Excellent Davitts step up to the mark
Michael Davitts 1-12
By Kieran Murphy
It isn’t stretching it to say success in the U19 A final on the Friday before Christmas was as much a victory for Carlow football as it was for the Michael Davitts club itself.
Football in the county needs clubs like Davitts to come forward and assert themselves. No disrespect to Fenagh who are an exceptional group of players. Recently they have challenged the might of Éire Óg and have set the marker for underage football in the county. Now Davitts have also stepped up and won an A title.
“A huge win. Really important for so many reasons. The club has never won either an under-19, an under-20 or an under 21 final,” said Davitts co-selector Michael Meaney.
“I lost two A finals, Ger (Kavanagh) lost an A final. Cathal (Coughlan) lost an A final. This is so important. The first A at adult level.”
The eventual winners had to dig deep. Two issues in particular could have destroyed their challenge. Fenagh scored a goal in almost their first attack and in reply turned over so much ball in the first half and also shot six wides (nine in total). Just after scoring the goal which put them three points ahead on 44 minutes, they then lost leading scorer Aidan Lillis to a black card. What he went for is hard to say, as the ball wasn’t in play at the time.
Fenagh struck that first blow when Cian Kavanagh parried a shot but Colin Byrne scored from the rebound. They also had a goal disallowed when the ball was fisted forward and no-one got a hand to it before entering the net.
Gradually the eventual winners got going. Lillis scored three points on the trot to level the game but Sean Smithers restored the Fenagh lead with a free on 25 minutes. A move involving three players saw Liam Ryan shoot another Davitts equaliser. Just on half-time Michael Murphy’s free gave Fenagh a 1-2 to 0-4 lead.
It was tit-for-tat all through the second half. The key moment came when Darren O’Keeffe held his nerve when space opened up and he found the net with a low shot to the bottom right hand corner at the scoreboard end of the ground.
Then came the departure of Lillis. Shortly afterwards two Fenagh players were lucky not to see black for tackles off the ball. Not so fortunate was Davitts’ Jordan Kelly who also walked for a black card late on. No controversy there as he hauled back a Fenagh player bursting forward from inside his own half.
At that stage Davitts were three points up and only something special was going to deny them. To underline their determination, Cathal Brennan got in a huge block on a marauding rival forward as the entire defence stood up.
When they got a chance they came forward confidently, moving the ball forward through the hands. Who needs new rules? This was exciting stuff.
For a few minutes it looked as if Fenagh were going to rattle their opponents but Davitts were mentally tough. Crucially their replacements who came in made their mark, particularly Jack Malone who slotted the point which maintained a three-point lead. Davitts were in dreamland when Jamie Lunney slotted the insurance point at the death.
“We did it the hard way. We don’t have the experience Fenagh have. They have been the benchmark for the last five to six years,” said Meaney.
“We knew there would be mistakes. We started badly but we settled down and reacted to it. There is so much heart and determination in the side but everyone stepped up.”
Michael Davitts: Cian Kavanagh; Cathal Brennan, Tadgh Roche, Jamie Doyle; Jordan Kelly, Mikey Bambrick, Andy Mulleney; Ben Dorgan (0-1), Liam Brennan; Jason Daly, Darren O’Keeffe (1-1), Jamie Lunney (0-1); Liam Ryan (0-1), Aidan Lillis (0-5, 0-2 frees), Sean Taylor. Subs: Robert O’Byrne (0-1) for Daly (36 mins), Jack Malone (0-1) for Taylor (40 mins), Dylan Kavanagh (0-1) for Lillis (black card 44 mins), Fiach O’Toole (50 mins), PJ Haughney for Doyle (54 mins).
Fenagh: Rian Farrell; Niall Whelan, Conor Treacy, Luke Bradley; Eoin Kavanagh, Padraig Hynes, Jack Rowan; James Cummins, Jamie McCabe; Keegan Bradley, Michael Murphy (0-1f), Cormac Lomax (0-1); Sean Smithers (0-3, 0-2 frees), Jack Treacy (0-1), Colin Byrne (1-2). Subs: Mark Foley for C Treacy (50 mins), Sean Cummins for Whelan (59 mins), Shane Nolan for Kavanagh (59 mins).
Referee: Billy Fanning (Ballon)