Faithleach’s focus now turns to ‘big boys’ club

Trim cut All-Ireland fairytale short

AIB All-Ireland Club IFC Semi-Final: Trim 1-11  St Faithleach’s 0-11

Following their heartbeaking defeat in Saturday’s All-Ireland Club semi-final, manager Wally Burke says St Faithleach’s’ focus is now firmly on establishing themselves at senior level.

  Big championship games are often decided by fleeting moments and that was certainly the case on Saturday as St. Faithleach’s’ All-Ireland adventure came to an end at the hands of Leinster champions Trim at The Downs in Mullingar.

  It was a courageous performance from the Ballyleague men, one that was hailed at the full-time whistle by manager Wally Burke.

  “The first twenty minutes were our downfall. We missed a lot of chances that normally would go over…(and they fell) to the guys you would want them to fall to. But look, they’ve been marvellous for us all year and have dug us out of holes and it just wasn’t to be,” he said.

  “We died with our boots on in the second half against the breeze. I thought for one of the big calls in the first half, the disallowed goal, the advantage could have been played. Look, I’m not going to bitch about referees, without them we don’t have games”.

  There were a number of key turning points, most of which went against the Roscommon champions. A David Rooney first-half goal was ruled out after referee Martin McNally had whistled prematurely for a free. Then, with time running out, Diarmuid Murtagh miscued a close-range free which would have reduced arrears to a single point.

  Nevertheless, Trim had the better of this encounter for longer periods, and Aaron Lynch’s 41st minute penalty, given for a Karl Nerney foul on Eoin O’Connor, left Faithleach’s with just too much of a mountain to climb in the latter stages.

  Burke’s men had held their own in a disappointing first half with a strong breeze at their backs, Ciaráin Murtagh leading the way with four points as the sides went in level, 0-5 apiece.

For Burke, the absence of a wind-assisted cushion proved to be costly: “The wind wasn’t as strong in the second half but I still felt we needed to be two or three up just to have something to cling on to at half-time,” he said.

  It was tit-for-tat in the early stages of the second half as Ciaráin Murtagh and the impressive Aaron Lynch went toe to toe from placed balls. Connell Kennelly also got in the act with a fine score following a mazy run.

  The major turning point arrived 11 minutes into the second half, however, and went the way of the Meath side. Good interplay between Lynch and Eoin O’Connor resulted in the latter being felled in the big square by Karl Nerney. Lynch duly converted and a Daire Lynch point shortly after opened up a four-point lead for Trim.

  Diarmuid Murtagh responded with a free for Faithleach’s but the Meath side were now in the ascendancy and two further frees from Aaron Lynch provided them with a cushion which was to prove invaluable.

  Faithleach’s were handed a lifeline with just eight minutes remaining when James Togher was shown a black card, and they almost took full advantage too. Diarmuid and Ciaráin Murtagh frees either side of a wonderful David Rooney score brought them back to within two points and offered them hope of a comeback win.

  Trim were clinging on at this point and would have lost their grip completely had the outstretched Ciaráin Murtagh been able to make proper contact with a defence-splitting pass from brother Diarmuid. Diarmuid himself then suffered that rare miscue from a placed ball.

  The wind was finally taken out of the Faithleach’s’ sails when Mikey Cullen kicked a big point in injury-time to make it 19 games unbeaten for Trim, and book their place in the Croke Park decider next Sunday.

  Deserving winners they may have been, but the Meath side were pushed all the way by a gallant Faithleach’s side.

  “It’s champion against champion in an All-Ireland semi-final. They’re very physical and have some very good footballers as well. Maybe the tighter ground suited them but all the best to Trim (in the final). They gave us everything and we weren’t able for them today,” Wally Burke said.

  “We got a chance to bring it back to a point and an extra man as well. God knows what would have happened. Then they just broke and got the monster score from the middle of the field which sealed it. There was nothing in it; the kick of a ball as always with us,” he said.

  Following a campaign which saw them win county and provincial titles, the focus is now very much on senior football in 2022 for the Ballyleague club.   

  “We have so many memories. We’d loved to have kept it going for another week but as I said, we’re out of the small boys’ football and into big boys’ football in the senior championship (this year),” Burke added.

  “If we’re looking at relegation in September, the Connacht win or the county final win will count for nothing. We have to kick on now, try and steady the ship, take a good few weeks off and get back to training. Hopefully we’ll have a good 2022 as well,” he concluded.