Friday 19 January 2018

Simonstown push on to leave O'Rourke purring

Simonstown 2-9 Summerhill 0-7

Simonstown Gaels players celebrate after receiving the Keegan Cup. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Simonstown Gaels players celebrate after receiving the Keegan Cup. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

All around Pairc Tailteann there were reminders of the good old days in Meath.

Colm O'Rourke was on the line for defending champions Simonstown, while there was more than a smattering of the famous Lyons clan involved with Summerhill.

Shane O’Rourke shows his delight at the final whistle. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Shane O’Rourke shows his delight at the final whistle. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

At half-time, the All-Ireland winning team of 1967 were presented to the crowd, 50 years after they claimed national glory and subsequently went unbeaten during a ground-breaking five game tour of Australia.

They even had Mandy Dowd, the daughter of 1996 All-Ireland winning captain Tommy, sing the national anthem beforehand.

The fare on offer here did little to suggest that the good times are set to roll again in the Royal County, but they'll scarcely care around Simonstown.

They have had more than their fair share of drama in this run, most of which was squeezed into the quarter-final win over Dunboyne which saw them come back from being 11 points down at half-time.

James Kilcullen of Simonstown Gales in action against Brian Ennis of Summerhill. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
James Kilcullen of Simonstown Gales in action against Brian Ennis of Summerhill. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Sedate

This was much more sedate but it matters little. Just 12 months after winning their first Keegan cup, they went back-to-back here.

"We'll never forget that (win over Dunboyne)," O'Rourke reflected.

"The celebration after the quarter-final might be even more than today the excitement after winning, that's a game of a lifetime and it really made our year.

"We had a lot of excitement in the quarter-final and semi-final and not much excitement today."

Brian Ennis of Summerhill in action against Niall Kane of Simonstown Gaels. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Brian Ennis of Summerhill in action against Niall Kane of Simonstown Gaels. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

There could be no arguing with their status as champions. O'Rourke's side won all eight championship games they played in 2017.

And for long periods they were the better side here. They might have goaled just 30 seconds into the game but were denied when Caolan Young cleared off the line from Padraig McKeever.

McKeever would make amends on 13 minutes when Simonstown's powerful midfield pairing of Shane O'Rourke and AFL starlet Conor Nash combined to feed their captain, who finished well to the net.

O'Rourke's men took a 1-3 to 0-4 lead in at the break but Summerhill likely felt they were in a decent position. Simonstown had hit seven wides and dropped four more efforts short.

Then came a crucial period of play shortly after the resumption.

Barry Dardis of Summerhill in action against Brian McGrath of Simonstown Gaels Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Barry Dardis of Summerhill in action against Brian McGrath of Simonstown Gaels Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

First, McKeever knocked over a free to put his side three up. Then the resultant kickout went terribly wrong for Summerhill and Sean Tobin snaffled possession to feed Conor Sheridan, who tapped home for the simplest of finishes.

It looked a long way back from there for Summerhill. At that stage, they trailed by six with just over 20 minutes to play and had managed only four points.

And they did themselves no favours, missing a simple 14-yard free and hitting the post with another straightforward point attempt from play before Simonstown stretched the gap to seven through a McKeever free.

O'Rourke sent for the experience of Seamus Kenny, and with Shane O'Rourke directing operations superbly, they weren't really troubled down the home stretch.

McKeever added the last two points of the day in front of a crowd of 5,040 to secure a second successive crown.

"We missed an awful lot in the first half, we took wrong options,"O'Rourke said. "I think kicked seven into the goalie and seven or eight wides. We played well in the first half apart from our finishing. We worked a lot of good positions… the lads have been good at kicking scores all year but it was only in the last few minutes Padraig McKeever found his shooting boots."

O'Rourke reckons last year's win only served to whet the appetite for more success.

"The big thing is that we've gone unbeaten through the Championship as well," he said. "To win a Championship with eight games, won them all, we're delighted with that.

"Last year, we struggled through the early rounds and then got going. This year we had more serious intent. We're better this year than last year. The lads have been very disciplined, very focused and dedicated, very keen to win another one, right from the beginning.

"I thought from the end of last year maybe they'd be happy with one. Instead of that they were actually hungrier to win again."

McKeever picked up the official man of the match hard but Shane O'Rourke couldn't have been far from the judges' thoughts.

Afterwards Colm revealed that his son's playing days might be coming to an end as he continues to battle with serious hip trouble.

"He is hampered badly," he said. "He doesn't train much if anything and he is in a lot of pain with his hips and his on anti-inflammatories before and after games in order to play. He'll not play much more. It's a big day for him we might not see him next year if he decides that's enough."

Simonstown now move into Leinster to face Wexford champions Starlights.

And haven fallen at the first hurdle last time around, O'Rourke believes his side will be in a better frame of mind this time around, even though he will be without Nash, who is set to return to the AFL for pre-season next week.

"I think we'll take a bit more interest in it. Second time around I suppose there is a different feel to the whole thing and maybe now we'll take it a bit more seriously than we did last year," he said.

"We came up against Rhode last year so it was a hard opening game for us; maybe if we had a game earlier we might have been able to manage them a bit better."

SCORERS - Simonstown: P McKeever 1-4 (0-2fs), C Sheridan 1-2, S Tobin, S Kenny, S O'Rourke 0-1 each. Summerhill: B Ennis 0-3 (2f), S Dalton, D Dalton, C Young, B Dardis (45) 0-1 each.

Simonstown - R Burlingham; S Gallagher, S Moran, N McMahon; B McGrath, B Conlon, N Kane; S O'Rourke, C Nash; S Tobin, Nicky O'Brien, M McCabe; Nathan O'Brien, C Sheridan, P McKeever. Subs: J Kilcullen for Conlon (21), S Kenny for Nicky O'Brien (38), J Lyons for Tobin (52), M Brennan for Nathan O'Brien (57).

Summerhill - T McDonnell; I Hughes, W Ryan, R Ryan; P Geraghty, R Hatton, R Ryan; M Byrne, B Ennis; D Larkin, B Dardis, K Lyons; S Dalton, C Young, D Dalton. Subs: C Gillespie for Hughes, K Ryan for Lyons (both 37), L Shaw for Geraghty (56), C Frayne for S Dalton (59).

Ref - L O'Brien (Duleek/Bellewstown).

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