Wednesday 22 August 2018

Moorefield join GAA's great Houdini acts

Comeback ranks up there with the best in recent history

Kevin Murnaghan after scoring the winning point for Moorefield against St Loman’s. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Kevin Murnaghan after scoring the winning point for Moorefield against St Loman’s. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

"This Moorefield team never gives up. That's the way they are."

Those were the words spoken by Luke Dempsey in 2014 after the Moorefield team he was then managing had come back from five points down with 10 minutes remaining against Newbridge rivals Sarsfields to snatch a draw. They won the replay comfortably seven days later.

A year earlier many of the same players were instrumental in forging an even better comeback when they reeled in a six-point deficit in their league final against Confey to win by five and complete the double.

When Dempsey said what he said just over three years ago, he was speaking from a position of experience. But little could he have imagined that those same traits would come back to bite him so sharply in the course of his duty as St Loman's, Mullingar manager on Sunday.

Unlike that 2013 league final or the 2014 drawn county final, when they had a little time on their hands to launch a rescue mission, the clock was ticking loudly last Sunday.

That's why their comeback, 1-4 in the last seven minutes (1-3 in the last five minutes of added time alone) must rank as one of the most dramatic in either of the codes at any level.

Moorefield have had a propensity for surmounting adversity throughout this campaign. When Daryl Flynn and David Whyte were sent off in this year's county final against Celbridge, they closed the game out with 13 men.

Without Flynn and Whyte they struck late to come from three points down with seven minutes remaining to win by one and progress to a semi-final against Rathnew where, despite being reduced to 14 men after Cian O'Connor's dismissal, they again prevailed, this time quite comfortably.

But nothing matches Sunday's stirring conclusion. Kevin Murnaghan scored the winner, grabbing Ronan Sweeney's flick after Éanna O'Connor had snatched at a 45-metre free.

That Murnaghan found himself with so much space to turn comfortably and score from such close range was further evidence of a complete St Loman's meltdown in Portlaoise.

"I was surprised I had that much space, that late in the game," said Murnaghan.

"I was actually surprised Éanna dropped it short. Normally, Éanna wouldn't drop it short. I saw 'Roli' (Ronan Sweeney) there. I knew he was going to hit it back in.

"Lucky enough I was there. It bounced towards me and I actually thought goal! But I said 'no, I'll play it safe.' So I turned and kicked it over the bar. It was probably the right thing to do.

"The goal was massive. And then the sending off of (Paul) Sharry gave us that little boost," he acknowledged.

Murnaghan said it has become a culture for them to chase down opponents in the closing stages no matter what the deficit may be.

"We're kind of used to it. We always have the attitude that we'll just keep going until the end no matter how much we're down. Something might lift us."

He felt St Loman's sought to defend their lead too early instead of pushing on.

"They were playing around with it a bit much around midfield. And maybe if they kept attacking they would have won it."

Murnaghan was a substitute when Moorefield last won the Leinster club title in 2006, a team that featured current manager Ross Glavin and Sweeney, one of the chief architects of Sunday's win who franked his reputation as the outstanding club player of his generation in Kildare.

"He wasn't really around much with us at the start of the year because he was in with Kildare," said Murnaghan. "But every time he talks you just listen to everything he has. He just has that intelligence and this aura about him that lifts the whole team. What a man."

Six great comebacks

Offaly v Limerick 1994 All-Ireland hurling final

The ultimate smash-and-grab raid as Offaly delivered a sensational 11-point turnaround in the last five minutes helping them to a 3-16 to 2-13 win.

Meath v Louth 2002 football qualifier

The home side were four points down as three minutes of injury time approached but a goal from Richie Kealy sparked them before Graham Geraghty's winner.

Meath v Dublin 1991 Leinster SFC first round third replay

Dublin were always in front but Meath conjured a dramatic late goal through Kevin Foley, with 40 seconds remaining before David Beggy's winner.

Tipperary v Cork, 1991 Munster hurling final replay

Nine points down 12 minutes into the second half Tipp rallied to win by four with Aidan Ryan's goal sparking a one of the GAA's most memorable premature pitch invasions.

Wexford v Meath, 2008 Leinster SFC quarter-final

Meath led by 10 points with 20 minutes remaining but collapsed with goals from Wexford's Redmond Barry and PJ Banville before Matty Forde's dramatic late winner.

2006 All-Ireland semi-final, Mayo v Dublin

Seven points down at one stage in the second half Mayo responded through Andy Moran's goal before Ciaran McDonald kicked a spectacular winner from a tight angle for the consumate left-footer.

Irish Independent

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