St. brigids

St. Brigid’s, Kickhams shock favorites, to play for title

By Kieran Rooney

WHO says that the bookies don’t get it wrong? Crossmaglen and Dr Crokes both went into their All-Ireland Club Senior Football Championship semi-finals against St Brigid’s and Ballymun Kickhams as favorites but both are now out of the competition.

Roscommon’s St Brigid’s produced the result of the day to secure a shock 2-7 to 1-9 victory over the holders Crossmaglen in Mullingar. At Semple Stadium in Thurles, meanwhile, Dublin champions Ballymun Kickhams also upset the odds to defeat Kerry representatives Dr. Crokes by 1-10 to 0-9.

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While both of the semi-final winners deserve a lot of credit, pride of place must surely go to St Bridid’s. Crossmaglen, after all, have set an incredibly high standard in this competition.

After strolling through the Ulster Championship, they were confidently expected to make their way through to another final. But St Brigid’s, managed by former Mayo star Kevin McStay, just never allowed them to find their rhythm.

“It’s so hard to go against a team as good as Crossmaglen. They’ve set the standard in so many ways, physically, mentally and then ability,” stressed McStay.

“We made our share of mistakes but we stayed at it.” It was just as well that they did for Crossmaglen were in front by a point with five minutes of the semi-final remaining.

Not everything had gone St Brigid’s way. The normally proficient Frankie Dolan wasn’t at his best for much of the game, despite scoring his side’s first goal.

But Dolan is too seasoned a campaigner to let that get to him. So, exactly when St Brigid’s needed him to deliver, he fielded a free from Senan Kilbride to set off for goal.

Just as he went to shoot he was fouled for what would surely have been a penalty. But, before referee Maurice Deegan could blow the whistle, St Brigid’s substitute Conor McHugh kicked the ball into the net.

It was to prove to be the match-winning goal. Crossmaglen, understandably, were devastated as they had had just appeared to turn the game around with three quick points from David McKenna, Jamie Clarke and Aaron McKenna.

Crossmaglen’s problem was that they could never establish more than a two point gap. They recovered well from Dolan’s early goal for St Brigid’s to lead 1-5 to 1-3 at the break. Crossmaglen’s goal was a fine effort from their corner-back Paul Hughes.

But they wasted some other chances to establish a decent lead and St Brigid’s came right back into it in the second half before’s McHugh’s late strike proved decisive. To add to Crossmaglen’s disappointment, they had Kyle Carragher sent off in the closing stages.

Quite clearly, St Brigid’s will need to show the same resolve if they are to get the better of Ballymun Kickhams in the St Patrick’s Day final at Croke Park. Ballymun Kickhams were good value for their four point success over Dr Crokes.

The key moment came just before the interval when the Dublin champions’ goalkeeper Sean Currie saved a penalty from Chris Brady. Another important element was the capacity of the well organized Ballymun defence to deal with the potent Dr Crokes attack.

Colm Cooper, for example, only managed two points. Dr Crokes manager Noel O’Leary had no complaints, stating: “We just didn’t play well. Bad passing, bad ideas. Fair play to Ballymun, they were the better side on the day.”

Dublin’s Philly McMahon, operating in midfield, had a big say So did the emerging Sean George who did a great job in marking Cooper.