Western Shamrock’s v Southern District’s. First v second. The 2009/2010 winners, versus the 2011/2012 champion’s. Face-to-face for the final time in the 2014 Senior League. You cannot bate that unmistakeable feeling that sits in the bottom of your stomach, as you make your way southbound on the Kwinana Freeway, to a sun-drenched Tom Bateman Reserve for a big game like this.
To the ill-informed reader, the table looked like this ahead of Sunday’s game.
Shamrock’s were on top after ten games played on fifteen points, whilst District’s sat one point behind on fourteen, having only played nine of their twelve games however.
For Ray Reilly’s Shamrock’s, a win would cement their position on top of the table, nullifying the oppositions game in hand. Whereas District’s knew that two points in this encounter, would take matters firmly into their own hands, as Shamrock’s players and followers alike, could only sit back and pray for a slip-up.
With the aforementioned sides pulling away from the rest of the pack in recent weeks, both sets of supporters have been eagerly anticipating this meeting, in the knowledge that the result could well decide the destination of this year’s league title.
Shamrock’s made only one change from the team that beat Greenwood comprehensively here seven days previous. The committed Paddy McCabe, gave his teammates a timely boost when he cut short his holiday over east, to regain his starting place at centre back following a two game lay-off. The only other positional change saw Dromore’s Collie Donnelly, switching to corner back in place of homeward bound jungle cat, Jason Gavy.
Before a ball was even kicked, it became apparent what the District’s plan was to stop Shamrock’s getting into flow.
For the opening ten minutes, the Southern boys hit everything that moved in green. Frequent call’s could be heard from the line and all over the field to “stop the runner” and “don’t let them run” during the opening exchanges.
Former Kildare Minor and Under-21 Richie Nevin, was getting special attention, from a little angry man that resembled something out of Peter Jackson’s the “Lord of the Ring’s” movie saga.
Not interested in anything else bar stopping the Clane man running, Nevin was going to be in for a long hour and he like the rest of his colleagues, would have to remain extremely disciplined against such an aggressive District’s outfit.
Initially, this seemed to unnerve Shamrock’s, as two points in three minutes shot District’s into the lead.
Brian Dempsey responded, using his height advantage over his man to field an excellent Philly Doyle pass, turn and slot over into the railway end of the ground.
Full-forward Dempsey then leveled matters a minute later, converting a free after the previously mentioned Doyle was fouled in front of goal. Two each with nearly ten minutes played and then one of the games big talking points.
Six-foot-three Shamrock’s midfielder Jonny Brady, was likewise being subjected to some off-the-ball stuff and in a moment of madness, kicked his opposite midfielder up the arse.
Never since Fr. Ted Crilly performed a similar act on Bishop Len Brennan on Channel Four’s popular nineties TV show “Father Ted”, has such a defining act been witnessed by so many.
Not that it was a laughing matter at the time.
Luckily enough, after consulting with his linesmen, the Referee took the initial shoulder charge into Brady’s back into account, brandishing both player’s with a yellow card. Sometimes you need that bit of luck and just as the whole ground breathed a sigh of relief, upon the resumption of play Dempsey was unlucky to see his flicked goal attempt clear the head of the District’s Keeper, but agonisingly hit the outside of the post and roll wide.
Shamrock’s were dealt a hammer blow straight after, when corner back Eoin Horan suffered a broken arm in an innocuous incident, ending his involvement in the game and probably, the Ratoath man’s season. Heart breaking for Horan, who has been such a pivotal cog in that outstanding Shamrock’s full-back line all year. But most of all a massive loss to the Sham’s in their quest for honors this term. We wish him the speediest of recoveries.
Horan’s replacement, Darren ‘Chips’ Drummond made an immediate impact, kicking across his body from out on the right for a super score following good work from Kevin Boyle and fellow impact sub, Conor McGee.
The Sham’s had now settled. Fearghal McLoughlin was taking the game to Southern alongside centre forward Chris Hayes. Whilst full-back combo Jason Brosnan and Collie Donnelly, were mopping up serious ball in defence.
