AIB All-Ireland Club SFC Final:
Glen (Derry) 2-10 St Brigid’s 1-12
It doesn’t get any more heartbreaking than this. The young warriors of St Brigid’s came to Croke Park last Sunday, defied the odds, were the better team for 55 minutes or so, and yet walked away with nothing tangible as Glen came with a late, late burst to take the title after a pulsating AIB All-Ireland senior club final.
Leading by 1-11 to 1-7 with just five minutes of normal time remaining, Brigid’s looked set to defy the pre-match odds and claim a magnificent All-Ireland victory. They had played most of the football and indeed probably should have been even further ahead on the balance of play.
Everything changed when Glen took advantage of a mix-up in the Brigid’s defence over on the Cusack Stand sideline in the 58th minute. There were three points between the sides. A quick free by Brigid’s went astray, Conleth McGuckian passed to Conor Glass and the Glen captain buried the ball in the Brigid’s net to level the scores. Then points from an Emmett Bradley free and another from McGuckian saw the Ulster champions go two ahead inside injury-time.
As St Brigid’s reeled from the turnaround, Shane Cunnane pointed a free in the 64th minute (injury-time) to reduce the margin to one. On the kick-out, Brigid’s won possession and were awarded another free, this one on the 45-metre line. On this occasion, Cunanne was just wide. Glen had dramatically claimed the title.
The final whistle brought about incredible scenes. The Derry men were ecstatic and emotional, scarcely believing how they had actually won the game, while many St Brigid’s players fell to the turf in disbelief over how they had managed to lose it.
In conditions that weren’t as bad as had been feared, the attendance was treated to a thrilling game. Brigid’s were the better side from the throw-in. Points from Brian Stack and a Ben O’Carroll free answered Glen scores from Emmett Bradley (2, 1 free) in the opening minutes.
Ben O’Carroll was getting an upperhand up front and Ruaidhri Fallon, Eddie Nolan and Pearse Frost were also magnificent as Brigid’s ignored the pre-match narrative that Glen would win with a bit to spare. Ben O’Carroll (2, both frees), Bobby Nugent, Ciaran Sugrue and Eddie Nolan scored magnificent points to see the Roscommon champions into a 0-7 to 0-3 lead, with Glen’s only reply coming from the boot of their best player, Conor Glass.
Indeed the St Brigid’s lead could have been even bigger as they missed two great goal chances in that first half. In the 13th minute, fantastic play by Ruaidhri Fallon secured possession, and he put Ben O’Carroll through one on one with Connlan Bradley. The Glen net-minder smothered O’Carroll’s shot away to safety. Ten minutes later Robbie Dolan was in an excellent position but his shot was blocked. They were to prove costly misses.
Ciaran McFaul and Ruaidhri Fallon exchanged points by the 27th minute but the Derry men struck a couple of vital scores before the break and against the run of play. In the 28th minute McGuckian intercepted a Brian Stack pass before passing to Jody McDermott who blasted to the Brigid’s net. A minute later Ethan Doherty tied up the scores with a well-taken point. Half-time score: St Brigid’s 0-8 Glen 1-5.
Brigid’s were once again the better team on the restart. They exploded from the blocks with a brilliant team goal less than two minutes in. Robbie Dolan and Ben O’Carroll did the spadework. Dolan played a sumptuous pass to O’Carroll who set up the inrushing Brian Derwin to score. When the same player added a quite magnificent point in the 34th minute, Brigid’s were once again four ahead.
Brigid’s were holding on to the ball well and playing some fantastic football. Glen were reduced to 14 men in the 47th minute when Cathal Mulholland was black-carded. Brigid’s held on to that four-point lead until the 55th minute, by which stage they were looking very well placed to win the title. However, Glen struck with deadly effect in the final minutes of this epic contest.
First, corner-back Michael Warnock pointed in the 56th minute. Then Glass struck with that opportunist goal in the 57th minute to level the game. Now, for the very first time in the contest, St Brigid’s were struggling. Then, when Glen went ahead, there wasn’t enough time to (fully) reel them back in. In fact when the Derry men took the lead in injury-time, it was – remarkably – the first point during the game in which they were ahead on the scoreboard.
The agonising one-point defeat that played out in injury-time was a real heartbreaker for Brigid’s, who were magnificent on the day. Pearse Frost was superb all through in the full-back line while Brian Stack and Ronan Stack were also prominent in defence. Eddie Nolan had a fine game at midfield, while up front Ruaidhri Fallon and Brian Derwin were excellent. Ben O’Carroll stood out again. What a magnificent player he is. He had to cope with double marking for most of the game but time after time he won the ball against all the odds.
Glen will thank their lucky stars that they have Conor Glass in their team. The Derry All-Star was superb. He kept them in the game all through, with that late goal the crucial score. Others to do well for the Derry men were Michael Warnock, Ciaran McFaul and Conleth McGuckian.