Westmeath put down marker in junior div.

[caption id="attachment_71650" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Eoin Hogan. "]


In the apparent contest between the New York GAA and Mother’s Day, the mothers won handily as the crowd was small and the games ranged from mediocre to poor. Evidently those with maternal obligations made the correct decision to fete the moms rather than follow the usual ritual to Gaelic Park. Meanwhile Offaly footballers returned to competition as they took on neighbors Westmeath in the first match of the day. Dubbed the Faithful County and that appellation appeared to be very fitting as more than two thirds of the players returned to play with their former team. Though wine may improve with age, unfortunately vintage players do not as that became painfully obvious as the game progressed. Even the Offaly football was of the vintage type, dating back to 2005. The football just like the players had also lost much of its resilience.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

Meanwhile though Westmeath has been picked by the pundits to dominate the junior division, they were slow to start. However, the 13th minute was the lucky moment as Kevin Lilly opened the scoring with a point after Robbie Jackson did the approach work. Then the late arriving Vinnie Gavin had an early impact as he crashed the ball to the net after Lilly laid off the pass. Westmeath was now in full control as their superior fitness, greater skill and more cohesive team work left Offaly grasping at fleeting shadows. Jason Kelly did manage to return a kick out for a score but it was essentially one way traffic as the Lakesiders struck from distance, close range and acute angles to lead comfortably at the break by a score of 1-7 to 0-1. The only other notable feature of the first half was that the referee was substituted. The appointed referee failed to show up, it was reported that his wife threatened him and obviously the man is no fool. Well long serving official Donie O’Sullivan gamely stepped into the breach to ensure that the game would go ahead. Then Tommy Fahey arrived early for his assignment and duly relieved Donie. It is certainly gentlemen like these that illustrate the great spirit of volunteerism that permeates the GAA.

Offaly did manage to raise the first flag on the resumption with a point from Trevor Flynn but it did little to inspire his team mates as Jeff Farrell struck a super goal and thereby put down a major deposit for an eventual man of the match performance. The game was essentially over as a contest as Westmeath ruled throughout the field. Offaly lost their most influential player to a second yellow card as he foolishly tried to implant the ball with force in the lower anatomy of an opponent. Westmeath would add another 2-5 with consummate ease while Offaly could only respond with two, though Keith St. Ledger did manage to test keeper Fagan with a good shot.

Westmeath: Danny Fagan, David Russell, Kevin Dunne, Ray Keenan, Keith Scally(0-1), Steve Keating, Jeff Farrell(2-1), Robbie Jackson(1-2), Mike Hayes, Nestor Allen, Darren Petit(0-2), Kevin Lilly(0-2), James Stones(0-2). Subs. Jim Higgins, Dave Donigan, Anto Kelly, Vinny Gavin(1-2).

Offaly: Brendan Moran, Ger O’Brien, Mike Maher, Peter Kelly(0-1), John Fitzpatrick, Mark Dolan, Jason Kelly(0-1), Noel Coughlan, Tom Rosney, Trevor Flynn(0-1), Keith St. Ledger, Kevin Mannerings, Liam Connolly. Subs. Dessie Dolan, Ossie Heaven, Niall Dolan, Patrick Kelly, Mike Dolan. Referees. Donie O’Sullivan, Tommy Fahey. Player of the Match Jeff Farrell.

Rangers take control early

This intermediate game had all the hallmarks of an early rout as Rangers raced into a seven-point lead after seven minutes. Conor Hunter struck the early goal and he would prove to be a veritable thorn to the Mayo rearguard throughout the game. Mayo’s problems were compounded as they were short a player. However they soon adjusted to the numerical shortcomings as Robbie Moran opened their account after ten minutes. Though Moran had a superb game as he led his team well and orchestrated many of their scores, he fluffed a penalty that was awarded as a result of a foot block. Moran did add two more from frees but Ronan Caffrey added a brace while Hunter skinned the cross bar. Mayo did very well for the last ten minutes as Seamus Ward, Mike Creegan, Colm O’Neill, Tom Nyland and Tommy Huvane fought hard and covered a lot of ground. Mayo would tag on three unanswered points to keep within sight of the Rangers. Caffrey had Rangers’ last score from a free but it might have been more as Hunter was called back for a free when his intentions had goal written all over them. Moran finished the scoring with a well struck point to leave Rangers ahead by 1-8 to 0-7 at the short whistle.

