Westmeath’s Garrycastle to play Crossmaglen in All Ireland final

[caption id="attachment_69857" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Garrycastle's Paul Dillon tries to shake off Garvan Dolan of St Brigid's (Roscommon)."]


GARRYCASTLE from Westmeath will become the latest club to try detrone the mighty Crossmaglen Rangers when the All-Ireland Club Senior Football Championship final takes place at Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day.

It’s a massive task, one which was beyond another of the powerhouses of the club game Kerry’s Dr Crokes in Saturday’s semi-final at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise. Dr Crokes, spearheaded by Colm Cooper, threw everything at the Armagh champions.

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But at the end of an exciting contest Crossmaglen came out on top by 3-8 to 2-8. Over at Pearse Park in Longford at the other semi-final, near neighbours Garrycastle and St Brigid’s from Roscommon were fighting it out.

This was another absorbing struggle with Garrycastle coming out on top by 1-11 to 1-9. Consequently, Garrycastle have become the first side from Westmeath to reach an All-Ireland club football final.

That’s a huge achievement, especially as they have beaten a lot of top sides on the way, including the Dublin champions St Brigid’s. But if they can overcome Crossmaglen in the St Patrick’s Day decider it will far outshine anything they have done previously.

Garrycastle boss Anthony Cunningham knows the score. While in no way underestimating Garrycastle’s chances of pulling off an upset, he fully appreciates what they are up against.

“Crossmaglen are the best club team that we have ever seen.” insisted Cunningham. “Their style of play is unique and copper-fastened by some excellent individuals.

“We will be underdogs but there is no better way to go in. We will be doing everything possible to bring the trophy back.”

Cunningham is a remarkable character. As the new manager of the Galway hurling team, he told Garrycastle he would stay with them as long as they stayed in the Leinster Championship.

Not many could have envisaged that he would still be around for the All-Ireland final. But it does seem that, whether it be hurling or football, Cunningham is equally adaptable.

The other interesting aspect is that he is a St Brigid’s (Roscommon) clubman. So, he was attempting to plot the downfall of his friends and colleagues last Saturday afternoon.

He knew it was going to be really tough, given that St Brigid’s had a decided edge in experience, having reached last year’s final and a semi-final in 2007. By half-time, Garrycastle found themselves 1-6 to 0-7 behind.

A penalty, stuck home by Karol Mannion was the difference. A further problem for Garrycastle was that they had picked up seven yellow cards in the opening period, providing the real possibility of them losing a player.

In the event, they did have David O’Shaughnessy sent off with 13 minutes remaining. But, even that, didn’t stop them from producing an outstanding second half match-winning performance.

Earlier in the half, a goal from James Dolan changed the whole complexion of the game. Set up by the excellent Paddy Mulvihill, Dolan finished calmly to put Garrycastle two points in front.

Two Dessie Dolan points doubled this advantage but the subsequent loss of former Westmeath skipper O’Shaughnessy meant that Garrycastle had a real match on their hands. St Brigids threw everything at them, Senan Kilbride finishing as their top scorer with 0-3, but Garrycastle held out for a two point winning margin at the finish.

In the other semi-final, it was every bit as close with just a goal in it. The difficulty for Dr Crokes, and many teams before them, is that Crossmaglen are never beaten.

Just examine their circumstances at O’Moore Park. By the 20th minute they were 1-5 to 0-1 behind and then, to make life even more difficult, they lost their skipper Stephen Kernan with a straight red in the 45th minute.

No matter, Crossmaglen just keep going. They also, importantly, keep scoring crucial goals.

Other teams would settle for points but it’s the Crossmaglen way to go the killer blow. Stehpen and Aaron Kernan both scored second half goals when most players would have settled for a point.

Earlier, Dr Crokes were entitled to fancy their chances when a Daithi Casey goal enabled them to move seven points clear. But Crossmaglen came roaring back, Stephen Kernan scoring a spectacular goal before his sending off.

By the time of his dismissal, the Armagh champions were 2-7 to 1-6 ahead. But, by the 52nd minute, Dr Crokes had leveled at 2-8 each, substitute Chris Brady scoring an opportunist goal.

Against any other team, Dr Crokes would surely have gone on to win. Instead, it was Crossmaglen who came up with the match-winning score, Aaron Kernan rounding a defender brilliantly before firing home a low shot.

Dr Crokes manager Harry O’Neill summed it up: “The goals demonstrate why they (Crossmaglen) are so successful. They takes risks and go for the jugular when they see it. That’s why there in another All-Ireland final.”

All 4 provinces

to contest finals

MUNSTER and Ulster will contest the interprovincial football final with Connacht and Leinster meeting in the hurling decider.

Although it’s a long way removed from the days when the competition drew decent crowds, some of the semi-finals at least proved pretty exciting. On the football front, Munster edged out Leinster 1-16 to 1-13 at Parnell Park, with Ulster proving much too strong for Connacht, beating them by 3-16 to 0-13 at Markievicz in Sligo.

In hurling, Connacht got the better of Ulster (3-19 to 1-15) at Ballinasloe, while Leinster defeated Munster (3-14 to 1-16) at Nowlan Park.

The disappointing aspect yet again was that that the public just doesn’t seem that interested. For instance, only 1,056 turned up for the hurling semi-final between Leinster and Munster at Nowlan Park.

It was a pity because they missed an entertaining game. Richie Power, one of 11 Kilkenny men in the Leinster side, made a big impact, contributing 1-6, the goal coming from a penalty.

Leinster led by 3-8 to 0-8 at the break but Munster, powered by a six-strong Tipperary contingent, made a real fight of it in the second half.

The scoreline of 3-19 to 1-15 in favour of Connacht in the other semi-final was somewhat misleading as Ulster had Neil McManus sent off just before half time. Yet, it wasn’t until Eanna Ryan’s goal six minutes from time, that Connacht could really relax.

In football, Leinster included the Brogan brother’s Bernard and Alan, along with several other Dublin stars, but that wasn’t enough to stop them losing to a determined Munster side at Parnell Park.

Bernard Brogan finished with 0-6, four of which were from frees, but Munster fully deserved their 1-16 to 1-13 success. It was a fine team effort with Graham Cantry and Paddy Kelly from Cork showing up well but perhaps the real heroes were the lesser know David Tubridy from Clare and Waterford Gary Hurney.

Tubridy finished with 0-6 with Hurney getting 1-2. At Markievicz Park, Tyrone’s Peter Harte was the main man as Ulster demolished Connacht by 3-16 to 0-13.

He finished with 1-2 from play, while Martin Penrose managed 1-4, including two from frees. Sadly, a crowd of less that 500 turned up, posing the question yet again of whether the competition should be continued.

Death of marathoner Messitt

THE death has taken place of Bertie Messitt who competed for Ireland in the marathon at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Messitt was one of Ireland’s greatest ever distance runners. He competed in the 1958 and 1962 European Championship and held a remarkable 16 national records during his career. He was 83.