Brigid's find extra gear to snatch title
St Brigid's 2-14 Killererin 1-10
KILLERERIN had one hand on the cup in yesterday's final in Tuam Stadium only to have it prised away from them in the most dramatic circumstances by a St Brigid's team that refused to take no for an answer.
The Roscommon champions were three points behind as the game headed into the 62nd minute and, since they had scored only three points throughout the second half, it looked as if the challenge was beyond them.
Killererin had controlled much of the second half and should have been further ahead but still appeared to have done enough to win the title for the first time in 32 years.
However, they lost possession as they tried to move forward and St Brigid's launched one last desperate bid for survival, which was to prove decisive. They won a free about 50 metres out and when it was lobbed into the Killererin square, Cathal McHugh got a vital touch which yielded a priceless goal.
It was the final action of normal time and, after staging such a heroic rescue package, the psychological edge rested decisively with St Brigid's as they headed into extra-time.
They converted their growing confidence into 20 minutes of power play which Killererin simply couldn't match.
St Brigid's won the first period of extra-time by 1-2 to 0-2 -- the goal coming from Senan Kilbride -- and were even more dominant in the second period, outscoring the wilting Galway champions by 0-4 to 0-0.
"We were lucky to get that late goal but, fair play to the lads, they kept plugging away," said St Brigid's midfielder, Karol Mannion. "It looked bad for us when Killererin had a chance to go four points clear, but once it was down to three points, there was always a chance we could save the day."
He was one of several players who did so much to bring the title back to St Brigid's on a day when Killererin were left regretting their failure to exploit their dominance for long spells of the second half.
"We didn't close it out when we had the chance, but credit to St Brigid's, they never gave up and got their break at a crucial time," said Killererin player manager Tommie Joyce.
Together with his brother Padraic, who was just back from his honeymoon, and cousin Nicky, he battled mighty hard all through but, in the end, it was St Brigid's dogged resistance, allied to their power surge in extra-time, which won the day. St Brigid's started brightly, galloping into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead after 12 minutes, before Killererin retaliated. As the temperature rose, referee Frank Flynn had to make some timely interventions, but once the game settled down again, it was Killererin who were the more constructive.
A goal from corner-forward Gerard Butler set them on their way to an interval lead of 1-3 to 0-5, an advantage they stretched to three points midway through the second half. However, St Brigid's pared back two points before Nicky and Padraic Joyce reopened a three-point lead.
It should have been four but Nicky Joyce missed a good chance which was to prove crucial as it left St Brigid's within striking distance as they pushed forward seeking the equaliser.
Killererin would have been better advised to drive on in the second half instead of attempting to defend their lead. They're good at that type of game, but the problem was that it allowed St Brigid's to remain in touch before launching their dramatic late burst.
Padraic Joyce, who scored 0-4 from play, was always a threat and probably would have done a lot more if the supply lines were more direct. Instead, Killererin's build-ups were often tortuously slow, allowing St Brigid's to funnel back and limit the damage.
Still, it looked as if their race was run once the game ticked into stoppage-time, but St Brigid's gamely hung on and had their resilience rewarded.
"It's a great way to win a Connacht title. We might have been a bit lucky to get the equalising goal but we played very well in extra-time," added Mannion. Darragh Donnelly, Ian Kilbride, Gearoid Cunniffe, McHugh, Senan Kilbride and Frankie Dolan were also highly influential in what really was a special day for St Brigid's.
Their worst period was in the third quarter, during which they scored just one point and, with Killererin winning lots of possession, the title seemed destined to go their way. However, they failed to exploit their dominance and were punished in the cruellest manner imaginable.
Senan Kilbride's goal four minutes into extra-time was to prove crucial as it gave St Brigid's a cushion while also undermining Killererin, who must have realised by then that it just wasn't going to be their day.
In the end, Tuam Stadium was a sea of red as St Brigid's supporters dashed onto the pitch to celebrate a victory which few thought likely as the game ticked into stoppage time.
"It's a great win for us but we know we'll have to do better if we are to make progress in the All-Ireland championship," said Mannion. For now though, the satisfaction of a win, dug out in unlikely circumstances, will leave them with a warm glow at the end of a very rewarding season.
Scorers -- St Brigid's: S Kilbride, Cathal McHugh 1-1 each, F Dolan 0-3 (0-1f), G Cunniffe, K Mannion, D O'Connor, D Dolan, Conor McHugh, D Kelleher, G Dolan, D Donnelly, E Sheehy 0-1 each. Killererin: P Joyce 0-5 (0-1f), G Butler 1-0, N Joyce 0-2 (0-2f), M Boyle, A Keane (0-1 '45), D Mannion 0-1 each.
Killererin -- A Keane; D Flaherty, C Forde, D Kelly; I Reddington, D Mannion, T Fahy; T Joyce, T Hughes; T Flynn, P Joyce, J Keane; M Boyle, N Joyce, G Butler. Subs: T Wilson for Butler (45), J Hughes for Wilson (70).
St Brigid's --P Martin; R Kelly, D Donnelly, N Grehan; I Kilbride, P Domican, G Cunniffe; G Dolan, K Mannion; D Dolan, F Dolan, C McHugh; D O'Connor, S Kilbride, C McHugh. Subs: D Kelleher for Conor McHugh (h-t), E Sheehy for O'Connor (47), D Nestor for Cunniffe (75), G Ahern for Darren Dolan (78), R Blaine for F Dolan (78).
Ref -- F Flynn (Leitrim).