Friday 23 February 2018

Late goals blow Gaels away as St Brigid's make it seven out of eight

Roscommon SFC final: St Brigid's 3-13 Ros' Gaels 3-7

Cian Connolly of Roscommon Gaels is tackled by St Brigid’s Peter Domican. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Connolly of Roscommon Gaels is tackled by St Brigid’s Peter Domican. Photo: Sportsfile
Frank Roche

Frank Roche

No longer the mercurial match-winner, now the manager of his beloved St Brigid’s, Frankie Dolan took a moment to savour yesterday’s latest Roscommon SFC triumph.

“It’s a super feeling – it’s like winning my first one back in 1997,” Dolan beamed. “You can never win enough championships.”

Roscommon Gaels' Liam McNeela in action against St Brigids' Brian Stack. Photo: Sportsfile
Roscommon Gaels' Liam McNeela in action against St Brigids' Brian Stack. Photo: Sportsfile

And Brigid’s should know: they may have ‘just’ 16 county titles to their name but this was their tenth since 2005 and a remarkable seventh in the last eight seasons. Hard to tell if their local stranglehold contributed to the relatively meagre attendance – just 1,701. Yet this was no sure thing, victory only confirmed by late goals from Conor Murray and Eddie Nolan.

Roscommon Gaels can have no complaints with the result but could rightly quibble with the six-point margin. Appearing in their first final since 2004, the challengers had hung onto their rivals’ coat-tails through their ability to pounce for goals – three in all – at key moments.

They even had the temerity to edge in front on 48 minutes, Richard Hughes latching onto a defence-splitting pass from Scott Oates to fire over. If he had been a shade more ruthless, Hughes might even have gone for the jugular ... who knows how Brigid’s might have coped with a three-point deficit at that stage.

By then, though, the Gaels were down to 14 men after David O’Gara, already on a yellow, was black-carded on the word of a linesman after 41 minutes. Initially they coped with the disadvantage – but their lead lasted all of two minutes before Cathal McHugh landed a pressure free.

The St Brigid's team celebrate. Photo: Sportsfile
The St Brigid's team celebrate. Photo: Sportsfile

Thus ended a 17-minute scoring famine; it was McHugh’s last act before being substituted but his replacement, Jack McDonnell, then nailed a sumptuous lead point.

With a nip-and-tuck finale on the cards, Brigid’s found another gear. Substitute Nolan motored through the middle and, while he had options to pass, his ambition was rewarded with a low finish to the net.

Cian Connolly’s tap-over free kept Roscommon’s flickering hopes barely alive ... but then, adding insult in injury-time, a surging Brigid’s counter culminated in the impressive Pádraig Kelly teeing up midfielder Nolan for the

Their first had come much earlier, after scarcely ten seconds, when Brian Stack caught a high delivery from Senan Kilbride and finished smartly past James Fetherstone.

Stack was a persistent first-half menace for the Kiltoom men, adding a point and troubling a variety of markers, before the service dried up on the restart.

An even bigger problem for Brigid’s was their propensity to cough up goals. Peter Domican’s solid hour at full-back was marred by an early foul on Connolly, resulting in a ninth-minute penalty which Connolly himself calmly converted, putting Shane Mannion the wrong way.

That levelled the tie at 1-1 apiece; Brigid’s regrouped and surged four ahead, and it would have been more but for Fetherstone’s tap-over save to partially deny Darren Dolan. But then David O’Gara and Cathal Dineen combined to tee up James O’Gara for a point-blank goal after 25 minutes.

Brigid’s didn’t shoot a wide until the 40th minute but, for all their enterprise, they only led by 1-9 to 2-4 at the break. Then, having doubled their lead to four, they leaked a third goal four minutes after the restart when Mark Healy buried the rebound after Connolly’s free hit an upright.

But the 2013 All-Ireland champions survived to set up a November 12 showdown with Corofin, who steamrolled them in last year’s Connacht club final.

“We’re going up against that juggernaut in Corofin,” Dolan admitted. “They gave us a horrid hiding there last year down in Carrick-on-Shannon. A performance like that won’t be good enough so we’ll have to up it again.”

SCORERS – St Brigid’s: B Stack 1-1, S Kilbride (3f), C McHugh (3f) 0-4 each, C Murray, E Nolan 1-0, D Sheehy, D Dolan, P Kelly, J McDonnell 0-1 each. Roscommon Gaels: C Connolly 1-4 (1-0 pen, 4f), J O’Gara, M Healy 1-0 each, R Hughes 0-2, R Gleeson 0-1.

ST BRIGID’S – S Mannion; N McInerney, P Domican, D Sheehy; I Kilbride, R Stack, J Murray; G Dolan, E Nolan; P Kelly, D Dolan, E Sheehy; B Stack, S Kilbride, C McHugh. Subs: D Cunniffe for E Sheehy (h-t), D Donnelly for J Murray (49), J McDonnell for McHugh (51), C Murray for D Dolan (55), N Grehan for R Stack (59).

ROSCOMMON GAELS – J Fetherstone; L McNeela, J McManus, J O’Gara; P Gleeson, D O’Gara, C Dineen; M Healy, J McDermott; M Nally, S Oates, R Gleeson; R Hughes, C Connolly, K Kilcline. Subs: K O’Gara for Nally (38), B O’Gara for J O’Gara (49), R Horan for Gleeson (54), C Egan for Oates (61).

REF – B Healy (St Faithleach’s)

Irish Independent

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