‘Jimmy’ fixes it for brilliant Brigids

AIB Connacht SFC semi-final St. Brigids (Roscommon) 4-10 Killererin (Galway)           1-11 Roscommon club football kingpins St. Brigids’ development as a formidable club team which is well capable of challenging for the top honours in the game was taken a step further when they produced their best performance in many years to overwhelm Galway champions Killererin in this excellent Connacht semi-final which was played before a big and enthusiastic crowd at Tuam Stadium last Sunday.   Before anyone accuses me of getting carried away, I know that St. Brigids will surely face stiffer tests than the one posed by Killererin last Sunday if they want to retain their Connacht title and go on to All-Ireland glory – but this team are improving with every outing and they will be very confident in the aftermath of this great display as they prepare to face Ballina Stephenites in the Connacht final on Sunday week.    This was a superb game of club championship football played on a crisp, dry and sunny afternoon. The fact that we did not have a wide from either side until the 22nd minute is an indication of the quality of a game played in a great spirit by two excellent teams. Brigids were the better team on the day and they thoroughly deserved their great win.   The Kiltoom men were simply sensational going forward – and save for a dodgy start when Killererin were on top for the first ten minutes – Brigids cut through the Galway team’s defence like a knife through butter. Some of their attacking play was simply breathtaking to behold.   The big crowd were treated to a feast of open, attacking fooball as Brigids put their title on the line. The fare was always top class and competitive.    The crowd had hardly settled down in their seats when this game exploded into action. After only thirty seconds, Jonathan Keane pounced to score a sweet point for Killererin but only ninety seconds later Brigids’ captain Frankie Dolan was on target with a 30-metre free after his brother, Garvan, was fouled.   But it was the Galway champions who started the better and Padraig Joyce was going to have one of those days that has made him arguably the best forward that we have seen in Connacht in the past twenty years. The three-time All-Star was simply sensational on the day and if he had more help then Killererin might have been closer at the end.    Joyce fired over a sensational point from 30 metres and then another from close range before cousin Nicky Joyce made it 0-4 to 0-1 with a smart point on the run.   Frankie Dolan kicked another free over from 25 metres after another foul on brother Garvan before Padraig Joyce fired over another point on the volley after a long ball was delivered in from the Killererin midfield. Killererin led by 0-5 to 0-2 and there were just eight minutes on the clock.   However that was as good as it got for the Galway champions as Brigids kick-started their challenge with a great goal in the 10th minute. Karol Mannion – who, along with Mark O’Carroll, was beginning to get a grip on the midfield area – kicked a long ball into the Killererin square from the stand side. The ‘prodigal son’ himself, David O’Connor – back from his exile from the panel – was on the 13-metre line and as Killererin goalkeeper Alan Keane advanced, ‘Jimmy Nail’ flicked the ball over his head for a quite brilliant goal.   It was just what the Roscommon champions needed and they never looked back after that. O’Carroll and Mannion were rampant at midfield. Frankie sprayed the passes around like snuff at a wake while ‘Jimmy Nail’ and Cathal McHugh ran the Killererin defence ragged. It was mighty stuff to watch and it’s a long time since we have seen a Roscommon team play with such panache.   Frankie and Padraig Joyce exchanged pointed frees before the score of the game arrived in the 19th minute. The move started with Shane Curran and seven Brigids players handled the ball before ‘Jimmy Nail’ scored a point from close range. It was sensational stuff as the Brigids supporters rose to acclaim their team. But there was even better to come.   A minute later Frankie Dolan won possession out on the right wing and he delivered a 50-metre pass into the arms of Cathal McHugh who was coolness personified, waiting a second before firing home Brigids’ second goal of the game. Padraig Joyce fired over another Killererin point, but it was Brigids who were dominating now.   