Wounded but proud, Pearses now look to the next level

AIB All-Ireland Club SFC semi-final: Kilmacud Crokes 1-11 Padraig Pearses 0-8

Disappointed but proud, Padraig Pearses’ manager Pat Flanagan applauded his players for the “magical journey” they had taken the club and its supporters on as all involved now look to build on this season’s historic success.

  That memorable journey saw Pearses win a first ever Connacht title and a second Roscommon crown in three years, meaning they will look to the positives when the disappointment of last weekend’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to a wily Kilmacud Crokes subsides.

  Pearses’ magnificent run in the championship ended under the floodlights at Kingspan Breffni Park on Saturday night, but not before they put in a mighty effort that only foundered in the final 10 minutes.

  Manager Flanagan acknowledged that the Dublin team’s strong finish – boosted by an influential bench – was decisive.

  “Kilmacud came good in the final 10 minutes. We just couldn’t get level – and we had a couple of chances to. They are a very good team. They kept us under pressure all the way through. I’m not sure that we were at our best today, whether that was down to them or not I will have to review to find out”.

  Flanagan hailed his team. “Our lads have been magnificent. They have worked so hard. To win a provincial title was fantastic. Then to come here and to fall just short is disappointing, but they are a credit to their club, their families and their county. It has been a magical journey over the past few months. We are bitterly disappointed, but we will sit down and look back at it over the next few days and see where we go from there”.

   It was so close for so long. In the 50th minute, when Hubert Darcy kicked a fine point to bring his team to within a point (1-6 to 0-8), the huge Pearses following were on their feet. But Crokes’ finished the better side, with their subs having a major impact. In fact the Dublin side’s bench contributed four points from play in those final few minutes to see them home by a flattering six points.

  The first half had been hugely competitive and intense, but also dour, as both sides put a big emphasis on possession, most of the passes lateral or backwards as the teams looked for gaps in the opposition defence. It certainly wasn’t a game for the purists in that opening period.

   Niall Daly (who had another magnificent match) opened the scoring after just 40 seconds with a booming point for Pearses. In the 8th minute, Crokes struck for what would prove to be a vital goal. Hugh Kenny and Shane Horan did the spadework and Craig Dias shot low past Paul Whelan.

   Paul Carey (free) and Dara Mullen (fist) exchanged points by the 16th minute, but we had to wait 11 minutes before another score when Tom Fox pointed a free for the Leinster champions. When Paul Carey fired over a free in injury-time, it  was Pearses’ first score in 22 minutes. Half-time:  Kilmacud 1-3 Pearses 0-3.

  After a half-time skirmish as the teams left the field, the quality improved. Pearses played their best football of the game in the third quarter, kicking three of the next four points, with Darcy (free), Paul Carey (a great team score) and another magnificent effort from Niall Daly cutting the margin to one.

  Carey did have a chance to equalise for Pearses but his free from about 45 metres was well wide. With another cliffhanger in prospect, Kilmacud finally found a way to end the Pearses’ resistance. It came largely from the bench as Cian O’Connor (2), Conor Casey and Anthony Quinn all scored.

  Pearses had some excellent performers, none more so than Niall Daly, who was a colossus all through. Others to stand out were Davy Murray, Ronan Daly, Conor Payne and sub Anthony Butler. Pearses can be happy in the knowledge that they gave it everything in what was a great campaign.