Earls shows his class as St. Pat’s progress
GAELIC GAMES DOOLEY POYNTON SENIOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
St. Patrick’s 1-14, Blessington 2-9: County star Paul Earls showed his sheer football class and ingenuity at Aughrim on Saturday last as he guided his team St. Patrick’s to a place in the semi-finals of Wicklow’s Senior championship.
In titanic battle and marvellous game of football against Blessington, the St. Patrick’s wizard was the player that stood head and shoulders above everybody, the man who separated the teams and made the difference between victory and defeat for the sides.
With this display of football craft at full-forward, Earls proved that the fringes of his opponent’s square is unquestionably his best position, and the place from where he can inflict most pain and damage to the other side.
Blessington’s inside defenders started well as they set about containing the threat of St. Patrick’s inside attackers, but once Earls broke free of the shackles after the first quarter, he led the Blessington defence a merry dance throughout and, as well as being his team’s top scorer with 1-7, he also had a hand in many of the other scores as well.
Based on the quality of football in this match, St. Patrick’s will be strong contenders to win their third Senior football crown in five years, the previous two wins were in 2004 and 2006.
Blessington had the better start to this match and looked to be really motoring in the first 20 minutes as they opened up a gap of 0-6 to 0-2.
Anthony McLoughlin looked have the measure of Earls in the initial skirmishes as the Blessington defence closed out the threat posed by St. Patrick’s forwards; while at the other end they surged forward in waves of attacks and, as well as points on the board, were also outscoring their opponents in the wides stakes.
Jonathan Daniels got them off the mark in the second minute and he was menacing every time he got on the ball with Dean Siney an equally big threat to St. Patrick’s in the other corner-forward position.
In the third minute, however, Dara O’Sullivan equalised for St. Patrick’s, but that met with a quick response from Daniels who side-footed the ball over the bar to restore the hoops lead.
Dean Siney crossed over from his own corner-forward position to make himself available as the target man for a Blessington free on 12 minutes and he stretched the Westerners lead to 0-3 to 0-1.
Fourteen minutes were to elapse before Paul Earls got his name on the scoresheet for St. Patrick’s and that point was to presage a scintillating display of football from the Wicklow town forward.
For another six minutes, however, Blessington were the team still calling the tune as they surged forward for three unanswered points by Wesley O’Callaghan (2) and centre-forward Alan Ellis to stretch their lead to an unexpectedly large 0-6 to 0-2 after 20 minutes.
But with Paul Earls now escaping from the clutches of Anthony McLoughlin, he was providing his colleagues with the options going forward.
St. Patrick’s were now operating a two man inside forward line to create the space for Earls to work his magic. Repeatedly the outfield players pumped the ball down the right wing for Earls to run on to and then beat his opponents on the turn as he bore down on goal.
Earls floated two beauties over the bar in quick succession, centre-back and soccer star Paudge McWalter pushed forward to apply the clinical finish to a turn-over of possession.
In a five minute spell the Wicklow town men had sliced the Blessington lead to a minimum 0-6 to 0-5 at the break.
St. Patrick’s started the second-half where they left off in the first with Earls accounting for another two of their four points in the first seven minutes, both from frees, with the other two scores coming from hard workers John Slattery and Dara O’Sullivan as they took the lead for the first time in the match 0-9 to 0-6.
However, Blessington showed great resilience and determination on this occasion, they were not going to buckle under. And they fact that they and St. Patrick’s were prepared to play football all the way made for an enthralling and absorbing contest.
Barry O’Donovan was working hard in midfield for the westerners as they switched back on the offensive. A fine brace of points from Dean Siney, one form a free; an excellent third point from Jonathan Daniels and Blesso were back on level terms after 43 minutes 0-9 each. It was all to play for.
John Slattery pointed St. Patrick’s back in front after receiving a marvellous cross-field ball from his number ten David Smullen, who is back after injury but has still to recapture the form of a few years back.
The drama continued. On 48 minutes we had a peach of a goal from Paul Earls. Matthew Byrne pumped a line ball down the right flank for Paul Earls to run on to.
Earls jinked his way past his often two and three markers, scything his way in from the right before planking a left-footed shot just inside the near post, leaving Barry Behan with no hope.
From the kick-out play swung to the other end of the field and Blessington were awarded a penalty as Eoin Keogh was brought down in the box. Jonathan Daniels coolly tucked the spot kick into the right hand corner of Robert Hollingsworth’s net.
It was back to a one point game, St. Patrick’s leading 1-10 to 1-9 with just ten minutes left on the clock.
Wing-back Brian Cornyn and Slattery stretched that lead while Paul Earls shot an uncharacteristic wide before punching a point from a move involving substitutes Richard Murphy and Andy Jameson.
With only minutes left on the clock, St. Patrick’s looked to be fairly safe, ahead by four points 1-13 to 1-9.
And Blessington suffered further woe as substitute Dermot Richard was sent off by referee Kieran Kenny after picking up his second yellow card a shot time after he had been introduced.
But still Blessington did not give up, even after Paul Earls had added to their pain with his seventh point, and their perseverance rewarded with a late goal when Dean Siney hooked the ball to the net in injury-time.
But it still left Blesso losers by two points - 1-14 to 2-9.
Scorers for St. Patrick’s were: Paul Earls (1-7), John Slattery (0-3), Dara O’Sullivan (0-2), Paudge McWalter and Brian Cornyn (0-1 each).
Blessington scorers: Jonathan Daniels (1-3), Dean Siney (1-2), Wesley Callaghan (0-3), Alan Ellis (0-1).
St. Patrick’s: Robert Hollingsworth, Pádraig Higgins, Gary Jameson, David Byrne, Brian Cornyn, Paudge McWalter, Wayne Farrell, Gary Duffy, Dara McEvoy, David Smullen, John Slattery, Ciarán Doyle, Dara O’Sullivan, Paul Earls, Matthew Byrne. Subs. - Ronan Connolly for D. Byrne, Andy Jameson for M. Byrne, Seán Tobin for J. Slattery, Stephen Duffy for D. O’Sullivan.
Blessington: Barry Behan, Wayne O’Callaghan, Anthony McLoughlin, Declan Fennessy, Stephen Flanagan, Lee Brennan, Mick McLoughlin, Eoin Keogh, Barry O’Donovan, Patrick Brophy, Alan Ellis, Wesley O’Callaghan, Dean Siney, Kevin John Rogers, Jonathan Daniels. Subs. - Dermot Richardson for M. McLoughlin, Barry Murphy for Kevin John Rogers.
Referee: Kieran Kenny (Tinahely).
Paul Earls of St. Pat’s comes under pressure from Blessington's Wayne O’Callaghan and Stephen Flanagan.