As dramatic a finish as you could imagine saw favourites St Manchan’s equalise with the last kick of the game to ensure the minor final will have to be replayed.
With the game in the fifth minute of injury time Keith Beirne stood over a free about 18 metres from goal and facing him was a goalmouth full of Fenagh/Gortletteragh players. Knowing that time was against him, Beirne placed the ball in the top corner of the goal, the only place that was not guarded by a defender.
That goal signalled wild celebrations from the St Manchan’s players with the Fenagh/Gortletteragh were left to rue missed chances after a pulsating and thoroughly enjoyable contest.
The game also had a dramatic opening as the final burst into life after just 90 seconds when an incisive Gortletteragh/Fenagh move resulted in the game’s opening goal. Michael Doonan’s quick lay off to Pauric Gallagher left the St Manchan’s defence on the backfoot and Gallagher showed good awareness to deliver a dangerous ball in towards Ryan O’Rourke. Initially it looked as though the ball may have been overplayed but O’Rourke showed great speed to get to the ball first and finished emphatically past Jason Farry.
St Manachan’s had actually started well prior to that setback and almost replied with a goal of their own a minute later but Niall Beirne saw his effort go wide after beating two defenders.
Fenagh/Gortletteragh extended their lead when Pauric Gallagher pointed before St Manchan’s finally opened their account in the 12th minute as Darragh Gordon and Cathal Keegan combined to create an opportunity for Keith Beirne which he duly slotted between the uprights.
However, Fenagh/Gortletteragh were still the better side at this stage of the game and points from John Reynolds, Donal Wrynne (free) and O’Rourke helped increase the gap between the sides to six points.
With Reynolds and Wrynne insuring Fenagh/Gortletteragh were dominant in midfield, St Manchan’s found it difficult to build up any momentum and their tactic of bombarding high balls towards full-forward Niall Beirne proved to be a tactic that Fenagh/Gortletteragh were able to deal with relatively comfortably.
A Cathal Keegan point reduced the deficit but it wasn’t long before Fenagh/Gortletteragh were causing all manner of problems for the St Manchan’s defence. Shane Doonan & Ryan O’Rourke registered points before, with just five minutes of the half remaining, Fenagh/Gortletteragh struck for their second goal of the game.
This time O’Rourke was the provider as he managed to claim a long ball out of defence and quickly picked out full-forward Pauric Gallagher. With great composure Gallagher fired his shot to the bottom corner of the St Manchan’s goal and when the same player pointed two minutes later to put 11 points between the sides, the game seemed to be over as a contest.
However, St Manchan’s were in no mood to lie down without a fight and their rally in the closing stages of the half brought the contest back to life. They struck for their first goal of the game a minute later when Keith Beirne won possession in front of goal and played a perfectly timed pass to Daragh Gordon who made no mistake with an emphatic, low strike.
Just a minute before the end of the half St Manchan’s sensationally struck for their second goal as Michael Bohan and Darragh Gordon helped to carve open the Fenagh/Gortletteragh defence with some direct and purposeful running and when the ball fell to Keith Beirne, the full-forward made no mistake from close range.
The first half scoring was completed in injury time when Niall Beirne converted a free to leave St Manchan’s trailing 2-7 to 2-3.
Eager to re-establish their stranglehold on the game, Fenagh/Gortletteragh started the second half very impressively. Similarly to the first half they had a sight of the St Manchan’s goal within a minute of the throw-in but this time they were out of luck as Alan McCann’s shot came back off the crossbar.
Two further chances yielded no more than two wides for Fenagh/Gortletteragh, while with their first attack of the half St Manchan’s opened the second half scoring with a fine point scored by Keith Keegan.
Further chances came and went for Fenagh/Gortletteragh and their inaccuracy in front of goal was punished as points from Oisin Madden & Beirne (free) reduced the deficit to two points.
With the game now very much up for grabs Fenagh/Gortletteragh signalled they were up for the challenge being put to them as they registered their first point of the half, 16 minutes after the restart as Alan McCann pointed after a fine pass from Michael Doonan.
The end to end nature of the game showed no sign of relenting as Niall Beirne replied with a pointed free to leave just a point between the sides with 12 minutes remaining.
Just when St Manchan’s seemed to be on the verge of getting on level terms, Fenagh/Gortletteragh struck for their third goal of the game and once again it was Ryan O’Rourke who found the net. Alan McCann did very well to claim a high ball and his quick lay off to O’Rourke left the St Manachan’s defence exposed and with just Jason Farry to beat, he finished in style.
With time running out that appeared to be the end of St Manchan’s challenge but a Keith Beirne point ensured there was just a point between the sides as the game entered injury time.
Both sides had chances to add to their respective scores but the final score came as a result of a foul from Alan McGarry, who had been booked only moments earlier for another moment of indiscipline and with the last kick of the game Keith Beirne fired his free to the top corner of the net to ensure the sides will have to meet again.
Fenagh/Gortletteragh will certainly be the more disappointed of the sides but from a neutral point of view, if the replay is anywhere near as exciting as last Sunday’s final it promises to be another thrilling encounter.
Niall Tiernan, David Mulvey, Alan McGarry, Ronan Ellis, Evan Ward, Gary Butler, Patrick Heslin, Donal Wrynne (0-1), John Reynolds (0-2), Aaron Scollan, Alan McCann (0-2), Shane Doonan, Ryan O’Rourke (2-2), Pauric Gallagher (1-2), Michael Doonan. Subs: Francie Flynn for Aaron Scollan.
Jason Farry, Keith Keegan (0-1), Eanna Madden, James Mitchell, Ryan Bohan, Nathan Conboy, Oisin Madden (0-1), Cian McGuinness, Cillian Canning, Shane McGowan, Cathal Keegan (0-1), Keith Beirne (2-3), Darragh Gordon (1-0), Niall Beirne (0-2), Joseph Stenson. Subs: Michael Bohan for Stenson (16 mins), Paul Foy for Conboy (60 mins).
Referee: Seamus Mulhern