St. Pa­trick’s stay in ti­tle race thanks to Earls’ late equaliser

Bray People - - Sport - Mark KENNEDY

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.

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