Dromahair may have advanced to the semi-final of this year’s GWP Intermediate Championship but they were made to sweat right until the end by a dogged and determined Eslin side in Drumshanbo on Saturday evening last but in the end not even the efforts of Conor and Tomas Beirne could keep Eslin’s interest in the competition alive.
Conor Beirne may have scored all 10 of Eslin’s points (seven from frees) he was marshalled very well by a combination of full-back Stephen Keegan, goalkeeper Kieran Meehan and Declan Fowley who seemed to cover every blade of grass on the pitch.
While the Beirne’s once again excelled, arguably the man of the match was Adrian Fowley with the centre-back supporting his midfield colleagues and he was also on hand to help Stephen Keegan in dealing with the threat posed by Conor Beirne.
The game began with Eslin attacking straight from the throw-in as Tomas Beirne found his brother Conor. Conor was then fouled and he opened the scoring from the resulting free.
Declan Fowley replied to level matters before Dromahair struck for the game’s opening goal but it was a score that would have left the Eslin faithful bemused. After a great catch by John Evans in midfield, Kevin Conlan and Christy McGowan linked up to find Paddy McGowan with only Eslin goalkeeper Enda Turbitt to beat. Initially it seemed as though Turbitt had made a good save but referee Eamon O’Grady immediately signalled that a footblock offence had been committed and awarded a penalty.
The fact that there were no protests of note from the Eslin players suggests the referee may have been correct with his decision. Kevin Conlan took responsibility for the penalty and after a short run-up he dispatched the ball to top corner of the goal.
Further points from Paddy McGowan and Conor Kelly extended Dromahair’s lead and it was beginning to look as though Eslin may be in danger.
Over the course of the game Eslin illustrated they are more than just a two man team with the likes of Padraic McNulty, John O’Flynn and Paul Kilcrann bringing the fight to Dromahair and three further Conor Beirne points (two frees) brought Eslin right back into contention.
Kevin Conlan extended Dromahair’s lead after they had gone nine minutes without scoring and moments later they came agonisingly close to a second goal but Christy McGowan’s shot flashed wide of the Eslin goal.
Both sides registered a point each with Conor Beirne and Cian Clinton exchanging frees meaning it was just the goal that separated the sides at half time as Dromahair led 1-5 to 0-5.
Eslin started the second half very positively and two further Conor Beirne points (one from a free) left just the bare minimum between the sides.
While Eslin looked good coming forward, what was impressive about the Dromahair performance was that they remained disciplined in defence and were very quick on the counter-attck and a Camillus McMorrow point extended his side’s lead to two.
However, Eslin hit back immediately with two further Conor Beirne points and with a quarter of the game remaining it was difficult to predict how the game would unfold.
Many expected Dromahair to have an edge in terms of fitness in the closing stages and five unanswered points from Cian Clinton (free), Camillus McMorrow, Stephen Smyth and two from Christy McGowan suggested that would be the case.
However, Eslin were not yet finished and in the final minute they struck for goal. After Kieran Meehan had made an excellent save Barry McLoughlin was first to react and he fired the ball through a crowded goalmouth to give Eslin hope.
After the goal the Dromahair players were left incensed when Kieran Meehan was penalised for taking too long with his kickout and a throw ball was awarded. Tomas Beirne was fouled when the ball was thrown in and Conor Beirne converted the resulting free but there was no time for any further addition to the scoring as Dromahair hung on for the narrowest of wins.
St. Patrick’s Dromahair
Kieran Meehan, Fergus Meehan, Stephen Keegan, Michael McKeon, Conor Farrell, Adrian Fowley, Stephen Smyth (0-1), Camillus McMorrow (0-2), Paddy McGowan (0-1), Cian Clinton (0-2), John Evans, Kevin Conlan (1-1), Declan Fowley (0-1), Christy McGowan (0-2), Conor Kelly (0-1). Subs: Jamie Conlon for Farrell (51 mins).
Enda Turbitt, Emmet Higgins, Ronan Reynolds, Dermot Reynolds, Barry Bohan, Cormac Duignan, Padraic McNulty, Tomas Beirne, John O’Flynn, Paul Kilcrann, Noel McNulty, Barry McLoughlin (1-0), Joseph Stenson, Eamon Stenson, Conor Beirne (0-10). Subs: Declan Ward for N. McNulty (19 mins).
Referee: Eamon O’Grady