Bagenalstown Gaels 2-9
By Kieran Murphy
PERHAPS it was fitting the home side should win this under-20 football A championship second round game at their home ground of McGrath Park.
By doing so they assured themselves of a place in the semi-finals of the competition.
The ground was in pristine condition. The wire which had been attached to the barrier wall on the road side of the pitch has been taken away. It was a good decision as the wall on its own without the wire gives visitors a sense of space and a welcome feeling.
Not that a luckless Palatine team will have noticed those finer points on Thursday. With 21 minutes to go they trailed by eight points and the game looked over. They dug deep and it took a late, late winner to see the home side advance.
The first half tended to meander along. Thomas Sheehan scored the opening point to put the visitors in front. On seven minutes as Darragh Nolan took his time he was surely going for a point but the ball hopped short. It wasn’t the easiest job to gather but Luke Hickey was deceived by the bounce and the ball crossed the line.
That kind of concession can suck the energy out of a team but Palatine didn’t drop their heads. Nathan Holden tacked on another score for the Gaels but Andrew Kehoe rifled over two points for Palatine to level matters. The sides were level once more in the half but just before the break Robbie Kane and Darragh Nolan found the posts to give Bagenalstown a 1-4 to 0-5 lead at the interval.
Minutes into the second half Kane honed in from the right-hand side at the scoreboard end of the ground. His shot was half-hearted but the ball took a huge deflection and rolled into the right-hand side of the net with the entire defence left flat-footed. Further points from Nolan, Kealan Guidera and Jack McCullagh looked to be decisive.
An Andrew Kehoe free and a Cathal O’Neill point breathed new life into the Palatine challenge as the game took on a new urgency. Kehoe added two more points and from a difficult situation Palatine were back in touch.
A Thomas Sheehan point left only a goal between them. If the Bagenalstown goals were lucky than Palatine would have to say they enjoyed their fair share of good fortune when a high ball was not dealt with by the home defence and Sheehan found the net from close range.
That set up an exciting finish. Palatine could never get their noses in front. Instead Cian Doyle converted a free. In reply Sheehan was on hand to equalise.
Possession was all important as the game went into injury time. Bagenalstown familiarity with the ground may have helped. Carefully and methodically they worked the ball into the necessary space for Danny Doyle to take what looked like an easy chance. In the circumstances, it couldn’t have been in.
Palatine got one last chance but the home side were in no mood to let this one slip.
Bagenalstown Gaels: Eoin Johnston; Eoghan Dowling, Thomas McDonnell, Paul Kennedy; Richie Whelan, Danny Doyle (0-1), Brian Carroll; Jack McCullagh (0-1), Paddy McDonnell; Kealan Guidera (0-1), Nathan Holden (0-1), Mattie Curran; Cian Doyle (0-1 free), Robbie Kane (1-2), Darragh Nolan (1-2). Subs: Shea Somers for Curran (47 mins), Neil Martin for Holden (47 mins), Tadgh Holland for McCullagh (black card 58 mins).
Palatine: Luke Hickey; Conor Hickson, Craig Bowden, Danny Quigley; Dan Brennan, Darragh Heneghan, Jacob O’Brien; Finbarr Kavanagh, Cathal O’Neill (0-3); Thomas Sheehan (1-3), Gavin Healy, Jack Mitchell; Cillian Duff, Andrew Kehoe (0-5, 0-3 frees), Ian Kelly. Subs: Sean O’Sullivan for Mitchell (43 mins), Jordan O’Brien for Duff (45 mins).
Referee: Billy Fanning (Ballon).