Callington Ltd Roscommon IFC Final:
Castlerea St Kevin’s 1-13 Éire Óg 0-15
In the most dramatic circumstances imaginable, a superb long-range point five minutes into injury-time from the boot of Adam McDermott ensured that Castlerea St Kevin’s won the 2023 Roscommon Intermediate Football Championship in a thrilling final played at Dr Hyde Park on Sunday.
Incredibly, that score (from about 40 metres) put Castlerea in front on the scoreboard for the first time in the game. It was such a dramatic way to win a title. As for Éire Óg, they will spend the days and weeks ahead wondering how they actually managed to lose a game that they looked like winning for most of its duration.
But full credit to Dara Bruen’s team. They never dropped their heads, and the arrival of subs like Nathan Bligh and Ronan Curran in the second half re-energised the team and drove them on to make that final push which got them over the line.
In wet and windy conditions, the big crowd were treated to a super game which featured some fantastic scores and excellent play on both sides. It was a pity that there had to be a loser.
Éire Óg were the better side for most of the first half. Jamesie Greene and Enda Crawley were winning the midfield battle and with Conor Cox deadly accurate from play and frees, the early signs looked very good for Pat Doorey’s men.
By the end of the first quarter Éire Óg had built up a decent lead, with Cox (2), Liam Creaton, Brian Greene and Tom Greene on target. Castlerea refused to panic and the breakthrough they were looking for came in the 22nd minute when Shane Keenan drove a long ball into the danger area and Jonathan Hester rose highest to fist the ball past Colm Lavin.
That goal reduced the margin to just a point, but Éire Óg produced an excellent response. Two pointed frees from Cox saw them go in at half-time 0-10 to 1-4 ahead.
Éire Óg took up where they left off on the resumption, and for most of the third quarter they kept Castlerea at arm’s length. Points from Conor Cox (2), Liam Creaton and Jamesie Greene helped them into a 0-14 to 1-7 lead by the 44th minute, with Adam McDermott (2) and Darren McDermott on target for Castlerea.
Slowly the tide started to turn as Castlerea got more of a grip on proceedings. Sean Joyce, Michael Conroy and Jonathan Hester were gaining more possession around the middle, and Adam McDermott came powering into the game. Two converted frees from McDermott narrowed the gap to two with 10 minutes to play.
McDermott was now on fire and Castlerea’s belief was growing. He pointed a free in the 50th minute and three minutes later the Castlerea followers were on their feet when sub Nathan Bligh levelled the scores with a super point from play.
Indeed Castlerea had a chance to go ahead in the 57th minute, but the normally ultra-dependable McDermott pulled a 25-metre free wide of the posts. It looked a very costly miss when Éire Óg went down the field and after Brian Greene was fouled Conor Cox pointed the resultant free to edge them ahead inside the final minute of normal time. The board showed that there would be five minutes of injury-time so there was still time for either side to win it.
It was Castlerea, and McDermott particularly, who were not to be denied. The young attacker steered over a long-range free from 43 metres in the 62nd minute to level the scores again.
The tension was now almost unbearable as the final whistle loomed. Éire Óg missed a couple of half-chances, and then as the clock moved towards the five-minute mark Castlerea worked the ball upfield with purpose. Sean Joyce and Jonathan Hester exchanged passes before Adam McDermott took it on. Then, from just inside the 45-metre line, McDermott wrote his name into the Castlerea St Kevin’s history books with a booming point. It was a score fit to win any big game.
The final whistle sounded on the kick-out and Castlerea were back at the top table of Roscommon club football. Their followers, who could scarcely believe what they had just seen, celebrated in the rain as their players embraced each other following a truly astonishing win.
Spare a thought for Éire Óg, who will be devastated after this loss. They looked the likely winners for most of the way but never kicked on when they were in a commanding position in the middle of the second half. Hopefully they can take solace from the experiences of the likes of St Dominic’s, Oran and Fuerty in recent years, all of whom had to endure painful defeats before finally getting their hands on the Jimmy Murray Cup.
For the new champions, David Finneran, Sean Joyce, Jonathan Hester, Shane Keenan, Darren McDermott, the mercurial Adam McDermott and sub Nathan Bligh were all excellent.
For Éire Óg, Enda Crawley could do no more on the day, while Joe Hester, Liam Creaton, Brian Greene and Conor Cox were always prominent.