Dolan blast kills off Athy's young guns
Leinster Club SFC
IF respect was currency, Athy GAA club's bank balance would be very much in the black, but unfortunately respect can't buy you a place in the AIB Leinster club senior football final.
That achievement has to be negotiated in the cold, unsentimental currency of goals and points and the balance sheet shows that Garrycastle of Westmeath were the high rollers after an eventful clash at Newbridge.
The young Athy side, with 10 U-21s, and five Leaving Cert students in their ranks, went out of the competition with heads held high and genuine kudos from their experienced opponents who earned the right to play Dublin's St Brigid's in the provincial decider on December 18.
Garrycastle sharpshooter Dessie Dolan contributed four points to his team's cause and played a part in the vital second-half goal that helped decide the match. He was unstinting in his praise for Athy.
"It was a very tough match. I wouldn't like to be in Kildare because a lot of club teams are going to struggle against them. They're a fine outfit. Some of their footballers are fantastic," he said.
Dessie hit the nail on the head with his comments. Athy posed a serious threat to Garrycastle, but when the game reached the crucial final 10 minutes, the lads from Westmeath had the know-how and the poise to steer their way through the proverbial 'squeaky bum' period.
It was such a close call. The sides were level 0-4 each in a low-scoring first half. Athy's Liam McGovern opened the scoring with a point after 10 minutes, and two minutes later Dessie Dolan equalised with a point from a free. The pick of the first-half scoring came in a four-minute period.
First, James Dolan, cousin of Dessie and Gary, resisted strong pressure by Athy defender Joe Kinihan to carve out a yard of space and lash over a 35-metre point in the 22nd minute.
Four minutes later, it was the turn of impressive Athy corner-forward James Eaton. Eaton took possession of a fine angled ball fired in from long range by full-forward Ken Brophy, and made scoring the point look ridiculously easy.
The Kildare side put tall corner-back David Hyland on Dessie. Hyland did his best but when when Athy conceded frees from 40 metres or less, Dolan was able to get his score, and he had three on the board in that low-scoring first half.
Just before half-time Hyland clashed with Dolan after the ball had gone, and was booked. Kildare All Star Mick Foley took over 'Dessie duties' in the second half, and his attentions helped restrict the Garrycastle legend to just one point from a free in the second period. That score by Dolan came in the first minute of the second half, putting Garrycastle 0-5 to 0-4 ahead.
Over the next nine minutes the Westmeath men outscored Athy by a further three points to one, with Tom McHugh, Seanie O'Donohue, and Paddy Mulvihill on the score sheet for Garrycastle, and Darroch Mulhall getting his only point of the game from a free.
Three points down to an experienced side, so what do you need? A goal, of course, and, out of the blue, Athy hit the net in the 43rd minute.
James Eaton was the poacher on the spot to nail the rebound from a high shot by Athy sub Dan O'Keeffe, putting the sides level for the sixth time in the match at 1-5 to 0-8.
A quick response with a point by James Dolan a minute after the Athy goal helped steady the Garrycastle men once again.
Another six minutes elapsed before a further equaliser for Athy after 49 minutes by James Eaton from a free put the game back in the melting pot at 1-6 to 0-9.
Eaton's score set the tone for a pulsating final 10 minutes plus a couple added on by referee Syl Doyle of Wexford, but the gods were with Garrycastle.
Substitute Alan Daly edged Garrycastle ahead with a 51st minute point, and five minutes later, a Dolan 1-2-3 provided the match-winning score.
Dessie drifted out to the wing and was given the ball by cousin James. He then jinked past Athy's Eddie Delahunt and lashed in a high ball from 30 metres that looked as if it would go over the bar -- but it came back off the upright, and there was brother Gary in the right place to tuck the ball into the net.
Athy fought for their lives but that was the last score of the match.
Garrycastle manager Anthony Cunningham was relieved. "It was a rip-roaring game, very, very tight, and we were lucky to get out of it in the finish. I'd say the experience got us through," he said.
Athy manager Mark Brophy was disappointed but proud of his players. "It's been a fantastic year. These lads have been going side by side trying to win an U-21 championship as well over the last few weeks. Their dedication has been fantastic," he said.
SCORERS -- Garrycastle: D Dolan 0-4 (4f); G Dolan 1-0; J Dolan 0-2; P Mulvihill, T McHugh, S O 'Donohue, A Daly 0-1 each. Athy: J Eaton 1-3 (2f); L McGovern, P Dunne, D Mulhall 0-1 each.
GARRYCASTLE -- C Mullin; M McCallon, J Gaffey, T McHugh; K Henson, D Harte, E Mulvihill; S O'Donohue, D O'Shaughnessy; R McGowan, D Dolan, J Dolan; G Dolan, P Mulvihill, J Duignan. Subs: A Daly for P Mulvihill (45); C Cosgrove for J Duignan (54); J O 'Shaughnessy for T McHugh (57); A Browne for R McGowan (59); J McAteer for G Dolan (60).
ATHY -- J Roycroft; D Hyland, M Foley, J Kinihan; R Bell, E Delahunt, E Kennedy; P Dunne, K Feely; T Gibbons, C Reynolds, L McGovern; D Mulhall, K Brophy, J Eaton. Subs: D O'Keeffe for T Gibbons (40); A Kelly for D Mulhall (45); D Holligan for E Kennedy (58).
REF -- S Doyle (Wexford)