With just two minutes of the half remaining, Shamrock’s took the lead for the first time in the game.
A superbly timed hit by Meath’s Kevin Boyle allowed the ball to spill out to midfielder Danny McKavanagh, whose cross field pass found Ballyadam’s hitman Dempsey in space on the left. This season’s top scorer, took a step inside his man and split the posts on his right foot. The Laois man was now buzzing and closed out the first half scoring with a beautifully judged free from forty-five meters with the outside of his boot, leaving two between them at the break.
HT WESTERN SHAMROCKS 0-05
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 0-03
Shamrock’s, buoyed by their strong finish to the first half, set their stall out early to extend their slender lead in the opening quarter.
A fine Darren Drummond pass down the near touchline found Dempsey out in front, the Laois man turned outside and went at his man and after his first point attempt was well blocked, he regathered possession to pop over the bar on his left.
A minute later and a trademark Paddy McCabe burst out of defence was halted illegally by a District’s player, after much protest and a failure to retreat by Southern player’s, the Referee rightly moved the ball up where Brian Dempsey gladly slotted over the bar for his sixth point.
Mark Finnegan, who by his own standards had been quiet up to this point, showed his class with a huge free from just inside the forty-five with the aid of a slight breeze.
Twenty minutes remaining and all of a sudden the Sham’s were five clear. Brady and McKavanagh had come to grips in the middle of the field, and the breaks were at last being picked up by the boys in green.
This shift in dominance was personified with arguably the score of the game. Starting with another Brosnan turnover in defence, Abercrombie & Fitch model Hayes hit a long pass into the left corner were it was collected by (need I mention his name?) Brian Dempsey. A little roar, hop and a clenched fist from ‘Demps’ signaled to the large crowd looking on that the shot was a good one, as the ball just dropped over the bar. What a game the St. Joseph’s man was having.
For the next twelve or so minutes, District’s tested the Sham’s resolve as everyone knew they would. They did manage to reduce the lead to four points, but due to a mixture of excellent Shamrock’s pressure on the kick, aswell as some wayward District’s shooting, that was as good as it got for the maroons.
Finnegan’s goal effort would have finished it, but an amazing piece of goalkeeping, to deflect the Kildare man’s powerful shot onto the crossbar by the District’s keeper kept them in it.
With the game hanging in the balance, it took a towering score from near the forty-five by St. Senan’s Chris Hayes, to spark life back into the Sham’s and lift hos teammates for the remainder of the game.
Despite a District’s pointed response at the other end, ‘Chips’ Drummond peeled away from his marker, after Johnny Daughton won the ball back, to curl over the bar and send the Sham’s home with the two points as the Ref blew for full time shortly after.
FT WESTERN SHAMROCKS 0-11
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 0-06
Manager Ray ‘Bishop’ Reilly would have been happy with the spread of good performances across his team following the win.
Goalkeeper Pat White hasn’t been beaten in six games now. Collie Donnelly emptied the tank, while Jason Brosnan was outstanding on the edge of the square. Another of the Ratoath contingent, Kevin Boyle, gave his best performance of the year. He was well supplemented by half-back colleagues Paddy McCabe and the flying Clane wing back, Philly Doyle. His fellow clubman Richie Nevin showed tremendous discipline, having been ‘tagged’ the whole game and went about his usual work in the normal way unperturbed.
Up front Chris Hayes continued his recent good form, with a decent shift from his center forward berth. Brian Dempsey kicked seven excellent points, four from play for the second time this year against this opposition, keeping his unstoppable run of form going.
But the best player on the park for me was Fearghal McLoughlin of the Castlewellan club in Co. Down. The roaming wing forward wear’s number ten on his back, but realistically the way he plays means he can pop up anywhere on the field. His constant hassling of District’s players was a joy to watch, turning over a great amount of possession with his perfect timing of the tackle and putting his head in to win ball that wasn’t even remotely his right to win.
With the job only half done, a subdued Shamrock’s team warmed down and left the field without a whimper, knowing that nothing but a win will be required in their last game next Sunday, if their to reclaim the league title since their last triumph back in 2012.