Late November may not be the time of year that is usually associated with the better football games of the year but nevertheless the Dromahair and Drumkeerin U-21 sides produced a fine match in last Saturday afternoon’s Championship final in Shane McGetting Park Drumshanbo with Dromahair taking the verdict.
As the two form teams in this year’s competition, the game promised to be a close encounter and the two sides certainly produced an contest fitting of a final.
Drumkeerin were undoubtedly the better side in the opening stages, Felim McHugh was dominant in midfield while Cathal McCauley and Jamie Langan looked to be particularly dangerous and were causing all manner of problems for the Dromahair back line.
While there may be a strong local rivalry between the sides it was evident that there is also a lot of respect amongst the players and Drumkeerin seemed to be well aware that despite their strong start, Dromahair would force their way back into contention.
Arguably the defining moment of the game arrived on the stroke of half time when Dromahair’s Michael Clancy scored a superb individual goal and that score was all that separated the sides in the second half. Drumkeerin struggled to find the form they displayed in the opening quarter when the second half got under way but they were given a real chance to get back in contention when Dromahair lost two of their star performers - Michael Clancy and Jamie Conlon within 12 minutes of the restart.
Drumkeerin brought the fight to Dromahair but ultimately a second yellow card for Declan Daly meant they had too much to do in the final quarter of the game and Dromahair showed a composure and confidence in seeing out that game that was noticeably absent as the game got underway. In fact the first 10 minutes of the game were dictated by Drumkeerin but they struggled to have their dominance truly reflected on the scoreboard.
After Cathal McCauley and Jamie Langan both saw early efforts go harmlessly wide of Michael O’Hara’s goal the scoring was opened when Cathal McCauley converted a free. Moments later the lead was doubled when another free was awarded on the opposite side of the pitch and Jamie Langan took responsibility and his accurate left boot made no mistake.
When a rare Dromahair attack resulted in a free, Cian Clinton pointed to open his side’s account and that score seemed to waken up Dromahair, who had yet to impose themselves on the game.
However, the three point lead was soon to be re-established when Jamie Langan converted his second free of the game and there was another blow for Dromahair as Enda Fowley was issued with a yellow card meaning he had to play the majority of the game knowing one bad tackle could result in the end of his game.
Drumkeerin were dominant all over the pitch while Dromahair were badly in need of inspiration and to their credit the likes of Cian Clinton, Gerard Kelly and Michael Clancy were not found wanting when they were needed.
Although the game was very open and played at a good pace the final was 19 minutes old before the first score from play arrived when Michael Clancy pointed from distance after good play from the lively Bertie Cunningham and a minute later the sides were level when Cian Clinton ran at the heart of the Drumkeerin defence before pointing from long range.
Having been under so much pressure for much of the half there was no doubting that Dromahair were now in the ascendancy and Bertie Cunningham’s point seven minutes before half time gave Dromahair the lead for the first time.
Three minutes later Dromahair had the opportunity to further extend that lead when referee Gareth Foley awarded a penalty after a foul on Killian Torsney. Cian Clinton seemed to have done everything right when he placed his shot low to Thomas McPartlan’s left but he was unlucky to see the ball strike the post before being cleared.
Gerard Kelly’s point helped make up for the disappointment of the penalty miss but Drumkeerin came roaring back and points from Seamus McNama and Cathal McCauley (after great play from Felim McHugh and Declan Daly) meant the sides were level as the game entered injury time at the end of the first half.
However, there was to be a final twist as Dromahair’s Michael Clancy scored an exceptional goal on the stroke of half time. Receiving the ball near the touchline Clancy cut inside, leaving several defenders in his wake and when he approached the goal he unleashed an unstoppable shot that gave Dromahair a 1-5 to 0-5 lead at the midway point.
The second half failed to reach the heights of the opening half and the only additions to the scoring in the opening 10 minutes of the second half were points from Michael Clancy and Gerard Kelly as Martin Clancy and Kelly began to become more dominant in midfield.
With Dromahair suffering the blow of losing Michael Clancy and Jamie Conlon to injury and Drumkeerin losing Declan Daly to a second yellow card the game became much more tense and there was to be no further addition to the scoring until eight minutes from the end.
Drumkeerin’s Jamie Langan floated a 45 towards the Dromahair goal that seemed as though it would be easily claimed by Michael O’Hara but a deflection off Caolan McDermott meant the Dromahair goalkeeper was powerless to prevent the ball finding its way to the goal.
Although trailing by two points Drumkeerin now seemed to have renewed belief that victory was still within their grasp but they were dealt a real blow as Dromahair replied less than two minutes later with a goal of their own.
Cian Clinton’s dangerously floated shot almost deceived everybody but was stopped from crossing the goal line by an alert defender. Unfortunately for Drumkeerin the attempt to keep the ball from crossing the line saw the ball strike Killian Torsney in the head before going over the line.
That score all but secured victory as Dromahair finished the game strongly with further points coming from Cian Clinton and Fergal McMorrow while Rory Kelly was denied a goal when Thomas McPartlan made a fine save.
While Dromahair deservedly claimed victory the fact that nearly all the players involved in last weekend’s final are eligible for this age group again next year means it is highly likely these teams will lock horns once again in next year’s competition.
St. Patrick’s Dromahair
Michael O’Hara, Enda Fowley, Caolan McDermott, Jamie Conlon, Rory Kelly, Kevin Vesey, Gerard Kelly (0-2), Martin Clancy, Fergal McMorrow (0-1), Cian Clinton (1-3), Michael Clancy (1-2), Bertie Cunningham (0-1), Killian Torsney. Subs: Niall Hopper for Mi Clancy (36 mins), Mark Kelly for Conlon (42 mins), Thomas McTiernan for Torsney (60 mins), Gary Clinton for Vesey (60 mins).
Thomas McPartlan, James Hazlette, Tommy Rogan, Dean McVeigh, Declan Daly, John Gallagher, Felim McHugh, Patrick McHugh, Patrick McPartlan, Seamus McNama (0-1), James Gallagher, Cathal McCauley (0-2), Jamie Langan (1-2). Subs: Alan Cornyn for McCauley, Dean Brolly for P. McPartlan, Tomas Lavin for McNama.
Referee: Gareth Foley.