Determined Kiltegan edge past St. Patrick’s in replay
Kiltegan 0-9, St. Patrick’s 1-5: Kiltegan realised a long cherish dream at Aughrim on Sunday when they took the Miley Cup west of the hills by beating rivals St. Patrick’s by the narrowest of margins in a very competitive final replay.
In winning Kiltegan were bridging a 22 year gap to the last time they were crowned senior football champions in Wicklow in 1986.
And victory was made all the sweeter on Sunday by the fact that they had to win it the hard way, being pushed all the way down to the wire by a St. Patrick’s side that was setting the pace and raising the bar throughout the second half.
A Paul Earls goal in the first ten minutes of the second half, which gave St. Patrick’s the lead, was the type of blow to floor many an opponent, but a driven Kiltegan fifteen were in no mood to surrender on this occasion.
Indeed they scrapped for everything throughout a highly competitive match. It was not a classic by any means, and every time that St. Patrick’s got their nose in front - they struck back immediately for a leveller.
Coming up to the crucial closing stages of another titanic struggle between the sides, watched by close on 5,000 fans, the sides were deadlocked and it was all to play for.
One moment it looked as if St. Patrick’s might prevail, the next minute Kiltegan were fighting back. With two minutes to go, the ball was fed to Kiltegan’s corner-forward James Doyle on the left flank and he showed a cool head and steady boot as he drilled his shoot between the posts for the winner.
Against a St. Patrick’s side, who came back in the second half a week earlier to draw the match, it is never over until the fat lady sings. In injury they came surging forward once more and extra time seemed to be looming on the horizon as they won a 45 metre free out wide near the side line.
It was a difficult kick for Paul Earls, even though he had scored a couple of beauties earlier in the half. A week ago he showed nerves of steel as he fired over the equaliser from a free; this time Homer nodded and he pulled his shot wide of the Kiltegan posts.
And then the fat lady sang as Declan Greene sounded the final whistle and it unleashed wild celebrations by Kiltegan players and fans as they savoured a famous victory that will go down in the annals of the small west Wicklow club.
The drama and tension and nail biting finish that gripped us all in the second half was a world part from thee lack-lustre, free-ridden opening 30 minutes as both teams concentrated on possession football, using the short passing game.
Both Kiltegan and St. Patrick’s rejigged their teams for the replay, bringing in some new players as well as making numerous positional switches as a ploy to confuse their opponents, but perhaps in the end they confused themselves as much as anybody else, with the scoring rate that heightens spectator interest being a big casualty.
After 27 minutes play, punctuated by over 20 frees, we only had four points on the scoreboard with St. Patrick’s corner-forward Dara O’Sullivan cancelling out Seanie Furlong’s two lead points for Kiltegan, the first and opener from a free after two minutes.
Kiltegan sought to upset the plans of their opponents by pretending to play their number-six Adrian Foley at corner-forward, but as soon as the ball was throw-in Foley was back in his defensive role to cut off the supply to Paul Earls.
Indeed Earls did not have an auspicious opening 30 minutes, well policed by Alan Byrne, and he was way off target with the few shots that he got. In the closing minutes of the half John Keogh pointed Kiltegan ahead for a third time from a free and Anthony Furlong, who made the starting fifteen for the replay at wing-forward, gave the winners a 04 to 0-2 lead at the break, set up for his point by brother Seanie with a pass inside.
The teams had been level five times over the hour - twice in the first half - with St. Patrick’s setting the pace for much of the second period after Paul Earls opportunist goal in the first ten minutes of the half gave them the lead for the first time.
The Wicklow town side had a new midfield pairing for the replay, comprised of last week’s full-back Gary Jameson and star centre back Paudge McWalter, who had another fine game for the losers.
However, Kiltegan were hell bent on winning their first senior football title in Wicklow since 1986 and the Wicklow town side were just now allowed to build on that lead.
Indeed every time that St. Patrick’s got their nose in front- they led on three occasions in the second half - a focussed Kiltegan side just kept coming back at them until they found opening to deliver the match-winning counter punch.
St. Patrick’s full-forward Paul Earls, who was closely policed in the first half, left his first foot print on the game after 40 seconds of the second half when he pointed a free.
Minutes later he was to show us some of his silken skills as he scored a great goal.
Centre-forward John Slattery was wayward with his attempt for a score from the right wing; the ball drifted across the face of the Kiltegan goalmouth to where Paul Earls was lurking menacingly on the edge of the square.
Earls fielded the high ball, swivelled around his marker and then cheekily chipped his shot into the far left corner of Alister Hambidge’s net.
St. Patrick’s were in front for the first time 13 to 0-5.
Jacko Dalton pulled out another bid midfield performance for Kiltegan, particularly in the second half when the chips were down, and one of his high-fielding catches was truly memorable. On 42 minutes he brought the sides back to parity with a point ˆ 1-3 to 0-6.
On the other side Paudge McWalter was producing the goods for St. Patrick’s driving at the opposing defence. Two minutes later he had St. Patrick’s back in the lead when he pointed from a pass from John Slattery that opened up the Kiltegan defence.
Kiltegan’s defender and captain Stephen Corrigan pushed forward into attack but blazed wide off his left foot, but John Keogh was razor sharp with his free-taking on 49 minutes as he curled over a point from a difficult angle near the corner-flag.
It was all to play for and the sides were level once more at 1-4 to 0-7.
Still St. Patrick’s were setting the pace and Kiltegan playing catch-up. Paul Earls landed a smashing point from a 50 metre free on 52 minutes but Jacko Dalton made it all square’ once more on 56 minutes.
Kiltegan never allowed their opponents build on their lead and then James Doyle popped up with the winner just two minutes from the end of normal time.
Paul Earls had one last chance of putting the final to extra time in injury time, but he pulled a 45 metre free way out on the side line wide of the Kiltegan posts.
Kiltegan had realised their dream. A consolation for St. Patrick’s that midfielder Patrick McWalter got the man of the match award.
Kiltegan’s Jeffrey Bermingham gets to grips with Gary Jameson of St. Pat’s.
Ciaran Doyle of St. Patrick’s lays off the ball under pressure from Kiltegan’s John Kehoe.