FORGET about the score line, this AIB Leinster Intermediate Football Club Championship final played at Louth headquarters in Drogheda on Sunday afternoon, between O’Connells, and their Kildare counterparts, Monasterevan, was an intriguing game from start to finish, writes Tommy Callaghgan.
AIB Leinster Intermediate Football Club Championship Final
O’Connell’s (Louth): 0-3
Played on a very heavy pitch with the ball skidding off the surface every time it hit the gound, nevertheless it was intense and hard fought between two sides that are to be complimented for giving it absolutely everything on the day.
If Monasterevan had lost this one they would not have had to look too far to see why as they dominated the opening half to such a degree it was simply incredible that they found themselves leading by the only score of the half, a Wayne Fitzpatrick brilliant effort from wide on the left after some 27 minutes of play.
The minor star had been the main man throughout that half coming in for some heavy treatment as his pace caused problems to the Louth champions who picked up five yellow cards in the opening period. However the fair haired front man, despite failing to convert some opening half frees, never lost focus and in the end hit the winner with the confidence of a veteran.
Both sides missed early opportunities to raise white flags and while O’Connells found the Monasterevan defence in defiant mood, particularly full back and captain, John Dempsey, slowly but surely the Kildare side took control around the middle but found the O’Connells defence every bit as mean as their own.
Wayne Fitzpatrick certainly had chances to open an early lead but while his free taking was on target most of the time, he failed to find the distance time and time again.
The first opportunity was some 40m out but it fell short into the Louth keeper’s hands while on the eight minute he failed to find the target from just a little further out.
Tristin Kelly meanwhile was keeping a close watch O’Connell’s main man, Cian Doyle and the home side had an opporutnity themselves to raise the first flag but Andrew Sharkey’s free also failed to go the distance and was cleared with ease.
A foul on Gary Kelly saw Fitzpatrick again come up short with a 45m effort midway through while yet another foul on the youngster, followed by some ‘afters’ saw Salem Rifale receive a yellow card and the no. 5 can certainly count himself lucky that it was not red.
The Blues were well on top at this stage but just could not finish some fine moves off and when they were awarded yet another free, again Fitzpatrick failed to find the distance from in around the 45m mark.
One wondered at this stage why keeper Colin McCabe was not called into action as he has a very decent long range kick.
A brilliant move involving Anthony Kavanagh, Mark Kelly, Gary Kelly saw Paul Kelly in on a one-to-one with keeper Reynolds. A goal seemed a certainty, however the keeper denied Kelly with a brilliant save and the resultant ‘45’ was once again kicked short and cleared.
The tackles were coming in thick and fast and it was no surprise when Paul McKeever was next into the referee’s book as he took down Fitzpatrick once again.
Paul Kelly then looked like he would break the deadlock but his effort drifted right and wide.
Another yellow for the home side saw Killian Shields next into the ‘book’ and a quick free from Leonard Heavens set up Shane O’Loughlin but he missed the right hand upright.
Finally and some 27 minutes after the thorw-in it was Monasterevan who finally raised a flag. Wayne Fitz gained possession out left and with a delightful effort from a very acute angle steered the ball between the posts for the opening score of the half, and that was how it remained at the break.
On the resumption it soon became obvious that the home side had been given a stern talking to as they upped their game considerably, and levelled within fivie minutes, Paul McKeever converting a free and some two minutes late they took the lead when John Dempsey was adjudged to have fouled Mark Stanfield and McKeever duly tapped over.
Monasterevan picked up their first yellow when Shane O’Loughlin tripped his man as the Kildare boys looked a little rattled, as they contined to hit wides but also tried to create goal chances when it looked easier to fire over the bar.
O’Connells increased their lead to two when a ball that seemed under control by the Monasterevan defence was spilled and went to wing back Rifale who popped it over to make it O’Connell’s 0-3 Monasterevan 0-1.
The Blues hit back and Anthony Kavanagh had a goal chance but there to deny him was corner back, Jason Carroll and a minute later Monasterevan must have thought their luck was completely out when a Leonard Havens effort on the right hit the upright and went wide.
A wide apiece followed before Monasterevan finally found the range through Anthony Kavanagh and a minute later a short free by Wayne Fitzpatrick set up Leonard Havens who had the travelling fans on their feet with an equalising point.
A high dangerous ball into the Monasterevan square was cleared under pressure as full back John Dempsey required attention following a clash and after being called by his umpires the match official showed Mark Stanfield a second yellow and a red and O’Connells were down to 14.
Monasterevan attacked again and when Mark Cornish was late tackled by Andrew Sharkey up stepped Wayne Fitzpatrick to hit the free straight and through and the Kildare lads were in front.
O’Connells had two opportunities to equalise but Paul McKeever’s first effort was short and then a side line from the same player failed to find the target as the final whistle arrived after some 65 minutes of play.
An incredible game but over the hour Monasterevan just desrved to clinch it. They had fine displays from Dempsey and Kennedy; Paul Kelly, Eoin Stapleton and Leonard Havens while Wayne Fitzpatrick, caused a lot or problems throughout with Shane O’Loughlin and Anthony Kavanagh also working hard.
Next up are the Munster champions, Finuge in the All Ireland semi final in what is sure to be another great outing for Pascal Kellaghan’s side
Monasterevan, Wayne Fitzpatrick 0-2 (1 free), Anthony Kavanagh 0-1, Leonard Havens 0-1.
O’Connells, Paul McKeever 0-2 (2 frees), Salem Rifaie 0-1.
Colm McCabe; Tristin Kennedy, John Dempsey cpt., David Maher; Paul Kelly, Mark Cornish, James Gorry; Leonard Havens, Eoin Stapleton; Shane O’Loughlin, Anthony Kavanagh, Christy Dempsey; Mark Kelly, Wayne Fitzpatrick, Gary Kelly. Subs: Cormac Brady for Gary Kelly (50 minute); Gavin Holligan for Mark Kelly (58 minute).
Stuart Reynolds; Andrew Shields, Conor Byrne, Jason Carroll; Salem Rifale, Jackie Agnew cpt., Killian Shields; Dean Stanfield; Andrew Sharkey, Paul McKeever John Flanagan; Robert Quigley, Mark Stanfield, Cian Doyle. Subs, David Doyle for Dean Stanfield (half time); Stephen Hoey for Kilian Shields (half time).
Fergal Kelly, Longford.