Composed champs see off brave pretenders
Hodson Bay Hotel Roscommon SFC Final: St. Brigid’s 3-13 Roscommon Gaels 3-7
St. Brigids’ domination of Roscommon club football in the modern era continued at Dr. Hyde Park last Sunday when they edged out a very impressive Roscommon Gaels team who rattled the champions for most of the match, but just couldn’t sustain the effort when the game came down to the vital last few minutes.
The scores in this thrilling county final were level in the 54th minute, it was that close, but goals from Brigid’s sub Conor Murray in the 58th minute and midfielder Eddie Nolan in injury-time sealed another win for the Kiltoom side. It gave an unfair look to the final score from a Roscommon Gaels point of view as they were fiercely competitive all the way through.
Brigid’s will point to their strength in depth as a key factor as they could call on some excellent subs to turn the game in their favour late on. However, the town side will be seething at the controversial sending off of the influential David O’Gara after 42 minutes. Having received a yellow card earlier in the game, an off the ball incident close to the endline at the cemetery end of the field when he tangled with Peter Domican, was brought to the attention of referee Brendan Healy by linesman Paul Daly. Healy issued O’Gara with a black (and then an automatic red) card. It seemed a very harsh punishment on O’Gara and the Gaels (who were playing very well at the time).
Even with 14 men the Gaels held Brigid’s at bay and indeed they went on to lead after that incident. In the end, Brigid’s strength off the bench proved crucial. They had other stars on the day too. Peter Domican had a superb game at full-back while Niall McInerney (second half) and Ian Kilbride were outstanding.
Senan Kilbride, Eddie Nolan, Cathal McHugh and sub Conor Murray were good going forward but my man of the match was Brian Stack, who was influential all through. The Gaels got to grips with him in the second half but he is a player who is improving with every passing game. He played a crucial role in this latest Brigid’s success.
For the Gaels, who will be heartbroken to have been so close and yet so far away, James Fetherstone was their best player. He made two fantastic saves in the first half and his kick-outs were superb. Ronan Gleeson was very effective in the opening half and Cathal Dineen was also very impressive at the back.
David O’Gara started slowly but he was storming into the game when he saw red in the 42nd minute. He was a huge loss to the town side. Mark Healy also had a quiet start but he had a super second half when the Gaels went down to 14. Richard Hughes had his best game of the championship up front, and Cian Connolly also showed flashes of his undoubted class. James O’Gara also finished well having had to mark Brian Stack in the opening half.
But all credit to the Gaels for their resilience. Brigid’s had the ball in the net after 12 seconds, and despite being under pressure for most of the game, they could always get a vital score when it was needed. They showed tremendous heart and fight, which has been often lacking in Gaels teams over the years. But ultimately they were lacking up front and Brigid’s could come by their scores easier than their opponents could.
It was a hugely enjoyable county senior final and there were some fantastic scores on both sides but at the end of the day the name inscribed on the Fahey Cup for 2017 will be St. Brigid’s. It is seven county championship titles in the last eight years. Brigid’s got the job done – again. They simply don’t do panic, they always find a way to get out of a tight corner. They must now make a huge effort to progress in the Connacht Club Championship.
Earlier in the day they won the minor title. Last Sunday week, a largely young team won the junior title and they have also won the U-16 title. The dynasty is getting even stronger, it would seem.
The Gaels probably need to add a bit of punch up front. I know the huge amount of work that Liam McNeill and his backroom team have put into trying to win this championship for the past three years. They put a magnificent effort into the final last Sunday and it just didn’t work out. They will point to that crucial refereeing decision in the 42nd minute as the one that turned the final against them. It doesn’t matter now though. Hopefully their day will come. But at the end of the day St. Brigid’s were better and deserved this latest success in what is a real glory era.