It was heartbreak for Western Shamrocks yesterday afternoon, as the league champions exited the championship race at the semi-final stage, to a spirited Morley Gaels outfit for the second year running.
With only one point separating them on the last two occasions these sides met, including that epic encounter two weeks ago that clinched the league title for the Sham’s in the most dramatic of fashion, the common belief was that this tie would be no different and that a huge effort would be required if the boys were to reach the final for the first time since 2012.
The Sham’s had a strong looking twenty-one man panel on the day. With the exception of Ratoath chocolate man Ger McCullagh’s freak ankle injury sustained in training ten days previous, Ray ‘Bishop’ Reilly had a plentiful hand to pick from.
Looking to freshen up what looked a tired Shamrock’s performance a fortnight ago, ‘Bish’ made one or two positional changes.
Centre forward Chris Hayes, after his impressive showing there the last day, traded places with midfielder Danny McKavanagh, whilst exciting Down teenager Conor Magee, made his first start of the year at full forward, following a string of excellent contributions from the bench in the latter stages of the league.
The interchange bench looked as healthy as it did all year, with multiple championship winner Collie Donnelly, former Derry county man Gavin Donaghy and former Kerry minor & U-21 Paidi Sheehan all available, to name but a few.
Seventy minutes to decide who would go through on a sweltering Perth spring morning. Shamrock’s despite their initial dominance, were slow to settle, kicking several sloppy wides in the opening exchanges.
Armagh man McKavanagh finally hit the target for the Sham’s, collecting a recycled pass from Richie Nevin to launch over from forty metres out.
Unfortunately, this was the only score to show for the amount of possession Shamrock’s had and Morley duly took advantage.
Finding themselves 0-2 0-4 down after twenty minutes, a disjointed Shamrock’s looked unrecognisable to the team that were unbeaten in their last seven games.
A penetrating run into the heart of the Morley defence by the lively McKavanagh, released Brian Dempsey through on goal, but the St. Joseph’s hit-man was unlawfully impeded just as he pulled the trigger, for a stonewall penalty at the Nicholson road end.
Dead ball specialist Philly Doyle stepped up to take it, but his well struck effort was brilliantly saved by the Morley keeper, somehow getting down low to his right to deflect the ball round the outside of the post.
A first failed penalty attempt from Doyle this year at a crucial stage, but a goal here would have totally been against the run of play, as Morley bossed the remainder of the half.
Now four points behind, the final act before the break went to one man who was trying everything to lift his teammates to the challenge that lay before them.
Former Limerick U-21 Hayes gathered possession on the run and from the tightest of angles in the right corner, curled the ball between the posts to leave only three points in it, having not even got out of second gear.
HT WESTERN SHAMROCKS 0-03
MORLEY GAELS 0-06
Inside the Sham’s dressing room, there was a common feeling that we hadn’t performed. But with thirty-five minutes left to play and only three points in arrears, the boys in green re-entered the field with renewed optimism that they could right the wrongs of a disappointing first half performance.
Added to this, Bishop’s babes would have whatever advantage the significant breeze blowing toward the railway end of the field was offering.
The gang of boys nestled in the Shamrock’s dugout, certainly felt that the game was far from a foregone conclusion. This side has frequently produced when their backs were against the wall and have been known as a second half team, finishing every game strongly particularly in tight situations.
If they were to turn things around, the league champions needed early scores to mount any sort of recovery.
Unfortunately, this never happened as things slowly fell apart on the field. After just eight minutes Morley had doubled their advantage to six points, Pat White made an excellent point blank save to keep it alive, barely.
Ratoath pair Jonny Brady and Kevin Boyle departed the action with a black card a piece, uncharacteristic mistakes were plentiful all over the field and the shape of the team was, well there was no shape, really.
Full back Jason Brosnan and centre-half back Paddy McCabe inparticular, were fighting gallantly against a rampant Morley forward line. With the exception of the inspirational Hayes at midfield and Clann Eirinn man McKavanagh on the forty, it was hard to see where the required scores were going to come from.
Morley had also dropped three men deep in front of this years top scorer Dempsey, severely limiting the St. Joseph’s man’s influence on proceedings.
After Morley had pulled eight points clear, Shamrock’s to their testament, finished the remaining quarter of the match the stronger of the two sides. Points from Dempsey, Gav Donaghy and McKavanagh instilled hope amongst the large Sham’s support.
With time almost up, a brilliant Doyle pass from distance found Donaghy in the square. The former Queen’s University student’s shot was blocked by a Morley defender’s foot and the Ref didn’t hesitate to stick the two arm’s out, indicating a second penalty for Shamrock’s.
Testament to the Clane man’s character, Philly Doyle took on the responsibility to blast the ball to the opposite corner of the Morley net, making amends for his earlier miss.
Incredibly having played so poorly, ’Bishop’s’ men were now only two points down, with still two minutes left on the clock.
As they searched in vain for another goal, time dwindled away and it was certainly a case of “too little, too late” for the Sham’s. Morley caught them in possession and counter attacked for the insurance point, to beat Shamrock’s for the first time this year and book their place in next weeks final.
FT WESTERN SHAMROCKS 1-8
MORLEY GAELS 0-14
It was a bad day at the office for the club as a whole, as both Ladies and Men’s sides exited the championship race on the same day. Special mention must be attoned to the performance of Cresslough’s Paddy McCabe, who gave a suberb display from his centre-back berth. He was not once beaten by an opponent and in the second half, was not only defending by example, but leading the attack aswell. An excellent year in the green and white for the Cavan native.
Chris Hayes has been arguably Shamrock’s best player since the opening game of the last round of the league. He produced another breathtaking midfield display, with examples of high fielding, score taking and pure desire to lead his teammates to the final.
Similar to Hayes, Jason Brosnan at full-back never put a foot wrong and the aforementioned McKavanagh, and Donaghy when introduced, left everything they had on the field.
Sadly, their opponents had just too many boys on song on the day.
Its hard to win a game, such is the competitiveness here in WA, but to win seven on-the-trot on the way to a league title, may have taken its toll on a Shamrock’s side who once the dust settles, can be very proud of their efforts this term.
Manager Ray Reilly can draw much satisfaction from the way he, along with fellow clubman Ciaran Duffy, transformed this team from 2013 no-hoper’s, to a supremely fit, well organised, formidable side that set the standard in Western Australia this year.
The league title, will provide these players with a solid platform to come back in 2015 stronger and hungrier than ever before, to ultimately gain that elusive Championship that the players and management crave so much.
We now look forward to the Annual Awards and Dinner Dance at the elegant Crown Casino, Burswood on September 6th, where all members can celebrate an excellent year for the club.
Tickets are still available @ $140 per person, please contact us for booking details!
I would like to dedicate this report to the very sad passing of Anthony ‘Rashers’ Russell’s father, Tony, at home this morning.
The thoughts and prayers of the entire Shamrock’s family are with the popular Limerick clubman and his family at this time.