AIB Connacht Club IFC Semi-Final
St. Faithleach’s 1-12 St. Farnan’s (Sligo) 1-11
Supporters of St. Faithleach’s have been put through the emotional ringer in no uncertain terms in 2021, and that trend continued at Dr. Hyde Park last Saturday when Wally Burke’s men had just a point to spare over Sligo champions St. Farnan’s in a dramatic but low quality encounter played in bitterly cold and windy conditions.
Faithleach’s won their Roscommon semi-final against Fuerty by a point after extra-time and it was the same story in the final against St. Dominic’s so it was no surprise when last Saturday’s encounter went the same way. But in fairness to Faithleach’s, they responded well in extra-time after a splendid goal from the game’s best player, Patrick O’Connor, looked like it would decide the outcome.
But important contributions from subs Jonathan Hussey and Darragh Hussey and a couple of excellent points from Diarmuid Murtagh were enough to see them through to the final where they will face either Mayo Gaels or Galway champions Leitir Mór.
Playing with the strong wind at their backs in the opening half, Faithleach’s started very well and by the 11th minute they led by 1-3 to 0-1. Conall Kennelly, who was posted at full forward, kicked two marks, Stephen Walsh weighed in with a point from play and in the 11th minute Ciaráin Murtagh stole in to fist Dave Rooney’s high kick to the net.
But instead of kicking on, Faithleach’s lost their way after that and they were not to score again for 22 minutes. The outstanding Patrick O’Connor began to exert a growing influence on the game for Farnan’s and he kicked two fine points by the 25th minute.
Faithleach’s’ plight was not helped when Dave Rooney was black carded for a pull-down in the 23rd minute, and the Roscommon champions were down to 14 men for a ten minute period. In the 28th minute, Farnan’s corner forward Stephen Mulligan pulled first time and the ball flew over the Faithleach’s crossbar when it seemed easier to score a goal. Then in first-half injury-time, Ciaráin Murtagh pointed a long-range free to send the sides in at half-time with the Roscommon men leading by 1-4 to 0-4.
With the wind at their backs, the Sligo champions were the better side in the second half. O’Connor kicked three further points in the third quarter (all frees) to help his side into the lead (0-8 to 1-4) before a Diarmuid Murtagh free signalled Faithleach’s first score of the second half in the 52nd minute.
Then, as the final whistle came closer, Faithleach’s struck the front when Rooney pointed after a great ball from Cathal Gunn, but O’Connor ensured the game went into extra-time when he pointed from 30 metres in the 57th minute.
Playing into the breeze, the Sligo men were handed a great boost O’Connor made a super run into the heart of the Faithleach’s defence and blasted home a great goal in the 62nd minute.
But all credit to Faithleach’s; they responded brilliantly. Diarmuid Murtagh hooked over a brilliant point from a difficult angle in the 65th minute and the same player was on target with a free two minutes later, and just before half-time, sub Darragh Hussey scored an excellent point to tie up the scores once again (1-9 apiece) with one period of extra-time to go.
Faithleach’s were finally playing better football and Diarmuid Murtagh (free) and Mikey Dunne pointed to edge them in front. Finnian Cawley pointed a 30-metre free for the Sligo side, but with a minute to go another sub, Jonathan Hussey, pointed from 25 metres out and the gap was two once again. The Sligo men pressed forward for the goal they needed but all they could manage was a point from David Hallinan in the 82nd minute and Faithleach’s had survived.
For Faithleach’s, Adrian Murtagh, Paddy Farrell, and Darren Nerney were best in defence while Dave Rooney did well at times in midfield. Faithleach’s’ best player on the day was Conall Kennelly while there were glimpses of class from Ciarán and Diarmuid Murtagh and subs Jonathan Hussey and Darragh Hussey both made vital contributions.
For the Sligo men, Patrick O’Connor was head and shoulders ahead of any of his teammates while Gavin Connolly, Shane O’Brien, Finian Cawley and Stephen Mulligan were also prominent.