Kilbride and Western Gaels in thrilling draw

Ruby Oil Senior Football Championship relegation play-off Kilbride       2-8 Western Gaels     0-14 Kilbride and Western Gaels served up a thrilling encounter in the relegation final played in Elphin on Saturday evening last. With Kilbride leading by a single point in the final minute of injury-time, it took an excellent point from county minor star Kevin Higgins who showed maturity beyond his years to tie up the game and give his side a deserved second bite of the cherry when the teams next meet.   The intensity which both teams had failed to produce in previous championship outings this season was clear for all to see on this occasion as it seemed that the threat of relegation to the intermediate grade brought the best out of both teams on the day.   Western Gaels began in confident fashion and early points from Higgins (2), Seanie McDermott, Cathal Cregg and Ultan Mulleady saw them race into a commanding 0-5 to 0-1 lead. Gerry Lohan accounted for Kilbride’s opening score in that period.   Martin McDermott further reduced the deficit minutes later before Paul O’Grady goaled to tie up proceedings with 20 minutes played after a trademark catch from Seamus O’Neill at midfield had provided the platform for the attack.   Kilbride were now in the ascendancy and points from O’Neill, Conor Devanney and a Lohan free accompanied by a point from Western Gaels’ Mark Drury left the men from Fourmilehouse leading at the interval – 1-4 to 0-6.   The initiative continued to switch in the match after half-time and after Lohan had put three points between the sides on the resumption it was Western Gaels who resumed control of the contest with points from Seamus O’Gara and substitutes Gerard Nolan and James McDonnell which saw them level proceedings at the midway stage of the second period.   The lead changed hands on several occasions in the closing stages as both teams fought for dear life as they knew so much was at stake.   McDermott pointed for Kilbride and Devanney added another score to push them ahead once again. Nolan drew an inspired save from Kilbride goalkeeper Jonathon Farrell before points from the impressive Higgins and Eamon Ryan restored parity once more.   Gerard Nolan converted a free moments later before Higgins was on hand yet again to double the advantage with five minutes remaining.   Kilbride needed a lifeline at this point and it duly arrived once Devanney collected a pass from the roaming Stuart Feeley. The All-Ireland minor star beat his marker, trusted his instincts and went for goal – an unstoppable shot which flew into the top corner of the net. The pendulum had swung in the Kilbride men’s favour once again.   Paul O’Grady had the opportunity to put the issue beyond doubt in the dying moments but his attempt was foiled and Western Gaels took full advantage as Higgins popped up in injury-time to kick the all-important equalising point to add a second instalment to this relegation saga. Western Gaels: Padraig Cummins; Adrain Freyne, Daniel Farrell, Dermot McGarry; Eamonn Ryan (0-1), John Nolan, Seanie McDermott (0-1); Adrian Dockery, Kevin Higgins (0-5); Cathal Cregg (0-1, a free), Mark Drury (0-1), Niall Murray; Seamus O’Gara (0-1, a free), Ultan Mulleady (0-1), David Jordan. Subs used: Thomas Mahon for Farrell, Gerard Nolan (0-2, both frees) for Jordan, James McDonnell (0-1) for Drury, Kevin McCrann for Ryan, Eamonn Ryan for McGarry.  Kilbride: Jonathon Farrell; David O’Rourke, Anthony McDermott, Paul Foxe; Stuart Feely, Colin Farrell, James Farrell; Seamus O’Neill (0-2), John Shally; Eddie Lohan, Martin McDermott (0-2), Paul O’Grady (1-0); Conor Devanney (1-2), Gerry Lohan (0-3, two frees), Tom O’Grady. Sub used: Colm O’Neill for Colin Farrell.   Referee: Peter Carney.