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Graphic Tiles Fe 14 Westmeath County Final 2011

posted 29 Oct 2011, 13:33 by Unknown user   [ updated 6 Nov 2011, 13:07 ]
Athlone 3-7  Ballynacargy 1-10

Joyous scenes greeted the final whistle in Rosemount on Saturday as our all conquering U-14s added the County title to the Feile na nOg triumph earned earlier in the year. In bringing the title back to the Aras Chiarain the lads bridged a 22 year gap since our last U-14 title and have guaranteed that their names will be added to the list of greats that have donned the sky blue and white through the years. The record books will show that we dethroned the defending champions, Ballynacargy, on a scoreline of 3-07 to 1-10 but this won’t begin to tell the tale of a thoroughly engrossing and nail-biting spectacle. Sixty minutes of exhilarating football couldn’t separate the teams in Cusack Park the previous Sunday and the much talked about, last gasp free from Richie Greene to tie up the game has gone into GAA lore (from the 65 metre line at the last telling!!).

They say replays never match the drawn game but in this instance the old adage didn’t ring true. This game had everything.  From the four goals scored to the long range points from play, to terrific saves and some classic high fielding, it was a joy to behold. Many inter-county teams would have been glad to have shared 4-17 in a windswept O’Growney Park. In the end it was probably the goals that made the difference between these two well matched sides. Ballynacargy lost no face in defeat and further enhanced their reputation as a top quality underage club. However it was the sky blue and whites that were to prevail on the day.

The first half was played in a strong wind that was primarily across the pitch but slightly at the back of the Ballynacargy lads. Athlone raced into a 1-2 to 0-0 lead through two magnificent points from Captain Richie Greene who made a mockery of the conditions on the day with his shooting and passing accuracy. Sandwiched between these two scores was the first green flag of the day. Following a lovely flowing move “Big Sam” rifled the ball goalwards beating Corey Maher in the Ballynacargy net. It was a just reward for the hard working Omukoro who, with Daniel Reid as his partner, gave a master class in midfield. However, Ballynacaragy showed they were not going to be any push over when they kicked two points to leave a goal between the sides. However, the next score for the Blues was another major. Few goals have been greeted with as much delight. Playing his first match since an horrific injury in the opening game of the All-Ireland Feile finals in Cork last June, Patrick Munnelly showed he had lost none of his quick thinking when he raced onto a fantastic ball from a Richie Greene free as the Ballynacargy defence stood and watched the six-footer blast the ball into the net. It was a fitting testament to the dedication and character Patrick displayed in getting himself fit (most observers had written this season off for the very promising young Coosan lad). However this turned out to be the last score of the half for our lads as Ballynacargy tacked on five unanswered points to leave the bare minimum between the sides. Indeed things could have been a lot worse were it not for a brilliant save from Conor Devaney in the Athlone goal. As it was the half ended with only a point between the sides and the nerves of the onlookers well and truly frayed.

The second half took off where the first half ended and Ballynacargy notched their eighth point to bring the sides level. The tension from the crowd was palpable at this stage as everyone sensed that the next score was crucial. Fittingly it was that man Munnelly again who raised another green flag. Following an excellent move that started from the Athlone half back line, through midfield, the ball found its way to the always dangerous Ryan Gaffey whose goal bound shot was somehow repelled by the Ballynacragy defence but Patrick was on hand to finish the ball to the net to leave Athlone a goal to the good again. Ballynacaragy were in no mood to let their title go without a fight and they again pegged us back with an excellent free from their full forward Ben Wilson who up to that had been kept very quiet by the masterful Kevin Martin at full back who gave another display way beyond his years.  However, as good as that score was, it was eclipsed moments later by Richie Greene and Tadhg Prendergast who gave exhibitions of point taking to put us four points ahead heading into the last ten minutes. As we’ve come to expect from this team, they don’t make it easy on the supporters and already frayed nerves took another battering when a quick 13 metre free found the Athlone net to leave just one between the teams. Alex Ferguson would have called it “squeaky-bum time”.  However, cometh the hour, cometh the man. In this case a few men. From the resulting kick-out big Sam fed the very impressive Michael Doolan who launched a ball down the Athlone left to where Kieran Rigney gained possession.  It was as if he could sense the importance of the attack and came for the ball like a man possessed, gathering it into his chest and rounding his opposite number before laying the ball back to Daniel Reid who launched one from forty metres that never left the black spot. It was a truly inspiring score from Daniel who had covered every blade grass on the pitch. Moments later Patrick Munnelly popped up to add to his own personal tally with a very well crafted point that started with Sean Keena and saw the ball pass through six Athlone players before being finished off by the ever reliable front-man. The back six restricted Ballynacragy to 3 scores in the second half with the full back line of Fabian Cooke, Kevin Martin and Sean Dowd quite excellent. In the latter stages of the game the half back line were particularly impressive in wiping out any threat from the Ballynacargy lads. Fionn Dowd, Cathal Stacey and Michael Doolan showed experience beyond their years in calming the game down in the final few minutes. With only minutes on the clock and the Ballynacargy threat fading the Athlone lads displayed remarkable composure. The right option was taken as the lads played “keep ball” in the opposing half and wound down the clock.

Delirious joy greeted the final whistle as the players were surrounded by supporters eager to congratulate the lads on what was a thrilling game. Captain Richie Greene was presented with the trophy by Westmeath Minor Board Chairman John Weir to the delight of all in attendance. The parade through town and the celebrations in the club afterwards made it a day to remember for all involved.

The way the lads fought for every ball and every score was inspirational and they have helped put us back at the top table of Westmeath football. Enormous praise goes to each and every member of the panel. One cannot say enough good things about the management team of Davy Allen, Jim Rigney, John Martin and Joe Fallon. This was the lad’s seventeenth (17) club game of 2011, not including the eight they played in the Feile na nOg competition. The lads have shown fantastic commitment, not just this year but over the past number of years. Watching the lads play the game as it should be played, in the expansive manner synonymous with Athlone teams of the past, is testament to their coaching abilities and footballing beliefs. Huge credit and thanks due to all concerned.