Hodson Bay Hotel Group Senior Football Championship Semi-Final
Ian Cooney at Orchard Park, Elphin
A big, big win for Pearses, the type of triumph that they’ve often turned down in the past. Whether it nourishes the belief that they can finally deliver the ultimate knockout blow in less than three weeks’ time remains to be seen but there was plenty of satisfaction on the journey back to South Roscommon on Sunday evening.
Pearses weren’t particularly brilliant but they grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck in injury-time, kicking three points to end Western Gaels’ challenge. Conor Daly showed why has was missed in his club and county colours during the summer with a typically energetic display that resulted in plenty of prosperity once he ran at the opposition’s rearguard. David Murray, Niall Daly and Cathal Óg Sullivan put in an honest afternoon’s work too, ensuring that Pearses were the better team and deserved their win.
Stripping away the layers of analysis, the seminal difference between the teams was that more of Pearses’ county players stood up to the plate. Apart from Kevin Higgins who kicked two magnificent first half points and toiled manfully at midfield after the break, too many of Western Gaels’ principle protagonists remained on the periphery.
With the wind at their backs during the opening half, Western Gaels didn’t do enough. The sides were tied at 0-6 apiece at the break but, to their credit, the Frenchpark-based side showed plenty of character to be level heading into injury time. However, the loss of substitute Stephen Ryan to a straight red card and the deepening fractious nature of proceedings killed their momentum.
Overall, the match was short in terms of quality but the closeness of proceedings kept a poor crowd interested. Hubert Darcy got Pearses off the mark from a free after Shane Carty, who was shown a black card at the end of the opening quarter, was fouled. But Finbarr Cregg was causing problems for the Pearses full-back line early on. When he was bundled over in the third minute, Niall Higgins was deadly accurate from the resultant free.
Western Gaels hit the front in the tenth minute when Kevin Higgins landed a skyscraper from 50 metres after good work from Niall Murray who was seeing plenty of possession. But good work by Carthy yielded a point for Darcy before the same player and Aaron Feehily opened up a two-point lead in the 19th minute
Another beauty from Higgins who judged the wind to perfection after Cathal Cregg had done well to hold off David Murray eroded the deficit. Then Feehily (a free) and John Duffy, who found acres of space through the heart of the Pearses defence, swapped scores. Niall Higgins’ 24th minute free brought the sides level for the third time but Conor Payne took advantage of David Murray’s surging run to leave Pearses 0-6 to 0-5 ahead in the 29th minute. However, there was still time for Cathal Cregg to majestically bisect the posts on the stroke of referee Paddy Neilan’s half-time whistle.
Niall Murray didn’t appear for Western Gaels in the second half and his absence was sorely felt. Pearses took control early, helped by Niall Daly’s 33rd minute score from the right wing. Then a good run by Conor Daly set up his brother Ronan for a brilliant point. When Feehily opened up a three-point gap from a free after the ball was moved forward for dissent, Pearses were in the box seat.
But Western Gaels kept plugging away and Ciarán Cafferky’s 37th minute point gave them hope. Higgins narrowed the gap further from a free but Feehily opened up a 0-10 to 0-8 lead from a 44th minute free.
Cafferky ambled forward again to land a superb point with the outside of his left boot before Seán McDermott’s surging run procured the equaliser for Cathal Cregg.
Then, out of nowhere, the match became even more disjointed with a handful of flashpoints that saw a number of players being booked. Ronan Daly landed a big free in the first minute of injury time before another free, taken quickly, procured the insurance score for Niall Daly.
There was still time for Hubert Darcy to prise open the gap to three points from a free, and suddenly Pearses were back in another final.
Can they finally end the famine?
PADRAIG PEARSES: A. McManus; D. Murray, A. Butler, M. Richardson; C. Daly, N. Carty, C. Óg Sullivan; N. Daly (0-2), T. Butler; S. Carty, A. Feehily (0-4, all frees), S. Dolan; H. Darcy (0-4, three frees), R. Daly (0-2, one free), C. Payne (0-1). Subs used: E. Kelly for S. Carty (14 mins, black card), E. Donoghue for Feehily (53 mins), D. Glynn for Kelly (55 mins).
WESTERN GAELS: P. Cummins; S. Conry, M. Higgins, S. McDermott; B. Creighton, D. Ward, C. Cafferky (0-2); N. Murray, J. Duffy (0-1); J. McDonnell, N. Higgins (0-3, all frees), K. Higgins (0-2); F. Cregg, D. Moran, C. Cregg (0-2). Subs used: S. Ryan for Murray (half-time), A. Dowd for N. Higgins (55 mins).
Wides: Padraig Pearses – 6; Western Gaels – 10.
Yellow Cards: Padraig Pearses – McManus (7 mins), C. Daly (54 mins), N. Daly (58 mins); Western Gaels – M. Higgins (15 mins), N. Higgins (32 mins), McDonnell (58 mins).
Black Cards: Padraig Pearses – S. Carty (14 mins); Western Gaels – none.
Red Cards: Padraig Pearses – none; Western Gaels – Ryan (59 mins).
Referee: P. Neilan.
Player of the Match: Conor Daly (Padraig Pearses). Conor underlined his worth to Pearses with an action-packed display. He carried the game to Western Gaels, injecting sufficient energy into the side to allow the South Roscommon men reach the second final in succession.
David Murray was excellent throughout. Niall Daly, Cathal Óg Sullivan and Conor Payne also enjoyed some fine moments.
Seán Conry, Ciarán Cafferky and Kevin Higgins were Western Gaels’ best players.