Gunn Fires Faithleach’s to Victory

Faithleach’s claim title in controversial ‘war of attrition’

 Mulryan Construction Intermediate Football Championship Final

St Faithleach’s 1-8 St Dominic’s 0-7 (after extra-time)

 

St. Faithleach’s will play in the Roscommon Senior Football Championship in 2022 following their four-point win against St. Dominic’s at Dr. Hyde Park last Sunday (1-8 to 0-7). But behind that final score is a story of one of the most forgettable IFC finals in recent memory.

The quality of the match was not helped by very difficult conditions – with heavy rain showers and a blustery wind – but another major factor was a controversial, and at times bewildering, refereeing performance from Gerry Carmody, which meant that the game was littered with stoppages from start to finish.

It ended in controversy with three players being shown red cards (Mark Miley and Darren Dolan of St. Dominic’s and James Browne from St. Faithleach’s) while St. Dominic’s’ Daire Keenan was shown a black card after a skirmish involving players from both sides. Indeed before it was over, St. Faithleach’s’ Mikey Dunne was also shown a black card for a tackle on Tommy Hurley.

It was a breathless St. Faithleach’s manager Wally Burke, who looked drained but relieved after such an intense battle.

“It’s all about winning. It was a war of attrition. There was definitely a fear factor at the start, but I don’t think people probably realise how bad conditions were. There were serious hits out there. The quality mightn’t have been great but there was plenty of excitement, that’s for sure. It was dour and I’m not sure what any neutral might have made of it. Finals are for winning though, and that’s what we’ve done,” he said.

There were so many stoppages that the game (which threw in at 3 pm) wasn’t over until 5.31 pm and in a first half that lasted almost 40 minutes, the ball was in play for just a small fraction of that time.

When football did break out, a well-taken goal from Cathal Gunn in the 78th minute eventually settled the issue. In a game where the margins were so tight, a goal was always going to be a decisive score and so it proved.

In driving rain, the conditions were very difficult and scores were scarcer than hens’ teeth in the opening half. Diarmuid Murtagh scored a fine point in the first minute but with the game marred by stoppages, it was 13 minutes before we saw the next score, a converted free from Ciaráin Murtagh.

The first of many controversial incidents occurred in the 17th minute. Keith Doyle (who started for Dominic’s after being an injury concern) and Daire Keenan did the spadework before Paddy Fallon fisted to the Faithleach’s net. But referee Carmody called the play back for a foul in the build-up, much to the consternation of the Dominic’s players who felt he should have played an advantage. Patrick Farrell was shown a black card for his foul and Daire Keenan pointed the resultant free.

Playing with the aid of the elements, it took Dominic’s until injury-time to score again when Eoin McCormack and David Gately were on target. By the time the half-time whistle went, it was St. Dominic’s 0-3 St. Faithleach’s 0-2.

Four points in the opening six minutes of the second half (three for St Faithleach’s) suggested that we could actually have a game of football, but unfortunately that was as good as it was going to get. Connell Kennelly (who was Faithleach’s best player) was on target with a mark and from play, while Jonathan Hussey added to their total with a Daire Keenan pointed free being Dominic’s’ only reply.

  In the 41st minute, Diarmuid Murtagh’s long-range free was fisted against the post by Kennelly, but the game was now once again littered with stoppages. In the 46th minute another Keenan free levelled the scores and as the final whistle came closer the exchanges became even more tense and tetchy. Conor Fallon then pointed a 25-metre free in the 52nd minute to edge his side ahead.

Then, in the 59th minute, Ciaráin Murtagh levelled again with another pointed free and with the sides tied at 0-6 each we were headed for extra-time.

Conor Fallon scored probably the best point of the game in the first minute of extra-time but Faithleach’s dug in and Ciaráin Murtagh took an excellent mark and point in the 6th minute, and in injury-time the same player pointed a free from 25 metres to edge his side ahead 0-8 to 0-7 by the midway point.

As the tension rose, the tackles were flying in as the game progressed and there was a sense that the referee had lost control. In fairness to Faithleach’s, Cathal Gunn kept his cool in the 8th minute to fire past Mark Miley for a fine goal.

But then there was a flashpoint close to the stand side as players from both sides became embroiled in a melee. When the dust settled, referee Carmody issued three straight reds and a black. It was a chaotic end to a chaotic match.

However, the poor quality of the game won’t bother the St. Faithleach’s men one little bit. They set out at the start of the year to return to senior football and they have achieved that aim. Darren Nerney, Adrian Murtagh, Connell Kennelly, Cathal Gunn, substitute James Browne and Diarmuid Murtagh were their best players in very difficult conditions.

Manager Wally Burke was sympathetic towards the officials at the full-time whistle.

“To be fair to the referee, it was a very tough job. There was nothing in it throughout and then at the end there were a couple of flashpoints. That’s what you expect. I couldn’t fault the referee or his officials because it’s a terribly difficult job in those conditions,” he concluded.

St. Dominic’s will be heartbroken after this painful defeat, the second year in a row in which they have lost out after extra-time. They will feel hard done by after such a controversial encounter but the Knockcroghery club will just have to dust themselves down and return next year. Kyran Dockery, Eoin McCormack, Paddy Fallon and Tommy Hurley were all excellent and on another day Hurley would have been the man of the match, such was his industry and workrate throughout.

 

Note: A minute’s silence was observed prior to the throw-in in memory of St. Faithleach’s club stalwart Gerry Thompson who passed away on Saturday evening.