In the 24th minute Frankie Dolan and Senan Kilbride set up David O’Connor but his goalbound shot was brilliantly saved by Alan Keane – but it was still all Brigids – and in the 27th minute goal number three arrived.   Cathal McHugh was fouled as he shot for goal and Karol Mannion blasted home an excellent penalty-kick to give Brigids a 3-4 to 0-7 lead after a brilliant first half of high quality football from both sides.   The second half was not as good as the first in terms of quality football but it was no less exciting. Brigids moved further ahead when John Tiernan powered through for a point within a minute of the re-start and Brigids led by eight points when Frankie Dolan was on target with another pointed free, in the 8th minute.   However Padraig Joyce would not accept that it was a lost cause and he pulled Killererin back into it almost single-handedly. He scored a free after 9 minutes from 20 metres and two minutes later he grabbed a brilliant point after a solo run of 35 metres’ distance. Senan Kilbride and Joyce exchanged further points to leave six in it at the end of the third quarter, 3-7 to 0-10.   Then in the 18th minute Brigids sealed their place in the final with another brilliantly worked goal. Peter Domican did the spadework before finding Mark O’Carroll with a great pass as he powered through the middle. The midfielder flicked a pass to David O’Connor who didn’t need a second invitation to blast home Brigids’ fourth goal.   Killererin were not finished though and the ever-dangerous Joyce crashed home an opportunist goal a minute later after a long ball in from Tomas Hughes. It looked like Joyce may have pushed a Brigids defender in the back but the goal was given. However Brigids were always dangerous going forward and they closed out the game in impressive fashion.   O’Connor was on target again in the 24th minute before Joyce got Killererin’s final point in the 25th minute and O’Connor and sub ‘Dixie’ O’Brien scored late points for Brigids to leave the Roscommon champions eight points ahead at the end.   This was an excellent display from the Roscommon champions on Sunday last. Despite fears that their six-week lay-off might tell against them, they played open, attacking and very clever football all through this game. They never panicked after a dodgy opening ten minutes and all credit must go to Anthony Cunningham and his backroom team for producing the team in such good form on the day.   If Brigids continue to do the simple things well as they did last Sunday and if Karol Mannion and Mark O’Carroll continue their excellent form at midfield then Brigids will be very hard to beat in the Connacht final.   Frankie Dolan’s passing was simply sensational at centre half-forward and up front ‘Jimmy Nail’ once again proved his worth to this Brigids team with a personal haul of 2-3 from play. John Tiernan and Cathal McHugh also contributed richly to this excellent Brigids attacking display.  Further back, Shane Curran was excellent between the posts until he had to retire injured late on and Peter Domican added to his growing reputation with an excellent display at wing half-back while corner-backs Robbie Kelly and Enda Ruane were also not found wanting when the pressure came on in the middle of the second half.   Very simply, if Brigids play with the same verve and enthusiasm and organisation that they showed in Tuam last Sunday then they will be Connacht champions again this year. And you would never know what might happen after that! One step at a time though. St. Brigids: Shane Curran; Enda Ruane, Darragh Donnelly, Robbie Kelly; Peter Domican, Ger Aherne, Niall Grehan; Mark O’Carroll, Karol Mannion (1-0, pen.); John Tiernan (0-1), Frankie Dolan (capt., 0-4, all frees), Garvan Dolan; David O’Connor (2-3), Senan Kilbride (0-1), Cathal McHugh (1-0). Subs: Brendan O’Brien (0-1) for Garvan Dolan, James Martin for Curran, Padraig Kilcommins for McHugh, Conor McHugh for O’Connor, Eoin Mannion for Aherne. Killererin: Alan Keane; Damien Flaherty, Michael Mitchell, Declan Kelly; Ian Reddington, Tommy Joyce, James Mannion; Tomas Hughes, Michael Keane; Jonathan Keane (0-1), Padraig Joyce (capt., 1-9, 3 frees), Tomas Flynn; Shane Hughes, Nicky Joyce (0-1), Tomas Fahy. Sub: Tommy Wilson for Michael Keane. Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo).  At a glance