All-Ireland champions St Brigid’s easing into their stride
Roscommon giants prove a class apart from gutsy Sligo champions Tourlestrane
St Brigid’s (Roscommon) 2-10 Tourlestrane (Sligo) 0-9
It was a day for hardy souls as the All-Ireland champions St Brigid’s laid waste to the Sligo champions in front of a perished crowd in Hyde Park.
The Roscommon men must have forgotten when their seasons begin and end at this stage. But on this evidence they look ready for another winter campaign, with goals from both Dolans – Frankie and Garvan – ensuring that they negotiated this provincial preliminary round with the minimum of stress.
Work commitments have seen Kevin McStay, last year’s manager, pass the baton to Benny O’Brien, a selector from last year. Liam McHale continues in his coaching role and once again, Brigid’s played sharp, heads-up football despite the wicked weather conditions.
St Brigid’s won the toss and played with the gale and sent four points whistling over inside the first 15 minutes.
“We were just delighted to have got through this,” O’Brien said afterwards.
“The conditions were very harsh today, it was a difficult game to play. We decided to go with the wind and got a bit of a headstart on them.”
Tourlestrane also struggled to cope with the dominance of Karol Mannion and the pressure which Darragh Donnelly and Ronan Stack put on the Sligo ball carriers, popping up in all sectors of the field to assist in a strong St Brigid’s pressing effort.
If the latter’s first goal was not the most perfect they have ever created, it was in keeping with the pattern of play.
“In fact it was a lucky goal because we had gone through and we were turned over but the ball broke and Frankie pulled on it on the ground and next thing it was in the back back of the net,” O’Brien said.
Trailing by 1-06 to 0-1 at the break, Tourlestrane were in a tight spot. And on the restart, Brigid’s looked the sharpest. Eamon O’Hara played a flat free across the Tourlestrane 50-yard line and straight away, four yellow shirts were on to it, with Anthony Gleeson breaking through the middle before Dolan finished.
At 2-06 to 0-1, that was lights out for the Sligo men.
It was only then that Tourlestrane began to play with conviction and they reeled off a series of classy points in the second half, with Brian Egan rewarded for a fighting display at full forward.
The highlight of the second period came courtesy of Shane Curran, who rolled back the years with one of his patented acrobatic stops after Cathal Henry hammered a fine shot towards the left corner of the St Brigid’s goal.
But it was the up-and-coming St Brigid’s players who caught the eye here. Ronan Stack seemed to be involved in everything and almost bagged St Brigid’s third goal, forcing a terrific save from Séamus Gildea.
St Brigids now face an away semi-final against Leitrim champions St Mary’s. They have proven themselves masters at preparing for football adventures through the Connacht interior and any hopes that they are beginning to lose appetite were put to rest here.
“This is a good bunch. They make a lot of sacrifices to play at this level and you can see that out on the field,” said O’Brien.
ST BRIGID’S: S Curran; R Stack, R Kelly, N Grehan; N McInerney, D Donnelly, E Sheehy (0-1); K Mannion (0-2), G Ahern; G Cunniffe, G Dolan (1-0), P Kelly (0-1); F Dolan (1-3, 2 frees), S Kilbride (0-2 frees), C McHugh. Subs: A Gleeson (0-1) for C McHugh (half time), J Murray for N Grehan (51 mins), A McInerney for R Kelly (51 mins), D O’Connor for G Folan (55 mins), E Egan for F Dolan (57 mins),
TOURLESTRANE: S GIldea; B Walsh, B Kennedy; D Dunne; S Dunne, N Gaughan; J Leonard; E O’Hara, A McIntyre; J Marren, J Quinn (0-1), A Dunne; G Gaughan, B Egan (0-2 frees), J Kelly (0-2). Subs: C Henry (0-1) for J Marren (28 mins), S Henry (0-2) for A Dunne (49 mins), D Durkin for B Kenney (39 mins inj), G McGowan (0-1) for G Gaughan (48 mins), J Carr for S Dunne (55 mins).
Referee: E O’Grady.