THREE-mendous: no stopping Brigids on their date with destiny

Ruby Oil Roscommon SFC Final St. Brigids              1-12 St. Faithleachs       1-9 St. Brigids confirmed their status as the kingpins of Roscommon club football when they had six points to spare over St. Faithleachs in the 2007 Roscommon SFC final played in almost perfect weather conditions at Dr. Hyde Park last Sunday. This victory sees the Kiltoom-based club win their ninth Roscommon senior title in all and secure their first ever three-in-a-row.   The defending champions deserved to win it too as they were too strong for a St. Faithleachs side who began very well but who had to give way to a stronger Brigids team who upped the ante in the second half to run out easy winners in the end.   The first fifteen minutes of this final produced the best football that we have seen at club level in the county this year. Unfortunately the game descended into a very poor spectacle after that, with stoppages almost every minute, and the fact that there were five added minutes at the end of the first half and seven at the end of the second half tell its own story.    In truth referee Seamus Regan (who was was far too fussy over the course of the game and contributed to many of the stoppages himself, particularly in the second half) could easily have added on ten or twelve minutes at the end of the second half because the play was more often stopped that in motion.   This county final was also notable for the small attendance which was one of the lowest in living memory. I suspect that the counter-attraction of the Irish rugby team playing in France at the same time was partly the reason for this small turn-out.     However all that won’t bother St. Brigids one little bit because Anthony Cunningham’s men answered their detractors in the best possible way with an assured performance and a confident victory, justifying their pre-match tag as the strong favourites.   St. Brigids lined out without top scorer Jimmy ‘Nail’ O’Connor who was not even named as a sub following a disciplinary-related incident on the weekend before the game. His absence didn’t appear to affect the team as Darragh Blaine stepped into the side at corner-forward.   We saw sparkling football in the first quarter as both sides seemed intent on playing open,  attacking football. Mark O’Carroll flashed over a point after 45 seconds for Brigids but Faithleachs were starting well too. Brendan Reynolds equalised with a free three minutes later while Aidan Dooney was on target from 30 metres a minute later to put the  Ballyleague men in front.   Two minutes later Reynolds kicked another pointed free for Faithleachs (from 20 metres)  and the play at this stage was fast and furious and extremely enjoyable to watch. John Tiernan made a great run for an excellent point in the 8th minute and when Enda Kenny kicked another great point (in the 9th minute) Faithleachs led by 0-4 to 0-2.   However Brigids came to Hyde Park vowing not to leave without the Fahy Cup once again  and they assumed control for the next fifteen minutes. Mark O’Carroll was ruling the skies at midfield and Frankie Dolan found his baton and began to conduct the orchestra from centre half-forward, while inside, Cathal McHugh, Senan Kilbride and Brendan ‘Dixie’ O’Brien were in top form.   Brigids went on a scoring spree with seven points in a row to stamp their authority on the game. ‘Dixie’ O’Brien stole in along the end-line to fist over number one in the 11th minute and a minute later Tiernan tied up the scores after a mighty solo run from ‘Dixie’.   Brigids went ahead in the 14th minute when Cathal McHugh shot over from close range – but it could so easily have been a goal. Senan Kilbride collected brilliantly and his rasping shot cannoned off the crossbar and into the arms of McHugh who fired over.    McHugh followed up with another excellent point in the 15th minute and Brigids were now on a roll. Three pointed frees from Frankie Dolan in the 22nd, 25th and 26th minutes left the champions 0-9 to 0-4 up with three minutes to go to the break.    Faithleachs were shell-shocked and despite the efforts of Gary Cox, Martin Reynolds and  Enda Kenny they could not stem the Brigids’ tide. However they were given a little hope just before the half-time whistle when they scored two points through Enda Kenny to leave it 0-9 to 0-6 at half-time.   Neutrals were hoping that Faithleachs would come out with all guns blazing in the second half and that they did but Brigids’ veteran goalkeeper Shane Curran produced a quite  brilliant save two minutes in to ensure that the Fahy Cup would not be making the journey to Ballyleague this year.   Faithleachs worked the ball in to Aidan Dooney and the big corner-forward’s well-placed shot looked destined for the Brigids net but Curran dived full-length to pull off a marvellous save to keep his side ahead. It was a major turning point in the game and although Adrian Murtagh scored a very good Faithleachs point three minutes later you never got the sense that they would be strong enough to take the initiative away from St. Brigids.   The play became error-ridden and it seemed that there was a stoppage at least every minute for one reason or another. Mark O’Carroll kicked another excellent point for  Brigids in the 10th minute and with the standard of play descending to the very ordinary, the teams struggled to get any rhythm going.   