Kelleher goal helps Brigid's to outgun Elphin
Damien Kelleher's goal four minutes from time sealed back-to-back Roscommon SFC titles for St Brigid's yesterday.
Brigid's, who were beaten by Crossmaglen in last March's All-Ireland club final, always held the upper hand at Dr Hyde Park but it took Kelleher's late three-pointer to shake off a resolute Elphin side who were looking for their first senior silverware since 1957.
Playing with the aid the breeze, Brigid's were 0-6 to 0-2 ahead at the break. Elphin adopted a very defensive mindset against the elements but their cause wasn't helped by the 21st-minute dismissal of centre-back Paddy O'Connor. His departure robbed Elphin of an influential presence but they persevered gallantly after the break, eroding Brigid's deficit to just two points with a Fintan Cregg free in the 46th minute.
But Brigid's experience came to the fore and two long-range points from man of the match Karol Mannion and Frankie Dolan sent the defending champions on their way before Kelleher made the game safe with his match-winning goal.
Brigid's were in front after only 40 seconds when Cathal McHugh bisected the posts on the turn. An excellent effort from the left wing by Frankie Cregg restored parity, but the game was disrupted by a succession of yellow cards.
Brigid's had a lucky escape in the 15th minute when Fintan Cregg's free was held up in the wind. Michael Callery reacted quickest and even though his shot beat St Brigid's goalkeeper James Martin, corner-back Niall Grehan was on hand to take the ball of the line.
O'Connor, who had been booked in the second minute, saw a second yellow for an altercation with Eoin Sheehy, and Elphin were always likely to struggle after that.
Two Dolan frees from acute angles nudged Brigid's further ahead but Elphin defender Damien Cregg gave his side hope with an effort that flashed over the bar in the 28th minute. But Senan Kilbride ensured that Brigid's made their journey to the dressing-rooms four points to the good when he produced a rare moment of class in the game to raise a white flag.
In fairness to Elphin, they never gave up and frustrated the Brigid's attack at every opportunity. Senan Kilbride and Fintan Cregg swapped early points before Benny Rock (a '45') and Fintan Cregg (a free) reduced the arrears to two points.
Brigid's needed inspiration. Dolan and Mannion provided it and proved that the only way to breach a congested defence was to kick points from distance. Then the game's defining score arrived in the 56th minute. Senan Kilbride's astute pass sent McHugh towards goal. He momentarily lost control but the ball fell kindly to Kelleher and he bundled the ball to the net.
Frankie Cregg pointed a late free for Elphin but they were left deflated in the final for the second year in succession.
SCORERS -- St Brigid's: F Dolan 0-4 (3f), D Kelleher 1-0, S Kilbride 0-2, C McHugh, P Kelly, K Mannion 0-1 each. Elphin: Fintan Cregg 0-3 (2f), Frankie Cregg 0-2 (1f), B Rock, D Cregg 0-1 each.
ST BRIGID'S -- J Martin; N Grehan, D Donnelly, D Sheehy; E Sheehy, P Domican, G Cunniffe; K Mannion, G Dolan; D Dolan, C McHugh, D Kelleher; P Kelly, S Kilbride, F Dolan. Subs: I Kilbride for Kelly (46).
ELPHIN -- R Collins; J Carney, R Brady, D Cregg; K Brady, P O'Connor, S Beirne; S Tiernan, B Cregg; M Callery, Fintan Cregg, G Brady; B Rock, Frankie Cregg, M Glancy. Subs: G Cregg for Callery (44), C Rock for G Brady (52), D Hynes for Tiernan (57).
REF -- M Parker (St Faithleach's).