Cosgrove’s title shot seals glory for ’Castle
ST BRIGID’S 0-10
HISTORY wrapped in emotion, tied up in drama and decorated in green and red ribbons left Garrycastle rolling out of Tullamore yesterday clutching the most precious Christmas gift they had ever received.
Not only had they won the Leinster senior football title for the first time; they had also become the first Westmeath club to land the big prize, thus providing a welcome boost for the entire county as the 2011 season closed down.
Garrycastle had achieved it in the most dramatic circumstances imaginable, snatching victory with a pointed free from the last kick of the game.
Substitute Conor Cosgrove held his nerve to carefully angle the ball over the bar off an acute angle to the right of the posts after referee Syl Doyle awarded a free from where the ball landed, having adjudged that Garrycastle defender Karl Henson had been fouled as he punted the ball forward.
It was Garrycastle's first score for 22 minutes but proved the most crucial of all, sending Cosgrove and his colleagues into a celebration orbit which will last right through the Christmas season.
He had only arrived on the scene seven minutes earlier but, as a specialist left-sided kicker, had no doubt about his ability to convert the big opportunity into the title-winning score.
"You just think of being a kid and dreaming of a moment like this. I had to put the occasion out of my mind and concentrate on getting the ball over the bar and thankfully it went right for me," said Cosgrove.
St Brigid's had their doubts about the awarding of the free but might have had a better case over the referee's decision to call just one minute of additional time.
There were quite a few stoppages in the second half, but Doyle opted for just one minute, although the game had moved into the 72nd minute by the time Cosgrove kicked the winner. In truth, at least another minute would have been justified.
Still, the Dublin champions could have no real complaints as they were totally outplayed for 40 minutes before producing 10 minutes of glorious enterprise, during which they scored seven unanswered points.
It cut Garrycastle's lead to a single point after 51 minutes, at which stage it looked as if St Brigid's momentum would see them safely home on the run-in.
However, Garrycastle manager Anthony Cunningham made three changes to his forward division and the newcomers brought a new energy, which helped in no small way to calm the St Brigid's storm.
When St Brigid's sub Gavin McIntyre fired over the levelling point on the hour mark, it looked as if extra-time was looming but, in one final charge, Garrycastle won the free which clinched victory.
Garrycastle really would have been devastated if they lost a game where the extent of their dominance for the first 40 minutes could never have been anticipated. It was launched right from the off by Dessie Dolan, who flashed out an early warning that he was in the right mood to impose his broad array of talents on the game.
By the end of the first quarter, he had scored four points (three from open play), forcing the St Brigid's management duo of Gerry McEntee and Mark Byrne to realign their defence.
Garrycastle continued to create chances and while they didn't take as many as they would have liked, they still took a five-point lead (0-6 to 0-1) into the break.
St Brigid's sole first-half point had come from a Ken Darcy free in the third minute and while they also missed some chances, their biggest problem lay with their difficulty in winning anything like as much possession as their opponents.
Dessie Dolan, his brother Gary and cousin James were all proving highly effective in the Garrycastle attack, ahead of industrious midfielders, Seanie O'Donoghue and David O'Shaughnessy, while the defence had its security rating on triple A through a mostly comfortable first half.
Dessie Dolan carried his good form into the second half, kicking an excellent point in the 36th minute and, three minutes later, brother Gary timed his run to perfection, arriving in the St Brigid's square at precisely the right second before flicking a lob from James Duignan to the net.
The goal put Garrycastle into a 1-7 to 0-2 lead and looking very much like a side who were poised to cruise their way to the title.
However, all changed over the next 10 minutes as St Brigid's finally unleashed the power which steered them through Dublin and the earlier Leinster rounds.
With John O'Loughlin and Barry Cahill driving at the Garrycastle defence, the St Brigid's attack were playing off much more possession than had been the case earlier on.
Paddy Andrews scored four points (three from open play) in the space of five minutes to add to two by O'Loughlin and a pointed free from by Darcy to cut the eight-point deficit to one.
It was crisis time for Garrycastle but, unlike two years ago when they lost the final to Portlaoise, they had the experience to play their way through it.
They broke St Brigid's momentum and, while they did concede the equalising point, they got one final opportunity which Cosgrove exploited with clinical precision.
It was the last action of a dramatic encounter and, while St Brigid's will feel they were unlucky not to take the game to extra-time, they will also be wondering why it took them so long to generate anything like their usual rhythm.
Scorers -- Garrycastle: D Dolan 0-5 (1f), G Dolan 1-1, K Henson, C Cosgrove (f) 0-1 each. St Brigid's: P Andrews 0-5 (1f), K Darcy (2f), J O'Loughlin 0-2 each, G McIntyre 0-1.
Garrycastle -- C Mullin; J Gaffey, E Mulvihill, M McCallon; K Henson, D Harte, T McHugh; S O'Donoghue, D O'Shaughnessy; J Duignan, G Dolan, R McGowan; P Mulvihill, J Dolan, D Dolan. Subs: A Fox for McHugh (45), A Browne for Duignan (51), C Cosgrove for P Mulvihill (54), A Daly for McGowan (55).
St Brigid's -- S Supple; G Norton, Martin Cahill, G Kane; A Daly, S Murray, D Plunkett; B Cahill, J O'Loughlin; C Mullins, Mark Cahill, K Kilmurray; P Ryan, K Darcy, P Andrews. Subs: G McIntyre for Mark Cahill (42), L McCarthy for Ryan (47), O McCann for Mullins (59).
Ref -- S Doyle (Wexford)