Emphatic Season Ends, as Kildare Champions JohnstownBridge Prematurely Exit Leinster Intermediate Championship
Intermediate Leinster Football Championship Preliminary Round Sun 20th Oct 2013
JTB 1-09 Naomh Ólaf 1-11
On a windy and overcast evening at Commercials GAA Rathcoole, Johnstownbridge faced the newly crowned Dublin Champions Naomh Ólaf, the victors securing a place in the quarter-final stages with home advantage. A black cloud circled the field always threatening to spoil the occasion, a far cry from the balmy conditions enjoyed in Newbridge only 2 weeks previous. It must be said the pitch wasn’t worthy of its participants, not a white line to be found, leaving the officials with wry smiles as they inspected their workplace before throw-in. Could this really be the standard of pitch for two sets of County Champions vying for their place in the quarter-finals of their province? Enough said on that score!
Johnstownbridge started the first half playing into the breeze and started the game in fine fashion, Niall Vaughan rattling the net after just 3 minutes from a pass by Daniel Flynn after receiving the ball from Keith Cribben. A minute later Seán Hurley missed a free kick 30 yards out after Daniel Flynn was pulled down running at the Dublin defence. Ólafs replied with a point on 5 minutes from their full-forward Eoin Kinsella to steady the ship for his side. Keith replied with a point a minute later after Jimmy Farrell made a great run supported by Cathal McNally who turned his marker opening up a gap for the oncoming Keith Cribben, who made sure of his chance to settle things down for Johnstownbridge. Ólafs however responded with a point from play in the 9th to keep them just 2 scores behind 1-01 to 0-02. Again Keith added another point after a fine display of fielding in the middle of the field by Seán storming through to manufacture a neat pass to Cathal who again laid the ball off to Keith. In the 13th minute Seán uncharacteristically pulled another free wide after Cathal was cynically brought down by the corner-back, much to the frustration of the team and travelling supporters. Two minutes later Ólafs centre-forward punched the ball over the bar after a long ball was sent into the danger area just a minute after Jimmy Farrell was unlucky with a great effort. The Ólafs full-forward again pointed from a placed free on 16 minutes to take his side within a point 1-02 to 0-04. The fact that things were now starting to go wrong for the ‘Bridge boys, was copper fastened by an injury to Paul Mooney who had to leave the pitch after an outstanding County campaign holding his corner of the battlefield game after game. Mickey Donnelly came in to his traditional role of centre-back swapping Cian Farrell out to marshal Paul’s patch. On 19 minutes Cathal pointed to restore the 2 point lead; taking a ball which was heading wide, turning his man and slotting it over. The Sandyford contingent hit a purple patch, scoring a point from play and then a goal in the 21st minute by Simon Hickey to give them a lift and at the same time tearing up the script written by Paddy Power and his cohorts during the week. The contest began to heat up with some questionable decisions being made at times by the man in the middle. The half ended with Cathal pointing to leave the Kildare representatives a point down, 1-04 to 1-05.
The second half started at full pace with Seán winning the throw-in, finding a pass to Daniel. Daniel ran at the defence bearing in on goal but the net-minder Noel Gibbons somehow stopped the effort at first but the ball made its way into the net. The referee ruled there to have been a foul and a free out was given. The breaks weren’t going our way on this occasion, any other day Daniel would have put a hole in the back of the net. A minute later Seán won a free but again kicked it wide, any other day he would have kicked it over with ease. Ólafs wing-back No.7 got the first score of the second half with a placed ball 35 yards out on his left foot to open their lead to 2 points. Daniel replied 3 minutes later with a point after breaking through at least 3 tackles from the now crowded blanket defence. Thing were looking up from a Johnstownbridge perspective on 7 minutes when Niall took a point to level the game 1-06 apiece. To Ólafs credit they pushed on well, having two close goal opportunities in quick succession. Their tactic seemed to be to flood the midfield to win primary possession and then to retreat and hold it, not the type of football Pat Spillane would be raving about but it was working for them. They tacked on two points, one from their No.9 and their No.15 in the 12th and 15th minute respectively. The Dublin Champions were now getting to grips with the game and added another through the full-forward Kinsella again. The ‘Bridge mentors began to swap players around to stem the flow at this stage, putting Seán up into the forward line for example. The tactical changes were having positive results and Keith pointed after nice link play between Seán and substitute Ian McKeon. Cathal was making life hard for the defence as we all know he can, and was again brought down in the 22nd minute but the free dropped short and nothing was gained from the move. Paul Cribben rocked the upright a minute later and possession was lost. Ólafs scored a point a minute later from a move created from a side-line ball which was clearly given the wrong way, something P.J. Doran will lay testament to as he stated his case to the officials on the imaginary line. The score 1-10 to 1-07 in favour on the Metropolitan men with only 7 minutes remaining on the clock. Three minutes later 4 points were separating the teams after No.8 for Ólafs scored a point from a free dropped short from his mid-field partner. Johnstownbridge fought hard and never gave up in the final minutes with Seán kicking a free from 23 yards and Daniel completing the tally on 30 minutes just before the No.8 of Ólafs was sent to the line (not before time it must be said) for a rough challenge on team Captain Barry McNally. The game ended Johnstownbridge 1-09 Naomh Ólaf 1-11.
Johnstownbridge 1 I Farrell, 2 J O’Connor, 3 L Flynn, 4 P Mooney, 5 S McNally, 6 C Farrell, 7 E O’Donoghue 0-1, 8 B McNally(C), 9 S Hurley 0-01 (1 free), 10 D Flynn 0-2, 11 K Cribben 0-03, 12 P Cribben, 13 J Farrell, 14 N Vaughan 1-01, 15 C McNally 0-2.
There were a lot of heads hanging low leaving Rathcoole after the game. Everyone was certain that there were a few more games left in the campaign at least. The team had set the bar so high during the County competition, anything but a win was going to be a disappointment to the supporters but more-so to the players, squad and management themselves. They know that days like this come around sometimes, even to a bunch of players as talented as the one we have. This defeat will hurt, any other day Johnstownbridge would have gotten through with a few points to spare perhaps. If and buts and maybes…….our hearts go out to you guys – the ones who put in the hard nights at training etc. etc.
It must be said at this point to Daniel – the very best of luck in Port Adelaide, our loss (club and county) is their gain. Give it your best shot; we’ll be keeping a close eye on your adventures with pride.
The reality though for the supporters is this;
By the time the convoy of cars sporting their ‘Green, White and Blue’ flags got as far as Celbridge, reality kicked in and the mist lifted –
What a team!
What a season!
What celebrations we’ve had already!
What about Senior Championship next year!
What a Parish!
What a bunch of Players!
What will History say about these Heroes!
What would any of us have done if promised these achievements 12 months ago!
What a homecoming from the County Final!
What Leinster Championship???