Seven goals. Three penalties. Three men sent off. Three black cards. Only in a game between Western Shamrocks and their old rivals St. Finbarr’s could you conjure up the aforementioned statistics.
A beautiful, calm, winters afternoon at Tom Bateman Park set the scene for this round two opener, following a two-week lay off since their last league outing. The last time these sides met, Shamrocks ran out winners by the minimum of margins, following an impressive second half six point overhaul.
Manager Ray ‘Bish’ Reilly made a couple of changes before the throw-in. Goalkeeper Pat White was replaced by Anthony ‘Rashers’ Russell in front of an unchanged back line. Armagh man Danny McKavanagh got the nod at centerfield, following his impressive display when introduced from the bench the previous day. St. Senan’s Chris Hayes returned at wing forward following injury, while Fearghal McLoughlin took his place at No.13 replacing Claudy’s Gavin Donaghy. Similarly, Laois man Brian Dempsey, replaced the injured Brendan Maguire in the full forward line. A strong looking side on paper, but as the fella says, “games aren’t played on an A4 pad”…
Shamrocks started the brighter of the sides, opening the scoring with a Brian Dempsey goal, following a turnover of possession in their own half. The Ballyadam’s man marking his first start with a clinical finish, into the top right corner of the net. Finbarr’s struck back just five minutes later, with the first converted penalty of the day-to tie it up.
Impressive work-rate from Limerick man Hayes, forged an opening for Mark Finnegans opening score. A sublime left footed effort from the right hand side, following a lovely piece of individual skill to create the space for the shot.
Another penalty and another goal for Finbarr’s followed, when a miss hit free was collected inside the Shamrocks square. The referee deemed that the man was impeded and pointed immediately to the spot. Shamrocks responded positively however, two Seamus Kane free’s followed by a Mark Finnegan goal, after a poor opposition kickout found its way into the Kildare dangerman’s hands, steadied the ship and left the scoreboard reading 2-04 2-01 in favour of the Shams.
Alan Douglas was dominating the midfield exchanges, Jason Brosnan was relishing his role of Captain for the day and no.13 McLoughlin was getting through a site of work around the middle. Kane added another free, but that was to be his last input in the game, as the Donegal native recieved a straight red card for an off-the-ball incident with his opposite number.
That was to start a surreal chain of events that would literally turn this game on its head.
After the Ref had blown his whistle for half time, a skirmish broke out between a number of players in front of the Finbarr’s goal. After consulting his linesmen, together with his opposition counterpart, Shamrocks star forward Danny O’Keefe also recieved his marching orders. This would leave it 13 v 14 with the numerical advantage lying with St.Finbarrs.
Just when the Shams faithful thought it couldn’t get any worse, the forward department lost another key man, this time to illness, as Mark Finnegan indicated he would not be able to return for the second half. Rarely in such a short space of time has a team been decimated so badly, through a mixture of indiscipline and misfortune.
HT Western Shamrocks 2-05
St. Finbarr’s 2-01
You knew that the boys in green would be up against it for the remainder, following the events that took place before and during the interval. But in the opening quarter, this was not apparent, as they took the game to Finbarr’s, incredibly stretching their lead out to seven points.
The excellent Alan Douglas, with the outside of the right boot, swung the ball over from forty-five meters to kick things off. In the tenth minute, Dempsey wrong footed his marker and just as he was about to pull the trigger, was hauled down for the games third penalty. Clane wing-back Philly Doyle, confidently rolled the ball into the right corner, much to the delight of the Shams support. Dempsey was on the mark again shortly after, as a quick kickout from Russell found its way to McKavanagh, who found the St. Joseph’s man in space on the left. Dempsey stuck it on the left foot and measured a lovely, curling shot between the sticks to put an impressive ‘cushion’ between the sides.
Unfortunately for the Shams, that was to be their last score until injury time, as Finbarr’s clawed there way back into the game in the final quarter. With the numerical advantage and the strong start from Shamrocks beginning to take its toll, you knew they were going to get a period of dominance at some stage, it was just a matter of when and for how long. They answered these questions emphatically, as 2-07 was notched up in a devastating nineteen minute spell. Numerous attacks into the opposition half proved fruitless, as Shamrocks forwards repeatedly got caught in possession. This, added to some tired tackling in defense, resulted in the concession of several handy scoreable free’s. Substitute Kevin Boyle got a consolation score, to close out the scoring and leave St. Finbarr’s going home with the spoils, on a 3-08 to 4-10 scoreline.
Meath’s Alan Douglas was the outstanding player on the field with a performance that had everything. Whilst Richie Nevin again was solid at center back throughout. Half back line colleagues, Philly Doyle and Darren ‘Chips’ Drummond, worked tirelessly for the Shams cause.
So a sobering lesson for Shamrocks, who now need to dust themselves down quickly, as they look to bounce back next Sunday, against a Greenwood outfit they have struggled to beat in recent times.
FT Western Shamrocks 3-08
St. Finbarr’s 4-10