Amber to red as heroic Strokestown just stalled

Moycullen advance in extra-time

AIB Connacht Club Senior FC semi-final
Moycullen 2-8 Strokestown 0-7 (after extra-time)

Report by Keith Faherty

This was a superb effort from Roscommon champions Strokestown, who went into Sunday’s provincial semi-final as firm outsiders against a formidable Moycullen who had graced the competition with a classy dismissal of Westport in the previous round.

In the end, Strokestown only bowed out in extra-time, stunning the hot favourites by matching them throughout regulation time. The very fact that the Roscommon champions were level on full-time is evidence of how competitive they were.

Strokestown exit the competition with great dignity, their heads high…and with understandable frustration over some contentious refereeing decisions. Indeed, had a few key calls not gone against them, they might now be in the final, based on the momentum of their early play.

Conditions in Tuam were windy for this clash of the Roscommon and Galway title holders. In the end, it was Moycullen who advanced, thanks in large part to Sean Kelly’s performance.

The Galway champions were very impressive to watch in that quarter-final win over Westport, but Moycullen did not have it their own way at all on Sunday, with resilient Strokestown starting in brilliant fashion, and thereafter rueing those questionable refereeing calls.

Strokestown went 0-4 to 0-0 in front early on, Diarmuid McGann’s accuracy and a brilliantly struck 45’ by Shane McGinley (along with another score from the same player) stunning Moycullen.

A critical moment came on 13 minutes, when David Butler was controversially black-carded. The game had been all Strokestown up to then. This was a big blow to Strokestown, and Moycullen took advantage. They got their first score of the match by the in-form Eoin Gallagher, then after Dessie Conneely opened his account in the 19th minute by converting a free, Gallagher reduced the lead to the bare minimum. Don Connellan’s team were soon level, and by half-time they were 0-6 to 0-5 in front.

The second half was extremely low-scoring. After a dreadful period of over 20 minutes without a score from either team – both sides missing scoring chances and displaying bad decision-making – Conneely pointed a free (after a high tackle on Peter Cooke) to put Moycullen two clear with three minutes to go. Strokestown, with enormous resolve, sensationally drew level. First McGann pointed, then Cathal Compton earned that extra-time period with an equaliser in injury-time. 0-7 to 0-7 apiece at full-time.

With Strokestown infuriated by some further refereeing decisions, Moycullen edged ahead early into extra-time, Paul Kelly running towards goal and fisting the ball over the bar.

Next, Sean Kelly’s goal was the game’s decisive score, but it too was controversial, with Strokestown insistent that there had been a foul on Timmy Gibbons in the build-up. Kelly netted with a rebound after Niall Curley’s brilliant 63rd minute save.

Another significant moment occurred when Strokestown’s Keith Murphy was given his marching orders after a high tackle. Now 1-8 to 0-7 in front, a relieved Moycullen added a late Ger Davoren goal which left an unfair final margin. A genuine hard luck story for Strokestown, who were superb on the day.