Leinster Minor Club Football Tournament
By Kieran Murphy
THIS was a rip-roaring Leinster minor football clash at Pairc Ui Bhriain on Sunday which went to extra time. With the drama continuing right to the very end it was Athlone substitute Sean Dowd who scooped the ball to the net to break Fenagh hearts.
The losing side will not need reminding they scored 18 times while the opposition scored only 11 times. But at the end it was the Carlow side’s inability to get even one three-pointer themselves which hurt them.
On the other hand Shane Allen, Brendan Martin and the classy Josh Beaumont struck for goals on nine, 11 and 24 minutes which undid so much of the good work Fenagh had accomplished.
From beginning to end, Padraig Hynes was superb for Fenagh. Not far behind him was Jamie McCabe while around the pitch Fenagh’s fitness was apparent. So many of the Carlow side’s scores came from careful build-ups then rapid transfers to supporting teammates.
Jack Treacy, Mark Foley and Sean Smithers looked sharp up front and all registered points from play as Athlone led 3-3 to 0-8 at the interval.
Early second-half points from Hynes and Colin Byrne cut the visitors lead to two points and Fenagh were happy to concede a 45 when their keeper, Jack Hughes, brilliantly dived to his left to keep out a shot from Beaumont. Nevertheless, Kieran Colclough converted the resultant 45.
After that Cormac Lomax pointed and Byrne added a free while Michael Murphy was unlucky to see an opportunist’s effort come back off the crossbar into the safety of the Athlone defenders. A goal would have been massive for the Carlow side.
Shortly after this a high tackle by Eamon Forde saw the Athlone sub receive a straight red card. Fenagh didn’t make use of the extra man and with the sides level and time running out Athlone’s Shane Allen lofted over a wonderful point.
With less than two minutes left on the clock it looked curtains for Fenagh but they forced a free at the death and Sean Smithers stroked over the equaliser from a tricky angle on the right to tie the scores at 0-15 to 3-6.
The Éire Óg organisers planned for five minutes each way extra time and for four minutes of the first half it was all Fenagh. Two points from Jamie McCabe and one from Hynes should have been decisive but a point from a free by Sean Dowd gave Athlone something to aim for going into the second period of extra-time.
Fenagh defended from deep and paid the penalty when a delivery by Luke Kelly was met by Dowd who just about forced the ball over the Fenagh line.
The Carlow champions never looked like forcing an equaliser. It was tough. Football was the winner but judging by the looks on the faces of the players and supporters, they knew themselves this was one which got away from them.
Credit must go to the Fenagh players who had a fantastic year and did so well to go so far in this competition and win Fenaghs first county title in over 50 years. Many of these players were also on the Ballinkillen Hurling team who won the minor county title several weeks ago and put in trojan work with both clubs. The two clubs have both had a fantastic year with the u16s and minors as they won both the u16 double and the minor double, which has never before happened. It is needless to say but Fenagh and Ballinkillen have a very bright future and may be winning more than just minor titles in the coming years.
Athlone: John Duddy; Niall Doolan, James Finlass, Patrick Ryan; Anthony Johnston, Diarmuid Martin, Patrick McGettigan; Kieran Colclough (0-1, 45), Shane Allen (1-1); Joseph Offerjama, Luke Kelly, Mark Egan (0-1); Josh Beaumont (1-1), Stephen O’Connor, Brendan Martin (1-2). Subs: Eamon Forde for Doolan (39 mins), Sean Dowd (1-1) for O’Connor (41 mins), Enda Tynan Daly for Kelly (47 mins), David Cleary for Johnston (59 mins), Kelly for Egan (62 mins).
Fenagh: Jack Hughes; Niall Whelan, Sean Cummins, Eoin Kavanagh; Keagan Bradley, Padraig Hynes (0-5), Jack Rowan; Ciaran Whelan, Jamie McCabe (0-2); Cormac Lomax (0-1), Michael Murphy (0-2 frees), Sean Smithers (0-2, 0-1 free); Jack Treacy (0-2), Mark Foley (0-1), Colin Byrne (0-3fs). Subs: James Cummins for Foley (18 mins), Shane Nolan for N Whelan (59 mins).
Referee: Paud O’Dwyer (Carlow)