Garrycastle prove the sharper outfit

 

Garrycastle 1-11 St Brigid’s 1-9:GARRYCASTLE BECAME the first Westmeath team to reach a senior All-Ireland club football final with a deserved two-point win after a titanic struggle with St Brigid’s, their near neighbours from Roscommon, in Longford on Saturday afternoon.

The winners had whatever advantage was accruing from a very strong crosswind in the first half and they started very brightly with three terrific points from James Dolan, Paul Dillon and James Duignan with less than four minutes elapsed.

However, St Brigid’s began to settle and they were on level terms by the end of the first quarter, with Senan Kilbride their focal point in a number of fine attacking moves.

Garrycastle’s Dessie Dolan soon opened his account with a classy point from play but a 21st-minute goal from a penalty by Karol Mannion edged the losers ahead, and they led by 1-6 to 0-7 at the interval.

Garrycastle had picked up seven yellow cards (to their opponents’ zero) in a far from dirty opening half and this increased to eight before the resumption of play, Paddy Mulvihill being booked for his part in a brief skirmish as the teams had headed off for the break.

Mulvihill went on to excel in the second half, including playing a pivotal role in

James Dolan’s crucial 37th-minute goal which put Garrycastle into a two-point lead.

Two Dessie Dolan frees doubled this advantage but when former Westmeath captain David O’Shaughn-essy picked up a second yellow card in the 47th minute, it was a backs-to-the-wall task for Anthony Cunningham’s men.

Despite the Roscommon champions dominating possession in the last quarter, Garrycastle kept their composure. Indeed, Gary Dolan spurned a late chance of at least a point after being superbly picked out by his brother Dessie.

In injury-time, an unforced error by St Brigid’s goalkeeper James Martin gave Dessie Dolan the chance to convert his fifth free of the afternoon before a last-gasp St Brigid’s attack was cleared to the delight of the winners’ supporters in the crowd of 6,000.

St Brigid’s manager Noel O’Brien was gracious in defeat, congratulating his neighbours, “not allowing us to play and winning a lot of ball around the middle of the field.

“When we did the get the ball perhaps we should have moved it faster.” Overall, he felt that “it was one of those days that things just didn’t happen for us”.

Anthony Cunningham, who will now have another month double-jobbing in conjunction with managing the Galway senior hurlers, acknowledged that “the goal James Dolan got set us up and we were probably a bit sharper overall.

“We got a sucker punch with the penalty but we really pulled some performance in the second half, especially when reduced to 14 men. We thought we were in hard luck to have got seven yellow cards in the first half, but that’s the ref’s call.

“We brought Paddy Mulvihill out to centre forward today. He is a class player and always has been. But it’s only the semi-final and Crossmaglen are probably the top club team we have ever seen. We’ll be underdogs and no better way to go in.

“It’s hard for me as I live in St Brigid’s and they are gentlemen through and through.”

GARRYCASTLE:C Mullin; E Mulvihill, J Gaffey, M McCallon; K Henson, D Harte, T McHugh; S O’Donoghue, D O’Shaughnessy; G Dolan (0-1), P Mulvihill, P Dillon (0-1); J Duignan (0-1), J Dolan (1-1), D Dolan (0-7, five frees). Subs: A Fox for McHugh (34 mins), A Browne for Duignan (48 mins), C Cosgrove for Dillon (51 mins), A Daly for G Dolan (57 mins).

ST BRIGID’S:J Martin; R Kelly, D Donnelly, G Cunniffe; N Grehan (0-1), P Domican, I Kilbride (0-1); K Mannion (1-0, penalty), G Dolan; D Dolan, Cathal McHugh (0-2), E Sheehy; F Dolan (0-1, free), S Kilbride (0-3, one free), Conor McHugh (0-1). Subs: J Murray for Kelly (40 mins), P Kelly for Sheehy (55 mins), D Kelleher for D Dolan (57 mins).

Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).