St. Patrick’s stay in title race thanks to Earls’ late equaliser
Kiltegan 1-11, St. Patrick’s 2-8: Kiltegan and St. Patrick’s must meet again next Sunday at Aughrim to decide the destination of the Miley Cup after the sides played a thrilling draw in a cracking final last weekend.
As the final went down to the wire like in 2006, this time St. Patrick’s county star Paul Earls had to salvage his team’s championship ambitions with a late, late equaliser.
As the match ticked over into injury time it looked as if underdogs Kiltegan were going to bridge a 22 year gap to their last title win in 1986, poised to win by a Geoffrey Bermingham point scored three minutes from the end of normal time.
In 2006 it was Kiltegan who had to stage a second half rally to try and save the day; but they pulled up short and lost by a kick of a ball 010 to 1-10.
This time it was St. Patrick’s who were chasing the game and fighting for dear life. Into the last minute of injury time their last gasp effort won a free, far out on the wing and 50 metres from the Kiltegan posts.
Without doubt this was a huge pressure kick for the St. Patrick’s number 14. His team’s life depended on it. Once again Paul Earls, who sank Kiltegan’s hopes two year’s ago with his 1-7 score for St. Patrick’s, showed nerves of steel as he drilled the free between the posts to send the final to a replay this weekend.
St. Patrick’s had gotten out of jail, Kiltegan were disappointed they had not put their opponents away when they had the opportunities to do so.
Twice during the match they had led the Wicklow town side by four points but they did not push on from there; instead they allowed St. Patrick’s to come back each time to draw level.
With a burning ambition to win the senior football title, Kiltegan set the pace throughout what was a cracker of a final and St. Patrick’s found themselves playing catch-up all the way.
John Keogh opened for Kiltegan with a point after four minutes and they went on to lead by 1-5 to 0-4 at the break thanks to a goal from a penalty three minutes before half time.
Seanie Furlong cracked a long range shot against the St. Patrick’s goal-post, influential Derek Daly was fouled as he fielded the rebound on the edge of the square; and then Furlong applied the clinical finish when he tucked the spot kick neatly into the left corner of Robert Hollingsworth’s net.
Scoring was low despite the fact that the play zipped from end-toend all the way.
Seanie Furlong stretched the Kiltegan lead on 11 minutes and we had to wait until the 12th minute for St. Patrick’s to open their account.
As Kiltegan tried to move forward they were caught by a turn-over and counter offensive with Dara McEvoy and Paudge McWalter setting up centre-forward John Slattery for the point.
Paul Earls was seeing little of the ball, due in the main to Kiltegan’s defensive strategy of deploying Adrian Foley at centre-back as a sweeper, and star midfielder Jacko Dalton cutting off the supply by dominating the centre-field exchanges.
On 15 minutes, however, Earls was to dodge his way past two Kiltegan defenders to fire over the equaliser, having been fed a great ball up the right wing by Dara McEvoy; and two minutes later St. Patrick’s led briefly for the only time of the match when Dara O’Sullivan pointed.
Dara O’Sullivan had a fine game in attack for St. Patrick’s on Sunday, ending up as their top scorer with 1-3, and he was ably assisted by his centre-forward John Slattery.
A move involving many of Kiltegan’s key players, Dalton and Derek Daly, Seanie Furlong and James Doyle forced Gary Jameson into committing a foul on Furlong, who punished the St. Patrick’s indiscretion with a point. On 23 minutes the sides were level again 0-3 each.
Four minutes later and Kiltegan were awarded their penalty. Seanie Furlong crashed a shot against the woodwork, Derek Daly was fouled in the box as he took control of the rebound; and finally Robert Hollingsworth was left helpless in goal as Furlong tucked the spot kick into the left corner of the net.
That goal set St. Patrick up for their four point lead, 1-5 to 0-4, at the break.
The tempo of the exchanges was ratcheted up a gear in the second half and the near 5,000 crowd was treated to a game of end-to-end football.
That Kiltegan lead lasted just four minutes as St. Patrick’s had a great start to the second half. On fire Dara O’Sullivan slotted over a quick point and then followed up with a goal when he left-footed to the net after good work by substitute Ciaran Doyle and full-back Gary Jameson who had an excellent game and was thundering forward to get his team back in the match.
On 34 minutes the sides were again level at 1-5 each.
Fleet footed and determined Kiltegan stepped on the gas once more and points by Rory Finn, James Doyle, Derek Daly and Seanie Furlong gave them a four point cushion for a second time at the end of the third quarter – 1-9 to 1-5.
Once more Kiltegan failed to deliver the knock out punch, allowing their opponents to get back off the ropes.
And the man who took the fight to Kiltegan was the St. Patrick’s centre- back Paudge McWalter who delivered a truly awesome display.
Bloodied but unbowed, McWalter drove at the Kiltegan ramparts time and time again and it was his fearless work in pounding his opponents’ defence that led to Paul Earls equalising goal on 54 minutes.
McWalter’s sizzling shot came back off the woodwork; Earls was lurking menacingly on the edge of the box for the rebound. He skated round his marker before left-footing to the back of the net. The sides were level at 2-7 to 1-10 and it was all to play for.
Four minutes later Geoffrey Bermingham, the Kiltegan corner- back, surged forward as part of an attacking move and he pointed his team back in front.
St. Patrick’s had dig deep yet again and in the second minute of injury time they won a free out on the wing. St. Patrick’s survival rested in the hands (or should we say feet) of Paul Earls and he was not found wanting as he pointed to level the match for the fifth and last time.
Declan Peppard may have blown full- time a little early but who could blame him. Apart from partisan supporters no one wanted to see either team lose at that stage.
And we feel most people would want to savour a second helping of a final like this one.
Ronan Connolly of St. gets a grip on Kiltegan’s Seanie Furlong.
Paul Earls of St. Patrick’s is surrounded by Kiltegan defenders.