Prendergast ends Creggs’ masterclass fairytale

AIB Connacht Junior Club Final: Louisburgh 2-9 Creggs 0-11

In the end it just wasn’t to be. Creggs have enjoyed a memorable year in the championship, but last Sunday they met a Louisburgh outfit that weren’t to be denied in Kiltoom. Creggs huffed and puffed and clawed their way back into the game following a slow start, during which Louisburgh opened up a six point lead.  

  However, the Mayo champions re-asserted themselves in the second half to clinch the Connacht title and to keep their own All-Ireland dream alive. For Creggs, it was a disapppointing end to what has been a fairytale year, which saw the half-parish win their first Roscommon junior title in over three decades.

  Despite travelling over two hours last Sunday morning, it was Louisburgh who came flying out of the blocks and they were a goal and three points up after 17 minutes following scores from Paul McDonnell, Kevin Gibbons and the impressive Padraic Prendergast (free) and a well taken goal from Michael Gibbons.

  Creggs’ joint manager, Ger Dowd, rued his team’s sluggish start: “They won probably more of the breaks around the middle of the field. The early goal set us back as well. We were caught for that and we were playing catch up, a few points behind.”

  Despite the opening, the Roscommon champions refused to wilt and came storming back before half-time. Louisburgh’s cause wasn’t helped by Austin O’Malley’s black card after just 14 minutes.

  Creggs though, took full advantage with Shane Dowd impressive from play and dead ball to reduce the arrears to four. Creggs had the bit between their teeth and corner-back, Eugene Hanley, popped up at full-forward to slot over. There was just time for Kevin Gavin to add another before half-time to leave the narrowest of deficits, Louisburgh 1-3 Creggs 0-5.

  Louisburgh improved after the break, however, and Creggs struggled to contain them. Padraic Prendergast slotted another free before Alan Moran ran at the heart of the Creggs defence and off-loaded to James Dowd who slammed it past Eugene Fleming to leave the men in maroon and white with a mountain to climb.

  In fairness, they never gave up and Shane Dowd grabbed two points either side of an Oisin Lally score for Louisburgh, before points from Paul Brandon and Enda O’Roarke (free) dragged Creggs back into it again. That was as close as they got, however, as Louisburgh began to squeeze. Prendergast hit two brilliant scores either side of a wonderful point from Creggs’ Kevin Raftery as the game became stretched.

  A flurry of subs as legs began to tire towards the end disrupted the flow, although Shane Dowd had a half chance to set up the grandstand finish but was penalised for over-carrying as he went in on goal. Fittingly, however, it was that man, Padraic Prendergast, who had the final say, hitting another huge score in stoppage time to finally end Creggs’ challenge.

  There were contrasting scenes at the final whistle as Louisburgh celebrated a famous win while Creggs were left to ponder what might have been. No shame in this for Creggs, who were beaten by a strong side at the end of a championship campaign they can take great pride in.

  In the aftermath, Ger Dowd, was full of praise for his charges: “We’re immensely proud of our lads, they put in a huge effort. I think they did Roscommon proud there today, they showed that the standard of Roscommon junior football is strong. Mayo’s on the crest of a wave reaching an All-Ireland final and that, they had a very strong championship down there.”

  Not one to rest on his laurels, Dowd already had one eye on the future: “It’s a learning curve for these lads and I hope that when they move into intermediate next year that their going to learn from this and move on. That’s only our second defeat all year so it’s a bit hard to take – we lost our first competitive game and we haven’t lost since so it’s a new experience for us. The key is to learn and there’s a lot of youth in our team: Conor Gore, Kevin Gavin, Mattie Browne, Shane (Dowd), they’re all 19 and under so there’s a lot of learning for them.”

  Sunday’s defeat aside, the county selector was delighted with Creggs’ truly memorable year.

  “It’s good for Creggs, the club and that. It’s been a year that people are going to remember I think – the journey through Connacht, the winning of the junior title, especially after a replay. It’s something that people will remember for a while, for a long time.”

Louisburgh: D O’Malley; E O’Malley, M O’Malley, R Prendergast; P Prendergast, P O’Malley, A Moran; T Dawson, P Prendergast (0-5, 3 frees); J Gibbons, A O’Malley, P McDonnell (0-1); O Lally (0-1), K Gibbons (C) (0-2, 2 frees), M Gibbons (1-0). Subs: J Dowd (1-0) for A O’Malley (Black card, 15 mins), S Corrigan for Prendergast (42 mins), S Gibbons for M Gibbons (57 mins), J Gibbons for Lally (59 mins), B McGinn for K Gibbons (61 mins).

Creggs: E Fleming; C Gore, K Dowd, E Hanley (0-1); P Brandon (0-1), J McKeague (C), S Dermody; D Brandon, T Fleming; M Browne, S Dowd (0-4, 2 frees), E O’Roarke (0-3, 3 frees); R Kelly, E Conneran, K Gavin (0-1). Subs: K Raftery (0-1) for Kelly (20 mins), M Brandon for Hanley (35 mins), C Canny for Fleming (39 mins), P McKeague for C Gore (42 mins), J McPhilbin for K Gavin (57 mins). Referee: Shane Hehir (Galway)