Creggs storm back to make final

AIB Connacht Club JFC Semi-Final: Creggs (Roscommon) 0-14 St. Michael’s (Sligo) 2-6

One of the busiest men in Roscommon sport, Ger Dowd, oversaw yet another victory last Sunday and now has another big day out in Kiltoom to look forward to.

  He highlighted an improved performance in the second half from his charges: “It was a huge performance from our lads in the second half today. We were really up against it when it came to half-time but I knew that there was more in our lads and we upped our performance by 20% and there was massive commitment shown out there today.”

  It started brightly enough and Creggs led briefly inside the first five minutes, but it was only with three minutes to play that they took the lead again and they withstood a few late scares to qualify for the provincial decider against Louisburgh of Mayo on Sunday week.

  Creggs had plenty of heroes on the day, not least James McKeague, who was outstanding at centre half-back and he played a real leader’s role throughout. Creggs were also impressive up front and their ability to score quality points from the likes of Shane Dowd, Enda O’Rourke and Enda Conneran was crucial. Ciaran Dowd and Eugene Hanley were also impressive on another great day for the club. All six Creggs forwards scored and only two points came from frees which is an excellent return.

  On a bitterly cold but bright day, the home side played with the strong breeze in the opening half but it was Creggs who were fastest out of the blocks, with points from Kevin Gavin and Enda Conneran in the opening five minutes.

  But then in a five-minute spell, starting in the 9th minute, St. Michael’s had put 2-1 on the board without reply. First, Paul Flanagan pulled on a loose ball soccer style and it flew into the top corner, and then after a Dwayne Kelly point in the 11th minute, Paul Flanagan set up Kyle Carty who shot low past Eugene Fleming for a second Michael’s goal.

  In fairness to Creggs, they fought back after that and points from play from Enda Conneran, Shane Dowd and Enda O’Rourke saw the gap down to two by the 22nd minute. But the final few minutes of the half belonged to the home side. They were on top at midfield and they had further points from Peter Murray, Brian Taaffe (a free) and Dwayne Kelly before the break, with Creggs’ only reply coming from Shane Dowd. The half-time score: St Michael’s 2-4 Creggs 0-6.

  Creggs opened the second half with three unanswered points to reduce the margin to just one, Matthew Browne, Ronan Kelly, and Shane Dowd all on target. But just when it looked that Creggs would kick on, St. Michael’s came again, and points from Brian Taaffe (a free) and Alan Taaffe stretched their lead again by the 40th minute.

  A well-taken Ronan Kelly point for Creggs in the 41st minute saw the Roscommon men reduce the gap. Then, a real chance. Shane Dowd made a super run into the heart of the Michael’s defence before setting Enda Conneran free. The Creggs full-forward was flattened by the St. Michael’s goalkeeper Enda McLoughlin who was duly sent off on a second yellow. It was a penalty for sure but there was a delay as Michael’s had to bring on sub goalkeeper Paul Clarke. His first duty was to face Enda O’Rourke’s spot kick, which he saved brilliantly with his very first touch!

   Creggs were indeed making heavy weather of making up the deficit. In the 50th minute, Kevin Gavin pointed to reduce the margin to just one, and three minutes later a pointed free from 25 metres from Enda O’Rourke levelled the scores at 0-12 to 2-6.

  But it was not until the 57th minute that Creggs finally got ahead, when Shane Dowd kicked a good point on the run from 30 metres out, and when Enda O’Rourke pointed a free from 25 metres in the 59th minute, Creggs had a small bit of breathing space. They survived a few scares in injury-time and missed a couple of chances to make it safe but they had done enough. Joint manager, Ger Dowd, was understandably delighted: “Kevin Gavin, Colin Canny and all the lads were super. James McKeague showed what a super leader he is, a great example. I thought on balance we deserved to win that game out there today. The two goals in the first half rocked us and it was disappointing to be losing by four points at half-time but we rallied well. It is a huge day for Creggs to think we are in a Connacht final, I can’t believe it!”

Creggs: Eugene Fleming; Conor Gore, Ciaran Dowd, Eugene Hanley; Kevin Raftery, James McKeague, Sean Dermody; Colin Canny, Tom Fleming; Matthew Browne (0-1), Shane Dowd (0-4), Enda O’Rourke (0-3, 2 frees); Ronan Kelly (0-2), Enda Conneran (0-2), Kevin Gavin (0-2). Subs: Sean Quinn for Kelly (black card 44), Padraig McKeague for Raftery (59).

St. Michael’s: Enda McLoughlin; Gavin Walsh, Colm McTiernan, Paul Flanagan (1-0); Jack Haran, Gavin McGowan, Paddy Kelly; Paul McTiernan, Brian Taaffe (0-2, frees); Ross McLoughlin, Dwayne Kelly (0-2) Kyle Carty (1-0); Oisin Gilmartin, Peter Murray (0-1), Alan Taaffe (0-1). Subs: Jason Boles for McLoughlin (41), Paul Clarke for Walsh (46), Stephen Clerkin for B Taaffe (58), Robbie Taaffe for Flanagan (62),

Referee: Declan Corcoran (Mayo)