By Noel Dundon
Murphy Office Systems
Mid Minor A Football Final
JK Brackens 2-15
Holycross Ballycahill 5-5 (A.E.T.)
Epic encounter this. Favourites JK Brackens needed extra time to claim the Murphy Office Systems Mid Minor A Football title after a titanic struggle against rivals Holycross Ballycahill at Templetuohy on Thursday evening last in what can only be described as a wonderful contest.
Granted the football at times was not top drawer fare, but nobody could question the intent of both sides as they went about their business with great purpose right from the throw-in, to the final whistle some ninety minutes later.
This game had it all - great scores, fabulous passages of play, hard hitting, but with a great sporting flavour also, apart from one melee right at the end of normal time which was ugly enough, but which didn’t affect the intent afterwards. Brackens were reduced to fourteen men for the remainder of the game and extra time after defender Niall Martin was dismissed following the melee having received a second yellow card.
Three first half goals seemed to set up Holycross Ballycahill as Raymie Nally, Malachy Gavin and Jack Skehan rattled the back of the Brackens net in the 8th, 19th and 22nd minutes.
Brackens had the strong breeze at their backs and despite having points from Dean McEnroe (3), Jack Fogarty, and Colin O’Riordan they were in arerars at the break by 3-2 to 0-5 - Malachy Gavin and Liam Moloney also getting points for Holycross Ballycahill.
It was obvious though that the Holycross Ballycahill men needed to do something about Colin O’Riordan’s dominance. The county minor footballer was fielding great high ball and distributing ammunition for his colleagues, but unfortunately for Brackens, the shooting was off slightly with seven wides materialising for them.
Upon resumption, it didn’t take the eventual champions long to find their range. Brackens blitzed Holycross Ballycahill in the third quarter and went from being six points down to four up within 12 minutes of the re-start. Sean Patrick Guerins, now operating in a more offensive role shot two points to go along with one from Jack Fogarty, and then Gureins goalled in the 11th minute after finding his way through the Holycross Ballycahill rearguard.
The points continued to fly over as everything Brackens touched turned to gold with Fogarty (2) and Colin O’Riordan giving them a 2-10 to 3-2 lead by the end of the third quarter.
Twelve scores to five was more an indication of the nature of the game alright at this stage, but Holycross Ballycahill showed tremendous guts to fight their way back into the match. Pointed frees from Thomas Slattery Fitzgerald and Paul Morris preceded another Colin O’Riordan effort which was cancelled by Seanie Nally. And with Thomas Quinlan, Nally and the Gavin brothers really pressing hard, Holycross Ballycahill began to ask more questions of the Brackens defence.
A clearance off the Brackens goal line maintained the three points lead but Holycross Ballycahill were coming very strong now and pushing for an equalising goal. It looked as though their race was run though and when the melee broke out and saw subs and mentors leaping the fence to get involved right at the very end, it seemed as though referee Tom McGrath (Loughmore Castleiney) would blow the final whistle to call and end to proceedings. In fairness the melee featured more blowing bodies than bodyblows and when order was restored there was still some time left for action - there had been quite a few stoppages throughout the game.
Holycross Ballycahill camped in the Brackens half of the field and their efforts were rewarded when substitute Callum O’Connor fisted a 37th minute goal to the net to force extra time. High drama indeed.
With the floodlights now in operation, they went at it again and a Ciaran Maher goal in the 3rd minute after a Gavin Shelly pass gave Holycross Ballycahill the edge at the break - Sean Patrick Guerins and Dean McEnroe having points for JK Brackens. And, it was the Brackens lads who made the running in the second period too with McEnroe and Jack Fogarty giving them the lead with three to go. Holycross Ballycahill fought like tigers in search of an equaliser but it was not to happen for them this time and Brackens squeezed through to claim the silverware by the slenderest of margins.
Holycross Ballycahill will be the first to acknowledge that the JK Brackens lads were probably the better footballers on the night, However, they received one hell of a battle from their very determined and spirited opponents who left absolutely nothing on the field. They really showed courage and fight and with the likes of the Nally’s, the Gavin’s, Kieran O’Dwyer, Shane Ryan, Thomas Quinlan and Liam Moloney very prominent, they can be justifiably proud of their contribution to one of the best contests in the grade for many a year. Although defeat was to be their lot in this one, their performance will stand them good stead for the hurling championship.
JK Brackens ability to take scores was the key and while they kicked 16 wides in the game, they will point to the abilities of Dean McEnroe, Sean Patrick Guerins and Jack Fogarty as being crucial to their win. However, Colin O’Riordan was the big difference between the sides. He was all over the field and used possession very wisely - much of it gained from high fielding of kickouts. Thomas Brett, James Bergin, Jordon Moloney, Liam Murphy and Eamonn Kennedy were also very prominent for Brackens on what was a great night of celebration .... eventually.
Teams and Scorers:
JK Brackens: C Burke, L Fennell, L Murphy, N Martin, T Brett, J Bergin, E Kennedy, D McEnroe 0-6, S P Guerins 2-2, B Kennedy, C O’Riordan 0-2, J Moloney, K Kennedy, J Fogarty 0-5, P Morrissey. Subs used: D Kennedy, S Maher-Coonan.
Holycross Ballycahill: M Stakelum, D Carroll, K O’Dwyer, P O’Dwyer, L Moloney 0-1, S Ryan, R Nally 1-0, P Gavin, T Quinlan, J Skehan 1-0, M Gavin 1-1, S Nally 0-1, T Slattery Fitzgerald, B Hanrahan, P Morris 0-1. Subs used: C O’Connor, 1-0, A Ryan, C Maher 1-0, G Shelly.
Referee: Tom McGrath (Loughmore Castleiney)