Sunday 25 February 2018

O'Rourke seals it for Skryne

Injury-time '45' settles thriller despite Seneschalstown's four-goal haul

Skryne captain Aidan Tuite lifts the cup
Skryne captain Aidan Tuite lifts the cup

The ball was barely airborne when Patrick O'Rourke was pumping his fist towards the terraces and jumping for joy, safe in the knowledge that a 13th Meath senior football title was heading Skryne's way.

At the end of a pulsating final that had ebbed and flowed wildly, O'Rourke -- Meath's goalkeeper for much of this season until suspension saw him displaced in June -- decided it with a '45' that just about everyone in the ground was sure he would convert.

There isn't a longer kick from the ground in the county than O'Rourke's and it was easily within his range. But the pressure was enormous.

He had an extra challenge to his nerve too during a bizarre 90-second delay, during which referee Brendan Darby decided to bring the same '45' O'Rourke was standing over 10 metres forward when some of the Seneschalstown players either dissented or wouldn't allow the kicker sufficient space.

Such a move is not within the gift of any referee and luckily he reversed the decision. Otherwise chaos would have reigned and possibly spoiled a thrilling match.

O'Rourke's nerveless kick was the game's last action and capped a wonderful second-half fightback from Skryne, who were five points down at the break.

The scoreline tells it all. Seneschalstown, bidding for a third title in four years, relied on goals from the usual sources but the frequency of scores in Skryne's favour was almost two to one.

They deserved their win irrespective of what way certain refereeing decisions went, and had O'Rourke not converted their preparations for a replay would have been heavily tinged with regret. To score 21 points in just over 60 minutes of football is some achievement, especially when their full-back line was shredded so badly in the opening half.

It was a fifth Meath senior medal for the veteran Trevor Giles, 18 years on from his first in 1992 when he was just 17 years old.

His influence was significant too, particularly after half-time when Skryne went chasing what looked like a lost cause. When Skryne reflect on their source of victory, it was the contribution of their half-forward line that amounted to most.

On one side O'Rourke finished with seven points (five from placed balls), but even he was eclipsed by the impressive Ian Davis on the other flank, who landed eight, including four points from play.

They enjoyed greater control of midfield too, through their captain Aidan Tuite, who lasted the pace longer than his opponents. The achievement is all the more merited given how so many teams in the past have wilted in the face of those Seneschalstown goal rushes inspired by the Sheridan brothers.

If a GPS tracking device was hitched to Joe Sheridan's back to measure the distance he covered in that opening half, even the goalkeepers might have journeyed further. But none, you can be sure, moved with the same economy and menace as Meath football's powerhouse predator, who delivered another typical display of opportunism.

Opponents of Sheridan in Meath football, and at times in Leinster too, must privately hear the theme music of the 'Jaws' sequence of films every time a ball hovers invitingly into his airspace. And yesterday was no different as he dovetailed magnificently with brother Brian.

Between them they conjured up those three first-half goals that had Skryne on their knees. First Brian struck on nine minutes, running on to Joe's clever knockdown from Brian Clarke's delivery and guiding it with his hand past Felim O'Rourke for a 1-2 to 0-2 lead.

Skryne got back level, 0-5 to 1-2, within four minutes, but then Brian repaid the compliment, this time taking down another brother Damien's speculative punt for Joe to slip a second goal past O'Rourke.

Again Skryne kept in hot pursuit and were within two points when Joe Sheridan grabbed a Brian Clarke point attempt that looked to be drifting wide, turned sharply and beat O'Rourke on his near side.

They should have had a fourth first-half goal too with the Skryne full-back line in crisis, but Robert Ruddy elected to shoot himself with Joe Sheridan free inside and O'Rourke was able to gather. Little did they know how costly that would be.

Skryne made changes for the second half, delegating their promising centre-back Ciaran Lenehan to track Joe Sheridan. It looked a case of locking the stable door after the horse had bolted but it worked as the terror factor that existed in the first half dissolved.

At the other end, Skryne got to work on that five-point deficit and within three minutes of the restart they had closed the gap through Patrick O'Rourke (two) and Davis.

That was Joe Sheridan's cue to move outfield and it was his 37th-minute pass to Brian that set up midfielder Cormac Quinn for what should have been a fourth goal and restoration of the five-point lead. But Quinn hit the post, the ball trickled wide and Skryne found even more strength after such a let-off.


Scoring points at a rate of one every three minutes, O'Rourke had them level in the 46th minute with a converted '45' and when Giles teed up Kevin Mulvaney, Skryne were ahead for only the second time in the game.

Seneschalstown would lead once more but their defence was in turmoil, and any indiscretion was invariably punished by David or Patrick O'Rourke.

Davis landed two frees, one from a very difficult angle, as Skryne moved three points clear, but there was still a sting left in the champions as Stephen Finnegan pounced for a fourth goal right at the end of normal time.

The drama didn't end there. Skryne won the kick out and a free which O'Rourke lined up from about 65 metres out. It lacked distance but Seneschalstown still conceded that crucial '45'.

Perhaps the game was reflective of the Meath football team itself. Both defences were poor but there were opportunists and accurate kickers on either side.

The former Meath centre-back Liam Harnan coached Skryne and if he wants the vacant Meath position this won't harm his cause.

Scorers -- Skryne: I Davis 0-8 (0-4f), P O'Rourke 0-7 (0-3f, 2 '45's), K Mulvaney 0-2, M Battersby, C Lenehan, B Byrne, J Hegarty all 0-1 each. Seneschalstown: B Sheridan 1-5 (0-5f), J Sheridan 2-1, S Finnegan 1-1, C Quinn 0-1.

Skryne -- F O'Rourke; A Curry, D Beaton, M Jordan; J Looby, C Lenehan, J Hegarty; A Tuite, D McGoldrick; P O'Rourke, T Giles, I Davis; K Mulvaney, B Byrne, M Battersby. Subs: P Fox for Byrne (46), V O'Reilly for Curry (50), B Davis for McGoldrick (54).

Seneschalstown -- D Lyons; G Sheridan, P Carey, J Byrne; G Conlon, J Crowley, S Sheridan; R Ruddy, C Quinn; D Sheridan, C Macken, S Finnegan; B Clarke, B Sheridan, J Sheridan. Subs: A Gleeson for S Sheridan (37), A Finnegan for Macken (37), A Collins for J Byrne (50), D Byrne for Crowley (59), S Clarke for Quinn (61).

Ref -- B Darby (Ballinabrackey).

Irish Independent

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