Barry’s rejoice as Murtagh’s magic casts spell on Creggs

Junior Football Championship Final St. Barry’s 0-16 Creggs 0-7 Celebration of championship victory continues in the villages of Whitehall and Tarmonbarry where the efforts of St. Barry’s football team last Sunday will be toasted for many days and nights this winter. St. Barry’s GAA club was awarded the County Junior football championship by county board chairman Michael McGuire in Tulsk last Sunday evening where they defeated Creggs by 16 points to seven in a tremendous county final.   Michael Regan, Martin Guilford, John Murtagh and David Keenan led St. Barry’s to a splendid nine-point victory that delighted the 300 or so St. Barry’s patrons who gathered at Tulsk for the final. Splendid domination of the last 20 minutes secured victory for the new county champions: eight unanswered points during this period consigned unfortunate Creggs to another year of junior football.   Achieving victory as a team is arguably infinitely more rewarding than personal achievement, and it is for this reason that St. Barry’s players will treasure the County Cup so proudly. Victory is sweetest when the victor has known defeat. The Barry’s players were distraught by defeat in last year’s County Final to Fuerty and by defeat in the 2005 North Final to Castlerea. Last Sunday’s success amounted to victory over itself for St. Barry’s: triumph is most glorious when the contest has been enduring and difficult. The ghosts of ’05 and ’06 were banished from Tarmonbarry last weekend.    For the Creggs players the journey back from Tulsk through Fourmilehouse, Roscommon, Castlecoote, and home to Creggs after the final was a melancholy one. This team has been turned away from the gate of success for the last three years, and Sunday’s defeat was bitterly disappointing for a group of talented and united footballers. The defeat nevertheless surely carries the seed of future victory: this young side will redouble its efforts after the winter break and will be the team to beat in the 2008 Roscommon Junior Championship.  The play: The dismissal of Creggs centre half-back James McKeague had a major bearing on the game. McKeague has been immense for his club and for his county this year, and his sending-off crushed Creggs in the final quarter. St. Barry’s exploited their numerical superiority excellently in the final period of the match, in spite of the best efforts of Mike Fleming, who did well at centre-back after McKeague’s departure. Wing-back Kyle Cawley was the extra man  and his deployment in front of Creggs full-forward Kenneth Hegarty deprived the losers of his influence, which up until then had been very significant.   Hegarty was a revelation in the first half. Four points from play and a pointed free gave his team a one-point lead at half-time; St. Barry’s were unable to cope with the talented and physically imposing number 14 for the opening half-hour. Indeed Conor Connelly’s point at the beginning of the second half suggested that a Creggs victory might be on, with Hegarty’s point in the 40 th minute giving Tommy Gately’s team a 7-6 lead.   The dismissal of the centre-back came at just the wrong time for Creggs. McKeague was ejected from the play after fouling David Keenan; he had been booked in the first half for a similar indiscretion. The loss of such an important player was fatal: it came at a time when Barry’s had been buoyant and had been taking the game to Creggs.    John Murtagh and Martin Guilford proceeded to overpower the losers in the final 10 minutes: Murtagh, Tony Fallon, Aaron Murtagh, Murtagh, Guilford, Murtagh, and Aaron Murtagh kicked successive points to conclusively seal the game and victory for worthy champions. Players who did well: Martin Guilford, Michael Regan, John Hart, David Keenan, and Noel Rogers were immense for St. Barry’s. Michael O’Rourke was Creggs’ most consistent performer last Sunday. Kenneth Hegarty (first half), Daniel Keane (second half), Colin Canny, and Kieran Dowd also performed well for the beaten finalists. St. Barry’s: Damien Wallace; Kieran Wallace, Eoin O’Boyle, James Bennett; Kyle Cawley, Michael Regan, Raymond Rogers; Johnny Harte, Martin Guilford (0-3); Tony Fallon (0-1), David Keenan, Aaron Murtagh (0-2); Keith McGowan, John Murtagh (0-8, 0-4 frees), Finbar McGowan. Subs used: Noel Rogers (0-1) for O’Boyle (inj., 27 minutes); Sean Doherty for Fallon (59 minutes); Michael Burke for Kieran Wallace (59 minutes). Booked: Tony Fallon. Creggs: Darren Gavin; Padraig Gavin, Daniel Keane, Kieran Dowd; Joel McPhilben, James McKeague, Michael O’Rourke; Colin Canny, Jarleth Hughes; Tom Fleming, Conor Connelly (0-1), Mark Brandon; Alan Kelly, Kenneth Hegarty (0-6, 0-2 frees), Ronan Kelly. Subs used: Mike Fleming for Alan Kelly (40 mins); Sean Dermody for Ronan Kelly (43 mins); Gerry Keegan for Brandon (54 mins). Booked: James McKeague. Sent off: James McKeague. Referee: Marty Parker (St. Faithleach’s). County Junior Final at a glance The venue Tulsk GAA pitch committee is to be commended for the high quality of the pitch, which was ideal for free-flowing football. The high trees that stand sentry along the western perimeter of the venue have acoustical value: the sounds of county final football were amplified by the density of the evergreens. Thanks to Tulsk GAA for the half-time refreshments.  The crowd A large crowd of more than 500 patrons attended this match. Both sets of supporters were very vocal throughout the game. Referee watch  Marty Parker stamped his authority on the match in the first half with zealous whistle-blowing and allowed play between two very physical teams to flow in the second half. Player of the match John Murtagh of St. Barry’s was the outstanding performer in Tulsk last Sunday. Murtagh’s mature free-taking and his forceful point-kicking accounted for more than half of his team’s scores. John was bitterly disappointed by defeat in last year’s final, and to his credit he transmuted this disappointment to fruitful determination in this game. He is a worthy Roscommon People man of the match.