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'Moores' mighty 13 defy all the odds

Moorefield 0-11 Celbridge 0-9

Moorefield’s Ronan Sweeney tries to get past the Celbridge pair of Michael Konstantin, left, and Hugh McGrillen during yesterday’s county final, in which Sweeney won a record eighth Kildare SFC medal. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Moorefield’s Ronan Sweeney tries to get past the Celbridge pair of Michael Konstantin, left, and Hugh McGrillen during yesterday’s county final, in which Sweeney won a record eighth Kildare SFC medal. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Here's one that will endure forever in Moorefield folklore - the day they won the county title, having had only 13 players for two-thirds of the game.

It will be recalled in song and story long after the heroic group who achieved it have retired as this was a classic example of staring down adversity and emerging triumphant in the most dramatic circumstances.

Conversely, it will go down in Celbridge history as the county title they spurned after failing to make use of two extra men for 40 minutes.

They were three points down at the start of that period but won the remainder of the game by only a point (0-8 to 0-7). It was a shocking indictment of their inability to exploit a huge advantage which, if properly utilised, should have been more than enough to win the game fairly comfortably.

Moorefield captain Daryl Flynn (left) lifts the Dermot Bourke Cup with his team-mate David Whyte. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Moorefield captain Daryl Flynn (left) lifts the Dermot Bourke Cup with his team-mate David Whyte. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Celbridge's problems were two-fold: they played as if they expected the numerical imbalance to take care of business in their favour and even when they appeared to finally realise that would not be the case, their game management was poor.

Moorefield decorated their clever play with a defiance which never wavered. If fact, it grew more pronounced as the game progressed and the finish line came into focus.

Outnumbered

"It was very tough, especially in the last five minutes, but we kept grinding and grinding, doing our best to hang on. Someone up there must be looking down on us," said Eddie Heavey.

He was one of Moorefield's main men in an outnumbered attack that had to work off limited possession. In addition, they had to repeatedly track back when Celbridge tried to swarm forward.

It was physically exhausting for every Moorefield player but they coped admirably in what was a tribute to their fitness and their resolve.

David Whyte of Moorefield is shown the red card by referee Noel McKenna. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
David Whyte of Moorefield is shown the red card by referee Noel McKenna. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

They started well and were two points ahead when they were awarded a penalty in the 17th minute after Kevin Murnaghan - another of their best performers - was fouled as he lined up to take a shot.

Adam Tyrrell's resulting effort was saved by Shane McNamara and worse was to follow for Moorefield who had captain Daryl Flynn dismissed after striking out at Fergal Conway.

Two minutes later, Moorefield wing-forward David Whyte was on his way to the dug-out, red-carded for striking Paddy Brophy.

Celbridge might have felt that events would care of themselves from there on, in which case they were badly mistaken.

Moorefield sent 37-year-old Ronan Sweeney into the action as part of the re-organisation and it quickly became apparent that their response to the setbacks was going to be smart and determined.

Sweeney, who was sent off at a crucial stage in last year's final which Moorefield lost to Sarsfields, summoned on all of his vast experience to make a massive contribution.

15 October 2017; Ryan Houlihan of Moorefield in action against Kevin O'Callaghan of Celbridge during the Kildare County Senior Football Championship Final. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
15 October 2017; Ryan Houlihan of Moorefield in action against Kevin O'Callaghan of Celbridge during the Kildare County Senior Football Championship Final. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

"Ross (Glavin, manager) told me earlier to be ready as I could be going in at any stage but I certainly didn't think it would come that soon and in those circumstances. A team tries to prepare for everything and be ready for every eventuality but this (losing two men so early) isn't something you can plan for.

"So when it happened, we just had to get on with it. We have a very experienced panel and a very honest one too. That was certainly needed today," said Sweeney.

The final ten minutes of the first half typified Moorefield's capacity to plot their way through difficult problems.

They scored the last three points to lead by 0-7 to 0-2 at half-time and while it wasn't a big lead in the unusual circumstances that had arisen, there was something about the way they had gone about their work which suggested Celbridge would have a very difficult second half.

And so it proved. Heavey fired over a point early on and while Celbridge scored four unanswered points in six minutes, they failed to maintain momentum. Moorefield were the epitome of economy in possession and two counter-attacks yielded frees which Tyrrell pointed.

Celbridge pared the lead back to two points in the 48th minute but, once again, Moorefield responded positively, with Eanna O'Connor firing over a long-range free.

It was that sort of day for them, squeezing the maximum out of limited chances, while defending brilliantly at the other end.

Mark Dempsey did an excellent marking job on Brophy; Murnaghan repeatedly popped up in the right place; Liam Callaghan used his experience most intelligently; Sweeney sought out responsibility and discharged it calmly; Heavey and Tyrrell drove at the Celbridge defence while Eanna O'Connor was neat and tidy in everything he did.

Celbridge's debrief won't be pleasant exercise. Two extra men should have made a considerable difference, especially after having the opportunity at half-time to figure out a strategy to optimise the advantage.

Despite that, their attack lines remained too narrow and support play was way below what would have been expected.

"We slowed the game down as best we could. And when we got forward, the lads picked off their scores really well. There was very little waste," said Sweeney, who won an incredible eighth SFC medal playing in his 11th county final. It's one he won't forget.

Scorers - Moorefield - E O'Connor (3f, 1'45'), A Tyrrell (4f) 0-4 each; E Heavey 0-2, K Murnaghan 0-1. Celbridge: S Harte (2f), D Hughes (1f) 0-3 each, K Flynn, D Corcoran, P Brophy 0-1 each.

Moorefield - T Kinsella; S Healy, L Healy, L Callaghan; J Murray, M Dempsey, K Murnaghan; D Flynn, A Masterson; C O'Connor; E Heavey, D Whyte; A Tyrrell, E O'Connor, N Hurley-Lynch. Subs: R Sweeney for Hurley-Lynch (22), R Houlihan for S Healy (40), A Mullins for C O'Connor (48).

Celbridge - S McNamara; M Konstantin, O Lyons, D McEvoy; M O'Grady, H McGrillen, K Flynn; C Brophy, F Conway; T Archbold, P Brophy, J Costello; S Harte, D Hughes, K Murphy. Subs: D Corcoran for McEvoy (20), M O'Sullivan for Murphy (39), K O'Callaghan for Archbold (51), P Carty for Harte (52)

Ref - N McKenna (Ballyteague).

Irish Independent

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