TIGHT MARKING Kilmaine’s Colin Hughes and Na Gaeil’s Ryan O’Neill tussle for the ball during Saturday’s All-Ireland Junior club football championship semi-final in Ennis. Pic: David Farrell Photography
Na Gaeil 0-13
THIS was a cracking game of football capturing full attention throughout.
From first to last whistle both sides gave it their all and plenty more besides.
Na Gaeil arrived in Ennis with impressive credentials but Kilmaine, the Mayo and Connacht representatives accompanied them toe-to-toe and cheek by jowl most every step of the way.
Conditions were near perfect for this All-Ireland Junior club football championship semi-final. It was played on a beautifully manicured Cusack Park surface with a summer bounce in a sward that didn’t unearth a turtóg. And not a wind puff strong enough to gauge a tráwneen.
From the moment Na Gaeil’s midfielder Diarmuid O’Connor leapt highest to claim the throw-in it was end action to all afternoon. Inside a minute Diarmuid Herlihy opened the scoring but a fine individual response from Kilmaine wing-forward Cathal Murphy negated it in an instant and Jarlath Mullin tacked on another inside the third ticking.
The industrious Ian McCarthy levelled for Na Gaeil and the aforementioned Diarmuid O’Connor edged them further ahead.
Kilmaine supporters exhaled a collective relieving sigh when a misplaced kick-out from goalkeeper Adam Keady almost granted Na Gaeil a handy goal, but the ever-alert Tomas Fahey averted the danger. In the 12th minute Michael Hession pounced on a woeful mix-up in the Na Gaeil defence and calmly dispatched to the net.
Adam Barrett pointed a free pushing Kilmaine three ahead.
At the back, more pickpocket defending by Tomas Fahey denied Na Gaeil a certain goal but Dara Devine punished over-zealous tackling with a pointed free. Na Gaeil wing-back Fergal Barry retired injured and his replacement Mike Griffin made an immediate impact.
Within two minutes he registered a brace of points leaving the teams level (1-3 to 0-6) at the interval.
Na Gaeil enjoyed the better of the third quarter exchanges. Kilmaine also erred in affording Kieran O’Donavan unlimited space and freedom as he patrolled the left wing, providing numerous attacking options for his team.
In the 42nd minute Diarmuid Herlihy outfielded a Kilmaine defender but goalkeeper Adam Keady enacted a great save in deflecting Herlihy’s goal-bound shot before Dan Goggin followed up with a point. Two Devine frees bookended Goggin’s score and gradually Na Gaeil were releasing Kilmaine’s grip on the contest.
But from somewhere deep Kilmaine summoned a resolve.
In the 52nd minute Pat Kelly posted an almighty, inspirational team-lifting score and two Adam Barrett frees had them level heading down the stretch. Another Devine free and a fisted effort from substitute Eoin Walsh put Na Gaeil back in the driving seat.
With the clock ticking down Kilmaine suffered a serious setback when wing-forward Jarlath Mullin was marched on a second yellow.
“There will be at least four minutes of injury time,” proclaimed the stadium announcer and Kilmaine still two adrift (0-11 to 1-6).
Two of the downtime minutes had elapsed when Tomas Fahey scored a lovely point.
Then came the supreme score of the day. Deeper into borrowed time Kilmaine won a free about 35 metres out to the left. Adam Barrett eyeballed the daunting task of addressing it.
Devil a bother to him either. The youngster displayed nerves of steel in nailing it. Even as his accurate posting was in flight, the point umpire was darting around the rigging towards his flag. There was a stretch of another kind in the evening now as the game rounded into extra-time.
In the first period, points from Dan Goggin and Diarmuid O’Connor swung the pendulum Na Gaeil’s way. A mighty long-range point from Jarlath McDonagh on the turnover brought Kilmaine within one.
As physical and mental fatigue set in Kilmaine threw everything at Na Gaeil but, despite their best efforts they could not gain parity. They lost out on the narrowest of margins.
They gave it everything ‘til they’d nothing left to give.
A Keady; P McDonagh, D Hughes, D Mullin; T Fahey (0-1), P Kelly (0-1), M McDonnell; M Keady, O Mullin; C Murphy (0-1), A Barrett (0-4, f’s), J Mullin (0-1); M Hession (1-0), J Maloney, C Hughes.
Subs used: M Mullin for McDonnell; B Maloney for C Hughes; T McDonagh for Hession; J McDonagh (0-1) for J Maloney; Hession for Murphy (b/c); B Sheridan for D Mullin; G Sheridan for Kelly.
T Culloty; R O’Neill, K Dineen, D Bourke; F Barry, A Barry, E Doody; Diarmuid O’Connor (0-2), K O’Donavan; Dan O’Connor, E O’Neill, D Devine (0-3, 3fs); D Herlihy (0-1), M NcCarthy (0-1), I McCarthy (0-1), D Goggin (0-2).
Subs used: M Griffin (0-2) for Fergal Barry; E Walsh (0-1) for Dineen; J Barry for McCarthy; D Reen for Dan O’Connor; J O’Connor for Devine; J Lowham for Herlihy.
Referee: P Maguire (Longford)