Mayo got a great start to the second half as Moran and Nyland hit the target to leave just two between the sides. However that was as close as they would get as Mike McCarthy responded with a cracker of a goal as the ever industrious and dangerous Caffrey set up the chance. The proceedings were temporarily halted as Dave Colleran and John Power failed to heed their first half warnings for their warring behavior and were duly dispatched to the side line by the referee. Rangers upped the tempo again as Derek Courtney, Patrick O’Driscoll and Dean Murphy surged forward creating good chances of which their forwards availed off. Mayo was also creating chances with strong running from Mike Creegan but the finish failed to match the buildup. Rangers would strike for a third goal as fine catch by Mike Sheridan on the goal line began the move, that finished with Hunter belting the ball to the net. Indeed Sheridan is growing in stature in his new role with his sure handed catches under pressure, well delivered clearances and of course, the odd penalty save. Man of the match Hunter added another point while substitute Hatzer also added his name to the score sheet. Rangers were very impressive periodically, but Mayo, while they never looked like winning the game, acquitted themselves well despite being shorthanded for the whole game.

Rangers: Mike Sheridan, Mal McHugh, Donnacha O’Dwyer, Derek Courtney, Liam Hanley, Patrick O’Driscoll, John Power(0-1) Dean Murphy, Kevin Daly, Mike McCarthy(1-2), Conor Hunter(2-3), Ronan Caffrey(0-6), Kieran Moran. Subs. Bernie Madden, Cathal Hatzer(0-1). Roy Henley

Mayo: Dean Doherty, Tom Huvane, Sean Brady, Colm O’Neill, Seamus Ward(0-2), Dave Barlow, Robbie Moran(0-6), Johnny Costello, Mike Creegan, Tom Nyland(0-2), Dave Colleran, Adrian O’Grady(0-1). Referee Paddy Gormley, Man of Match Conor Hunter.

Kerry show ambition

The score line of this very one-sided affair tells the story of two teams heading in very different directions. It’s hard to believe that Tyrone came within the width of a post in winning last year’s New York championship while Kerry failed to make the final four. In the closed season Tyrone lost heavily in the transfer market while Kerry did quite well. In addition new acquisitions such as Sean Kelly, Michael Nestor, Pauric King and Eoin Hogan has added strength to the core of the team. A number of players such as Darren Moore, CJ Molloy and Mike Jim Fitzgerald have also being the beneficiaries of the rigorous training with the New York team as was evident by their fitness and work rate. Kerry has serious championship desires as evidenced by the formidable squad assembled at this stage and I’m sure the summer sanctions will accentuate those burgeoning aspirations. Failure is never compatible with the Kingdom psyche as it is at variance with their DNA. Meanwhile the rout was on from the throw in as Mike Jim Fitzgerald landed a superb point and the umpire had barely replaced the flag when Darren Moore floated over another. Tyrone suffered the first major body blow as Moore and Molloy waltzed their way through the O’Neill county rear guard to set up Hogan for the first goal. It was basically mission accomplished after ten minutes as the Kingdom had now registered 3-5. It was almost midway before Tyrone’s Mickey Coleman opened their account with a point. Tyrone might be forgiven for having a brief spell of optimism as they hit two further points. However this was just a very temporary lull before another tsunami of Kingdom scores would arrive.

If the first ten minutes was a deluge of scores, the last ten crested at 2-6, to leave them ahead by 4-11 to 0-3, though Damian Patton should have netted as he elected to play the ball soccer style, but unfortunately for him to the wrong side of the post. In a truncated second half Kerry just kept piling up points while Ger McCullough, Mickey Coleman, Aidan Power, Daniel Jackson and Conor McNabb kept battling but their efforts were about as fruitful as shoveling sand against a high tide breaking against the cragged Kerry coastline. Kerry is on a mission, but Leitrim have been given advance warning about what they will have to contend with as they strive for their three-peat and another double. No wonder Big Kenny is now being called Slender Kenny as he prepares for the inevitable battle that is brewing on the horizon. The Eagle will also have to soar to new heights to thwart the Kingdom’s plans.

Kerry: Niall Moran, Kieran Scannell, James Huvane, Sean Kelly(0-2), Michael Nestor(1-0), Darren Courtney, Mike Jim Fitzgerald(0-5), Pauric King(1-3), Ross Donovan, Eoin Hogan(2-1), Robbie Moran, Darren Moore(0-6), CJ Molloy(0-2). Subs. Pat McGill, Daniel Kennelly, Shane Coffee.

Tyrone: Damian Corrigan, Daniel Jackson, Ger McCullough, Ciaran Queally, Michael Coleman(0-2), Seamus Skeffington, Aidan Power(0-1) Conor McNabb, Adam Fitzgerald(0-1), Conor Skeffington, Gerry Kelly, Damian Patton, Anton McConnell. Referee Tom Fahey, Man of the Match Mike Jim Fitzgerald.