King Henry leads St Michael’s to the throne!

Dermot Hughes Cars JFC A Final
St Michael’s 2-17 Clann na nGael 0-9

St Michael’s’ panel and management team pictured celebrating with the cup after last Saturday’s Roscommon Junior A final in Dr Hyde Park. Pic: Bernie O’Farrell

The appeal of the GAA club championships was underlined once again in Dr Hyde Park on Saturday last when St Michael’s, a small rural club from the north of the county, captured their first adult football title in 30 years – defeating one of the biggest clubs in the county, Clann na nGael, in the final.

They did it in some style too, playing some marvellous football as they swept Clann aside. This very enjoyable final also provided us with one of the best individual performances seen in a county final in many years at any level, as Michael’s centre half-forward and joint captain Fiachra Henry scored an incredible 2-12 (from play and frees) in what was an astounding display.

On a perfect day for football, the two teams provided the good-sized attendance with some enterprising, attacking football early on, and with 16 minutes gone it was 0-4 apiece. Neil Cox, Cathal Guckian, Fiachra Henry and Jack Lane were prominent for Michael’s, while Ronan Gavin, Cian McManus and Cian Fallon were doing well for Clann.

St Michael’s got a grip of the exchanges at midfield after that, and when Henry began to show his considerable array of skills, the Cootehall-based club started to pull away. Three points on the spin from Henry (two frees) opened a three-point gap, and four minutes before half-time their first goal arrived.

Jack Lane made a searing run into the heart of the Clann defence. His shot was well saved by Gary Mannion, but the ball rebounded to Lane and he passed across the square to the inrushing Fiachra Henry, who fisted to the net. Another pointed free from Henry ensured that Michael’s went in at the break leading by 1-8 to 0-5.

St Michael’s were superb in the second half. Led by the majestic Henry, they pulled further and further away. Between the 47th and 54th minutes they scored 1-4 without reply, with all those scores coming from the boot of the rampant Henry.

The goal came with six minutes to go – and it

was a peach. Niall Sheerin did the spadework, before Henry put the ball in the top corner from 15 metres out. It was a spectacular way to cap his contribution on the day.

The final whistle brought about emotional scenes as the people of Cootehall, Corrigeenroe and Knockvicar and surrounding areas raced on to the field to acclaim their heroes. 30 barren years had been swept away, and the celebrations will last long into the winter. Many a tear was shed as the cup was presented to joint captains Fiachra Henry and Brian Reynolds.

Apart from Fiachra Henry, Michael’s had other heroes too. Neil Cox and Michael King were excellent in the full-back line, while further out the field Cathal Guckian, Alan O’Hara and Jack Lane featured prominently. One of the biggest cheers of the day was reserved for club legend Ronan Cox, who came on as a sub in the 57th minute to play his part in the victory.

Clann can have no complaints. They started well, but faded badly as the game went on. Veterans David Flynn and Graham Pettit did well, as did Cian McManus and Ronan Gavin. But this final will be remembered as the day when St Michael’s came back into the winners’ enclosure. It may well also be remembered as the ‘Fiachra Henry final’, and with good reason too.

Credit also to the St Michael’s management team of Ciaran Kennedy and Daniel Beck (from Mohill) and locals Anthony Farry and Tom Conlon. Michael’s have had a marvellous year, winning the Tansey Cup and now adding the championship. Their next task will be to consolidate at intermediate level. But that’s for 2024. For now, the winter will be short one for everyone involved.