A Brendan Reynolds point from play in the 19th minute meant there were still only two points in it (0-10 to 0-8) but a minute later Brigids scored the goal which finished the contest.    Frankie Dolan rolled back the years with a darting run that started around midfield and when he had beaten three Faithleachs defenders he passed accurately to ‘Dixie’ O’Brien who smashed the ball past Derek Thompson for a very well-worked goal. After that it was plain sailing for Brigids.   Sub Conor McHugh kicked another Brigids  point four minutes later and the game meandered to its inevitable conclusion after that. Faithleachs’ sub Darragh Hussey scored a very good point in the 25th minute but the only score we witnessed in the 13 minutes of play thereafter (including seven minutes of extra-time) was a Brigids point from probably the best player in the entire club championship this year, Cathal McHugh, who scored in the 33rd minute of the second half.   It was a pity that a game which had started so well ended in such a fashion with so little good football being played, especially in the final 20 minutes – but as I said above that will not bother St. Brigids who have planted their flag firmly at the summit of Roscommon club  football for the third year in a row. Given the  strength of their panel who knows how far this excellent team can go. They are surely good enough to retain their Connacht club title at least.   Shane Curran was coolness personified in the St. Brigids goal and his brilliant save early in the second half was a pivotal moment in the game. Outside him Robbie Kelly was back to his best and he put in a fantastic hour at corner-back.   Mark O’Carroll was the dominant force at midfield and he was here, there and everywhere for the champions on Sunday. What a pity he does not play for Roscommon.   Up front Brigids were excellent on Sunday. Frankie Dolan took a while to get into the game but once he got going, he was top class, setting up the goal – and some of his long passing with the boot was a joy to behold again.   Brendan ‘Dixie’ O’Brien also had a great county final – this was one of his best displays for Brigids in many years. In the full-forward  line Senan Kilbride was an excellent target man and Cathal McHugh continued his excellent form and was probaby the best player in the championship in Roscommon this year.   St. Faithleachs were disappointing in this  game and they won’t need me to tell them that. Derek Thompson was excellent in goal and his long kick-outs were a feature of the game. Adrian Murtagh battled away in the half-back line and did well overall. At midfield Martin Reynolds was very good at times and is certainly one for the future.    Up front Gary Cox tried hard but although he played well he had to come very deep to get the ball and that wasn’t hurting the St. Brigids team. Elsewhere Enda Kenny and Brendan Reynolds did their best but they had to give way to an impressive Brigids defence on the day.   To the winners the spoils and a brilliant three in a row of senior titles and to the losers the wait for a first title since 1965 goes on. It  would seem at the end of the 2007 SFC that St. Brigids are now a good bit ahead of the rest and are worthy champions. St. Brigids: Shane Curran; Enda Ruane, Ger Ahearne, Robbie Kelly; Peter Domican, Ian Kilbride, Donal O’Connor; Mark O’Carroll (0-2), Karol Mannion; John Tiernan (0-2), Frankie Dolan (Capt. 0-3, all frees) Brendan O’Brien (1-1); Darragh Blaine, Senan Kilbride, Cathal McHugh (0-2). Subs used: Garvan Dolan for Blaine (half-time), Padraig Kilcommons for O’Connor (47 minutes), Conor McHugh (0-1) for Tiernan (51 minutes), Niall Grehan for O’Brien (57 minutes), Eoin Mannion for Ruane (62 minutes). St. Faithleachs: Derek Thompson; Derek Murray, Alan McCormack, Diarmuid Thompson; Adrian Murtagh (0-1), Raymond Cox (capt.), Stephen Ormsby; Senan O’Grady, Martin Reynolds; Henry Kenny (0-1), Gary Cox, Padraig Wallace; Brendan Reynolds (0-3 frees), Enda Kenny (0-3, 2 frees), Aidan Dooney(0-1). Subs used: Darragh Hussey (0-1) for Wallace (38 mins.), Gerrard Connor for Ormsby (42 mins.), Tom Ryan for Wallace (50 mins.), Alan Brehon for Enda Kenny (53 mins), Peter Mahon for Henry Kenny (58 mins).  Referee: Seamus Regan (Eire Og).  County Final 2007 at a glance Man of the match: Brendan ‘Dixie’ O’Brien (St. Brigids) Most of the candidates were on the Brigids side. Robbie Kelly had a fantastic game in the full-back line while Mark O’Carroll turned in another fine display in the middle of the field. Frankie Dolan and Cathal McHugh were the pick of the Brigids forwards but ‘Dixie’ had a great county final and he capped a great performance with a cracking goal. For Faithleachs, Adrian Murtagh, Martin Reynolds, Gary Cox and Brendan Reynolds were best on the day. Weather: Perfect for football. Hardly any breeze on a cool but sunny day. Crowd: No more that 2,000 were present, which was very disappointing given the day and the fact that there were so many good players on view. It’s just a sad fact that people don’t follow club football in Roscommon. Entertainment Value: In the first 15 minutes I thought that this would be a classic county final but from there on the game descended into a stop-start affair with no pattern or fluent football being played. The second half and the final quarter in particular was very poor.