Hodson Bay Hotel Group Senior Football Championship (Section A)
Kevin Egan at Ballyforan
Given the dismal weather conditions that prevailed on Sunday afternoon in South Roscommon, supporters of St. Brigid’s and Roscommon Gaels, and indeed any neutrals out there, could have been forgiven for passing up the opportunity to head to Ballyforan and instead choosing to stay at home and watch Kilkenny against Waterford in the All-Ireland hurling semi-final.
Regardless of what decision people made, they saw pretty much the same thing – a high-class encounter that was utterly engaging, and a wily old team proving once again that they know everything there is to know about getting results.
However while Kilkenny did enough to give themselves one more shot at getting back to the All-Ireland final, St. Brigid’s were good enough to take the honours at the expense of Roscommon Gaels. Not only that, they did so in a manner that will give rise to real concern within the management team of the town club.
The stage was set at half time for the Gaels to kick on and snatch a morale-boosting victory. They were on level terms, 1-4 to 0-7, having played into the wind. What’s more, they had caused St. Brigid’s real problems with the tempo of their play.
That all changed after the break, however, as the Kiltoom-based side strangled the life out of the Gaels, holding them scoreless for 19 minutes and dictating how the game was played.
The midfield battleground that had been feisty and competitive in the opening half became the scene of a massacre as almost every kickout, from either end, was hoovered up by the men in green and red. This was partially due to the significant influence of Ian Kilbride upon his introduction, but also because of some outstanding play from Conor Murray.
St. Brigid’s also started using the ball more judiciously, and the long balls that were broken down by the Roscommon Gaels full back-line and hoovered up by Paul Gleeson in the first half were nowhere to be seen in the second. Instead their passes were executed from closer range, with greater accuracy and speed, while their lines of running were utterly superb.
With three minutes of normal time to play, the scores were level – each side had added just two points to their tally since the restart up to that point. Yet while the Gaels were bereft of ideas, Brigid’s had more in the tank. A punched point from David Cunniffe, a free earned by Senan Kilbride and converted by Cathal McHugh, and a majestic score from Eoin Sheeny deservedly settled the tie in their favour.
It could all have been so different. For over 20 minutes of the first half, the Gaels were superb. Cian Connolly opened their account with a wonderful point. Kieran Kilcline’s electric pace set up Enda Lannon for a tap-in goal. While Brigid’s struck five-in-a-row at one point, the scores from Aidan Duignan and John McManus that sent the sides into the dressing rooms level were truly magnificent.
It was a half that proved that this Roscommon Gaels team are capable of playing some great football. However the second half went on to prove that while they know how to play, they still have a lot to learn from the masters in the art of how to win.
ST. BRIGID’S: J. Martin; R. Fallon, N. McInerney, J. Gallagher; E. Sheehy (0-2, one ’45), N. Grehan, R. Kelly; G. Dolan, D. Donnelly (0-1); D. Dolan (0-2), C. McHugh (0-5, two frees), C. Murray; S. Kilbride (0-1), K. Mannion, B. Stack. Subs used: I. Kilbride for Fallon (20 mins), D. Sheehy for Kelly (37 mins), D. Cunniffe (0-1) for Donnelly (42 mins), J. McDonnell for D. Dolan (59 mins).
ROSCOMMON GAELS: J. Featherstone; R. Gleeson, K. O’Gara, L. McNeela; Kevin Kilcline, J. McManus (0-1), A. Duignan (0-1); J. McDermott, D. O’Gara; Kieran Kilcline (0-1), E. Lannon (1-1, one ’45), B. Kelly; J. Conteh, C. Connolly (0-1), P. Gleeson (0-1). Subs used: C. Egan for Conteh (35 mins), R. Hughes for Kelly (46 mins), J. Nolan for Duignan (56 mins), R. Horan for Kevin Kilcline (58 mins).
Wides: St. Brigid’s – 8; Roscommon Gaels – 3.
Yellow Cards: St. Brigid’s – G. Dolan; Roscommon Gaels – J. McManus, K. O’Gara, Kieran Kilcline, C. Connolly.
Black Cards: St. Brigid’s – none; Roscommon Gaels – none.
Red Cards: St. Brigid’s – none; Roscommon Gaels – none.
Referee: O. Kelly.
Man of the Match: Conor Murray (St. Brigid’s). On a day when many of the established old guard were comparatively quiet, Conor Murray stood up and put in an outstanding performance for St. Brigid’s.
His fielding, tackling and use of the ball was all excellent, while Cathal McHugh and Niall McInerney proved their worth as county players too.
On the Gaels side, Liam McNeela and Aidan Duignan were little short of flawless on a day when their defensive work was superb.