Western Shamrock’s moved to within one point of league leaders Southern District’s, after a satisfactory five point win over fierce rivals St. Finbarr’s last night at the Tom Bateman Reserve.
The last meeting between these sides produced one of the strangest games this writer has ever witnessed. Seven goals, three red cards and three black cards made for an exciting spectacle, but a fifteen minute scoring spree from Finbarr’s saw them claim the bragging rights. Since that game, the two sides fortunes could not have been any different. Ray Reilly’s men have gone unbeaten since that defeat whilst Finbarr’s, got only two draws to show for their three fixtures.
As seems to always be the case this season, preparation’s for the game were marred by late withdrawals to the Shamrock’s side. Diesel Mechanic Mark Finnegan, an excellent forward whose performances were winning much praise from the Shamrock’s faithful, accepted an offer to work away from Perth, on a “fly in-fly out” basis, thus making him unavailable for selection for the foreseeable future. (Whilst in writing, I receive a text that Mark Finnegan has in fact returned from exile, tune in Monday for confirmation!) Regular number six Paddy McCabe’s late recovery from a virus, meant he was only fit to take his place amongst the substitutes.
In came a “Wee Northie” combination of Dromore’s Collie Donnelly at center back for his first start of the year and Claudy’s Gavin Donaghy to the forward line, who had the unenviable task of filling Finnegan’s boots. Added to that, Darren ‘Chips’ Drummond declared himself fit to tog out, after a trapped nerve kept the Aodh Ruadh man out in recent weeks.
On the upside, at least the rumours that circled the Shed on Sunday night, of an alleged broken paw suffered by Jason ‘Tiger’ Gavy, whilst being hunted by poachers were dispelled, When it turned out only to be a shameful hoax played on Brian Dempsey.
Gavin Donaghy wasted no time in making an impact upon his return. Straight from the throw in, the two-time West Australian Player of the year gathered possession in front of the ‘D’, swiveled and swung the ball over the bar with the outside of his boot to open the scoring. Center forward Chris Hayes then capped off a lovely run down the right hand side to send over from a tight angle, opening his account for the night. The lively Donaghy then turned provider for Jonny Brady, his perfectly timed run rewarded with the offload from ‘Gav’ and the Ratoath man duly drove over from twenty-five meters.
Brian Dempsey kept the scoreboard ‘tickin’ from a free, following a great Fearghal McLoughlin run, to put Shamrock’s four points to no-score up, with a quarter of an hour played. In defence, Eoin Horan and Jason Gavy were thwarting any opposition attacks, whilst Danny McKavanagh, Hayes and Donaghy inparticular, had made very lively starts to the game.
Worrying from a Sham’s point of view, they lost their way and after such a bright start, unforgivably allowed Finbarr’s back into it. Incredibly, Dempsey’s fourteen minute free would be their last score for all of thirty minutes, as two converted Finbarr’s free’s sliced the Shamrock’s lead. Similar to their previous game against Morley two weeks previous, they became wasteful with the ball and the shot selection was not at its best, amassing four wides before the break. That’s not to say that Finbarr’s weren’t guilty of the same, their wayward shooting was as bad and as the quality of the play dropped, it really became a scrappy affair as half time approached.
HT WESTERN SHAMROCKS 0-4
ST. FINBARR’S 0-2
Unfortunately the quality didn’t improve upon the resumption. St. Finbarr’s crowded the middle, cutting off the Sham’s ball supply from the back. MVP of the second round Brian Dempsey was being watched like a hawk, watched by three hawk’s actually. Ah do you know what? that’s disrespectful to hawk’s…there not that ugly. But for once the St. Joseph’s man’s accuracy was not at its usual best either.
St. Finbarr’s couldn’t take advantage however, missing two very scoreable free’s into the Railway end from similar positions. Smelling the fear, enter the Sham’s experienced wing back Philly Doyle.
A weaving run out from corner back from Horan, released Chris Hayes who spotted the Clane man bombing down the right touch line. Taking the ball in his stride, the former Kildare Minor/U-21 player steadied himself and curled the ball beautifully inside the far post, for an inspirational score to break the scoring duck.
Finbarr’s first real goal chance was excellently smothered by Richie Nevin and Jason Brosnan two minutes later, although another free did pull one back for the ’Barr’s.
A quickly taken free by Dempsey, found the unmarked Donaghy in space, who turned and sent over a huge score, as Shamrock’s began to find their rhythm once more.
Fifty minutes played and it was now 0-07 to 0-03, after Chris Hayes started and finished his own move. Magnificently blocking down his opponent, Hayes gathered and quickly released Adrian Byrne, who then returned the pass to the flying St. Senan’s man to split the posts emphatically on his right foot.
Shamrock’s were now rampant and Darren ‘Chips’ Drummond made an eegit out of his man, turning him left then right-then back again, before cutting in on his left foot to squeeze over, maintaining the four point gap. Two more Finbarr’s frees kept them in touch, but more magic from former Limerick U-21 Hayes, driving over from forty meters for the score of the game, should have finished it as a contest.
Never giving up, Finbarr’s carved out two excellent goal chances in the dying minutes. The first, after a terrible giveaway up the other end of the field, was badly driven wide of Pat White’s left hand post. Whilst the second attempt, rattled the post, sending shockwaves through the field that on another night, things might not have went so smoothly for Shamrock’s.
To give an indication of what sort of night it was for the ’Barr’s, the resulting rebound was picked up by the Sham’s and worked up the field, the ball broke kindly for Laois man Adrian Byrne who scooped the ball up, beat his man and clipped over on his left to finish the game off.
FT WESTERN SHAMROCKS 0-10
ST. FINBARR’S 0-5
Eoin Horan (Meath) and Jason Gavy (Derry) were outstanding in defence. Time after time the duo were the ruination of an opposition attack, but were equally as effective at starting counter attack’s of their own. Gavin Donaghy was excellent up to the third quarter, but having referee’d the game immediately beforehand, he inevitably tired toward the end.
Best player on the park was Chris Hayes. The twenty-six year old Limerick native looked at home in the number eleven jersey, following recent spells at midfield and on the wing. He was influential during Shamrock’s first half scoring spree and when needed most in the second, rose to the challenge, working tirelessly for the team and kicked three excellent points along the way.
It’s fitting that the aforementioned Hayes should produce such a sparkling display, almost a year to the day since suffering a severe ankle injury playing for Shamrock’s at the same venue.
What followed for the St. Senan’s clubman was a trip to hell and back. Four months out of work would frighten any man from ever going near an O’Neill’s football again. Hayes however, after undergoing a second operation months later, trained harder than he ever did before to recover.
He defied medics by resuming full training upon resumption of this year’s league, after being initially told that July/August would be a more realistic date for his return. Since regaining his starting place in the last round, he has improved in every game and after such a horrific 2013, has come back leaner, fitter and hungrier than ever.
Well done Chris, your an example to every player in the club.
Oh and are you still on for Connection’s Friday night?
No seriously, well done!
Four wins in-a-row for “Bishop’s boys” and more importantly the two points that see’s them minimize the gap at the top of the table. They now have just three days to prepare for their next game against Greenwood, as the league draws to an exciting close.