Ahhh six o’clock on a Monday. The Kettle’s boiled, a packet of biccie’s have been smuggled from the kitchen and the slippers are on. Forget the “Six one news” or your “Current Affair”, its time for the Shamrock’s match report with Gerry McCullagh.
Round six of the men’s senior league pitted Western Shamrocks against the unbeaten league-leaders Southern Districts, on Sunday lunch time at Tom Bateman Reserve.
Six weeks ago, a powerful second-half finish from the District’s gave them a comfortable, eight-point win in round three. One would think that a notable improvement was required by Shamrock’s if they were to have any chance of reversing the outcome in this one.
Manager Ray ‘Bish’ Reilly, unsurprisingly stayed true to the side that beat Greenwood seven days previous. Cork man Pat White resumed in goal after his trip home, while Jason Gavy’s infected finger had healed sufficiently to take his place at corner back. Positional changes, including Meath dual star Alan Douglas switching from midfield to center forward and Crettyard’s Adrian Byrne moving out to left-half forward from the corner, completed the look of a solid lineup.
There was nothing ‘solid’ about what unfolded after the throw-in however. A double error in defense let the District’s corner forward in on goal who finished in style-drilling the ball into the top left corner of Pat White’s net. A lot of “hands-on-heads” around the Sham’s dugout, but a dream start for the reigning state champions.
Shamrock’s to their credit, remained focused and had made a complete recovery by the tenth minute. “Scorer-in-chief” from the last day Brian Dempsey kicked all three points, the last a lovely left footed effort from play, after Adrian Byrne found his fellow Laois man with a super cross-field ball, into the railway end of the ground.
An excellent burst from center back Paddy McCabe through the middle drew another free for Dempsey to convert, and after twenty-one minutes played the scoreline read 0-05 to 1-01 in favor of Shamrock’s. The sharper, hungrier Sham’s outfit, were forcing their opponent’s to foul and with Dempsey in such deadly form from free’s, the momentum had swung their way after thee aforementioned nightmare start.
In the closing ten minutes of the half, Shamrock’s widened the gap. A long ball from Mark Finnegan, from another Paddy McCabe turnover in defense, found the lively Dempsey in front of goal. The St. Joseph’s man’s initial shot was saved, but after Jonny Brady’s follow up was illegally touched on the ground by a Southern defender, the Referee had no choice but to point to the spot. Up stepped the man who “doesn’t have the look of a placed ball kicker” Philly Doyle, to dispatch an almost identical strike to his successful penalty at the same end a fortnight ago, to the back of the District’s net. It was no more than the dominant Shamrock’s had deserved. Paddy McCabe and Co. in defense were turning over a lot of ball and in the type of form the forwards were in, it was a justified scoreline. Dempsey closed the first half scoring with his sixth point, to leave five between them at the break.
HT WESTERN SHAMROCKS 1-06
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 1-01
The second half started at a ferocious pace as both teams went for the kill. The pattern flowed from end to end but with both defenses on top, scores were at a premium. The first went to District’s just short of the halfway point in the half, reflecting the scrappy nature of the opening exchanges. Two minutes later and enter St. Laurence’s Mark Finnegan with the first of his scores for the hour. A great move started by substitute Fearghal McLoughlin, was worked up-field through the hands of Douglas, Byrne and Richie Nevin before Finnegan unleashed on the right boot, from forty-five meters straight over the bar.
The latter score lifted the Sham’s, penalty taker Philly Doyle went on an incisive run through the heart of the Southern defense and spotted the unmarked Jonny Brady going through on goal. With just the keeper to beat, the big Meath man pulled instinctively on the ball, catching the goalkeeper by surprise and guided the ball low to the right corner of the net.
All of a sudden a nine point gap had been opened up, with less than ten minutes remaining.
Southern District’s rallied to kick the next three points, but everything that was thrown at them, Shamrock’s had an answer for. Alan Douglas took the right option, fisting over on the run for his first score and then Finnegan, emulating his earlier effort from play, drove over the bar with the outside of the right from all of fifty meters-this time from a free.
Two injury-time points from District’s were of little consequence, as the Sham’s closed out the game to claim that elusive back-to-back win, on a scoreline of 2-10 to 1-07.
Manager Ray Reilly will be happy as this was the Sham’s most complete team performance to date. Paddy McCabe had an excellent game. The Cavan defender showed remarkable athleticism at center back, really leading by example at the heart of the Sham defence. Chris Hayes, Douglas and Adrian Byrne worked very hard up front while Jonny Brady will be let watch an extra hour of cartoons on telly tonight, after his goal finished off any chance of an unlikely District’s resurgence. Brian Dempsey’s seven points, meant the Laois man took the scoring plaudits for the second week running.
FT WESTERN SHAMROCKS 2-10
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 1-07