free-taking and hold-up play were top class, while Mulvihill grafted hard and linked up excellently. Against the head and breeze, they won balls at midfield and their defence held firm until the end.

The Roscommon side only played in patches but what makes it worse is that it seemed that players like Ian and Senan Kilbride and Cathal McHugh could score with some ease when they actually got decent possession.

Having led 1-6 to 0-7 at the break, despite playing into a stiff breeze, they would have fancied their chances. Garrycastle got off to a smashing start with three quick points only for Brigid's to rein them in through Cathal McHugh, Senan Kilbride and Niall Brennan points.

Off went Garrycastle again, though, through 0-3 from the Dolan brothers only for the two Kilbrides and Cathal McHugh again to hit scores. Karol Mannion struck a smashing penalty too in the 21st minute to leave them two up at the break.

Garrycastle began the second half in determined fashion and rattled off 1-3 in the first 12 minutes to lead 1-10 to 1-6. James Dolan's goal was splendidly struck seven minutes after the break and three Dessie Dolan points left the Westmeath men sitting pretty.

We waited for the Brigid's response but it was muted enough. They did gradually pull that deficit back to a point but it was only near the end they showed the urgency required. In fact, they didn't score for 15 minutes of the second half and only points from Senan Kilbride, a free from Frankie Dolan and a good score from the impressive Cathal McHugh put them back in the frame.

But even allowing for Gary Dolan's goal miss, the issue was finally decided in the dying seconds when goalkeeper James Martin was adjudged to have picked the ball off the ground.

It was fitting that Dessie Dolan pointed the free. Anthony Cunningham's reign in charge of four teams (Garrycastle, Galway senior and under 21 hurlers and Connacht hurlers) lasts another while.

Scorers -- Garrycastle: D Dolan 0-7 (5f), J Dolan 1-1, P Dillon, J Duignan, G Dolan 0-1 each. St Brigid's: C McHugh, S Kilbride 0-3 each, K Mannion 1-0 (pen), N Brennan, F Dolan (1f), I Kilbride 0-1 each

Garrycastle: C Mullin; M McCallon, J Gaffney, T McHugh; K Henson, D Harte, E Mulvihill; S O'Donoghue, D O'Shaughnessy; P Dillon, D Dolan, J Dolan; G Dolan, P Mulvihill, J Duignan. Subs: A Fox for T McHugh (34), A Browne for J Cosgrove (46), C Cosgrove for P Dillon (50), A Daly for G Dolan (56).

St Brigid's: J Martin; R Kelly, D Donnelly, G Cunniffe; N Grehan, P Domican, I Kilbride; K Mannion, G Dolan; D Dolan, Cathal McHugh, E Sheehy; F Dolan, S Kilbride, Conor McHugh. Subs: J Murray for R Kelly (40), P Kelly for E Sheehy (55), D Kelleher for D Dolan (56).

Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan)

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