Shay Murtagh Senior Championship Final Replay:
St Lomans Mullingar 1-16 Garrycastle 1-12 AET
Last Sunday saw the much-anticipated replay of the two best teams in Westmeath as St Lomans Mullingar defended their crown against Garrycastle in TEG Cusack Park. Conditions were perfect for football particularly in late November. The Blues started well and hit two superb early scores through Peter Foy and Shane Dempsey. Alex Gardiner got Garrycastle on the board with a pointed free. The Challengers dealt the first big blow just before the first water break, when a ball from Michael Monaghan found Gardiner and the latter gave Jason Daly no chance with the finish for the opening goal of the match. John Gaffey extended the Shannon-siders lead to three points moments later to keep them in the ascendency
The Mullingar men responded excellently to this blow hitting five unanswered points before the break. The first came through midfielder Kevin Regan, followed up by Dempsey’s second point of the match to reduce the gap to one. Ronan O’Toole’s brought the Blues level after an excellent effort from the right-hand side of the pitch. John Heslin got off the mark with a pointed free, to leave the Saints ahead by the minimum. Heslin wasn’t finished there, he hit a stunning curling point off his left boot from out near the sideline to double Lomans’ lead with the last action of the first. The Mullingar men were unlucky not to have a goal to their name as well. A brilliant team move was capped off by a rocket into the top corner by Peter Foy, however the goal was ruled out as Declan Nugent’s verdict was that Fola Ayorinde threw the ball to Foy leading to the goal. Nevertheless, Lomans led by two points at the break, with plenty of football still to play.
The Second half started with Garrycastle halving the deficit through a lovely point from Eoin Monaghan. Then came a huge moment in the match, Fola Ayorinde’s hard work and effort forced a turnover from a short garrycastle kickout, Ayorinde then found TJ Cox, Cox bared down on goal and as always, he kept his composure and finished coolly past Sean Brennan in the Garrycastle net for a crucial goal. Eoin Monaghan responded for The Castle with a double but three consecutive points from the Champions put them firmly back in the driving seat, the scores came from John Heslin, Shane Dempsey and Sam McCartan respectively. Garrycastle changed their approach after the goal and proceeded to hit high ball’s in on top of target man James Sheerin in the last ten minutes.
In the last ten minutes Declan Kelly’s men were under severe pressure. Points from Conor Cosgrove, Eoin Monaghan and a double from Gardiner saw the Blues ahead by a single point in the dying minutes. The last kick of the game saw Garrycastle keeper Sean Brennan level proceedings with an excellent kick under severe pressure, brining the game to extra time on a score of 1-10 to 1-10. The Blues supporters were deflated as Lomans had chances to get the insurance score but unfortunately didn’t have their shooting boots on in the closing stages. For the second year in a row, Declan Kelly’s men had been brought to extra time in the final. Two ten-minute periods of play were all that stood between both sides and glory.
Extra time was like normal time with both sides showing tremendous energy and heart, leaving it all on the line in their bid to become Kings of the County. John Heslin got the opening score with a hard fought point after winning a loose ball, followed up by another brilliant Shane Dempsey score. Gardiner quickly cancelled this score out with a pointed free. John Heslin stamped his authority on the game in extra time with a crucial double to get the blues’ noses back in front. Heslin and Gardiner, the two talismans for their respective teams traded scores to see Lomans in front by three at half time in extra time. The Second half had a sense of déjà vu as Lomans had many chances to put Garrycastle away but couldn’t punish on the scoreboard. However, the Blues rearguard held firm with some brilliant defending and when substitute Ken Casey kicked the first score of the second period in the eightieth minute it was all but over. Declan Nugent blew the full-time whistle to spark wild celebrations from the St Loman’s faithful. Declan Kelly’s charges had retained the Flanagan Cup after two titanic battles with Gary Dolan’s Garrycastle.
It must be said both the first match and the replay were unbelievable spectacles. It may not have always been exceptional high-scoring football, but you could not question either sides commitment to the cause, the intensity and atmosphere was electric in TEG Cusack Park. On the day there were many exceptional performances from the Blues. The Evergreen Paddy Dowdall secured a record fifteenth Senior Championship in both codes, Dowdall showed a phenomenal level of fitness. The 39-year-old put out fires all over the park. When Dowdall was replaced in the dying stages, he was greeted with a standing ovation from the St Lomans Supporters, a lovely moment, one which very few have seen the likes of in any game of club football. Kelvin Reilly was also dependable as ever at Centre-half back. Kevin Regan was brilliant in the middle of the park. TJ Cox and Peter Foy were both brilliant as they have been all year. Darragh O’Keefe and substitute Oisín Hogan also contributed well at the back.
Captain John Heslin, stepped up for his team as he has so often over the last decade, especially in extra time with key scores at crucial times. Ronan O’Toole, the vice-captain showed his class once again, constantly showing the bravery to get on the ball and make things happen. O’Toole was given man of the match in Cusack Park and was undoubtedly brilliant on the day. After returning to the club in this year after a spell in the middle of the east, Shane Dempsey was a late addition to the starting line-up and has had a stop start year hampered by injuries. Dempsey caught fire in the final kicking five stunning points (all from play) and caused the Garrycastle defense nightmares all afternoon. He more than justified his selection so he was another candidate for man of the match. However, several players could have been chosen after an excellent team display from the Blues.
Finally, a massive well done to all our players for the huge effort they put in all year. Congratulations to the management team of Declan Kelly, Ciaran Kilmurray, Garett Hickey and Gary Glennon, Also, the backroom team of Gary Devine, Paul Devine and Alan Bracken for their time and effort over the year. They have delivered our second consecutive championship. It’s always great to be successful and we have now won five titles in seven years which is just a phenomenal achievement It, it is also our ninth Senior title overall brining us joint third on the list. A massive thanks to all our supporters and volunteers who sacrifice their time over the year and brought us brilliant support all year. We can’t wait to see you all in Portlaoise on Sunday December 5th against Portarlington in the Leinster Club Championship Quarter final. Thank you to all!
Team; Jason Daly, David Whelan, Darragh O’Keefe, Paddy Dowdall, Jack Geoghegan, Kelvin Reilly, Sam McCartan (0.01), Kevin Regan (0.01), Sean Flanagan, Peter Foy (0.01), Ronan O’Toole (0.01), TJ Cox (1.00), Fola Ayorinde, John Heslin (0.06, 0.02f), Shane Dempsey (0.05). Subs used; Ken Casey (0.01), Oisín Hogan, Conor O’Donoghue.