ST PAT’S RULE ROOST
Some classic enounters in championship 2012
COOGAN STEEL SFC FINAL
St Patrick’s 1-12; Baltinglass 0-14 A good enough Senior football championship but few surprises - at least nothing to compare with the earth shattering events of 2011 when Karl O'Dwyer, Ned Rossiter and the merry men from St Mary's tore up and buried forever the record books.
St Patrick's from Wicklow Town were crowned champions once again but it was ever so tight against Baltinglass in the final.
The sides were level so many times. A opportunistic goal by Paul Earls left it 1-4 to 0-7 at half time.
In the second half one side and then the other looked to be getting on top. James Sheerin and Peadar Burke were getting on top at midfield with time running out but it was Richard Murphy that pointed St Pat's into the lead at a crucial stage.
Joey Kelly levelled the game one more time and the fixture makers were checking their books for a date for the replay.
However willow-the-wisp corner forward Henry Sinnott wormed his way through the Pat's defence to send over the lead point.
Were the Slaneysiders about to spoil the party on the Wicklow Town side one more time?
Then came the controversial free against John Flynn and the scores were level again. One report concentrated on the closing minutes of this game thus: “It was 1-11 to 0-14 in Aughrim, the referee had just signalled two minutes of injury time, the Baltinglass goalkeeper John Flynn takes the kick out. He directs it hard and long towards a mass of bodies in 'lar na pairc'. St Pat's get the break - Balto had failed to pick up a sub that had just come on the field, the ball broke kindly to that man Donie Fitzgerald, he had a straight run at goal and sent over the winning point”.
The biggest crib I heard from Baltinglass supporters was that John Keenan had failed to play out the promised two minutes. In defence of the referee it has to be pointed out that while Baltinglass had won the kick out they had lost possession going forward and St Pat's were starting to play the ball around at the back to kill whatever seconds, if any, were still left.
The complaint from the neutrals in the crowd was that Keenan did not blow the whistle when the scores were level and give us all the chance to see this thriller all over again.
It was a rousing final with a lot of what is best in Gaelic football and one that we will remember for a long time.
My match winning score was not that late point but the goal from Paul Earls just on half time. That was the score that brought the Town back into the game and gave them the boost they needed for the second half.
SFC - QUARTER-FINALS
Bray Emmets 0-9; Rathnew 0-8. If anything in the SFC could be called a surprise than this was it.
Not a really big one as Kiltegan had beaten the men from the 'thatched city' in the first round. Still the result put the Bray club back where they deserved to be. Baltinglass 3-10; An Tochar 1-5 An Tochar had performed their giant-killing acts earlier and were where they wanted to be - out of the danger of relegation and on the way back. St Pats 1-13; Eire Og 1-6 Newly promoted Eire Og had achieved their main object - to establish themselves in Senior ranks and that to the Grestones men was what mattered most. Blessington 0-12; Hollywood 1-3 The surprising bit was the ease of the victory after Brian Whelan's men had looked so good in the qualifiers.
St Patricks 1-13; Blessington 0-15
The Town side were a bit lucky after Blessington had put on their best performance at this level in some years.
A feature of the game was some great fielding by Gavin Murray at midfield for Blessington. Baltinglass 0-6; Bray Emmets 0-6 This came close to being the shock of the year with Niall Gaffney pointing two frees deep in injury time to earn an ever improving Bray Emmets a draw with the hot favourites Replay - Baltinglass 1-14; Bray Emmets 1-7 We have often heard it said you never give the big boys a second chance.
However the draw was the 'wake-up' call that Baltinglass needed and the second match left them far better prepared for the final.
LEINSTER CLUB SF CHAMPIONSHIP
St Patrick’s 3-10; Eire Og Carlow 2-11 This may or may not have been the match of the year in Aughrim but for sheer drama it would be hard to beat.
What could have gone into the record books as a good, honest and entertaining match was deep in injury time and St Patrick’s were a point in front.
Then with almost the last kick of the hour Eric McCormack sent over the equalising point from long range - extra time was needed.
Again it was very tight to the end and with just a minute left the Wicklow champions were hanging on to a two point lead.
That man again, McCormack struck, this time for what looked certainly the winning goal. There could not have been more than 60 seconds left at most in this thriller. Patrick McWalter collected Colin Byrne's kick out and found super sub Donie Fitzgerald out wide on the wing.
'Fitzy' had been sprung from the bench in the dying seconds of the county final and kicked the winning point. Could he get the equaliser again?
Had he done so it would have sent the match to a replay in Carlow and that was not what Gail Dunne's men wanted. He tried alright but the goalposts were just that bit far away.
The ball dropped a foot or two short and there was the greatest goal-poacher of them all, Paul Earls ready, willing and able to fist home the winner. A year ago it would have been a free out but the change of the square rule meant that the score stood.
St Patrick's scorers: Austin O'Malley 2-2; Paul Earls 1-2; Matthew Byrne 0-4; Daragh O'Sullivan and Tommy Kelly 0-1 each. Second Round - Portlaoise 3-15; St Patrick's 0-4 The less said about this mismatch the better. The Wicklow People called it a rude awakening.
St Patrick's were certainly in dreamland for much of the first half. They were not as poor as they looked but neither were the Laois men as good - they failed to win out in Leinster.
Three second half points by Austin O'Malley and some honest endeavour from Patrick McWalter was about our best memories of this game.
D'ARCY SAND IFC
Final - Avondale 1-8; Ballinacor 0-10 For the GAA supporter that likes the weekend when he gets value for his hard earned money they don't come better that last one in October of this year; two absolute thrillers one day after another.
The club championship was a thriller but for a full hour of spills and thrills this final between close neighbours even surpassed that.
After a start bedevilled by walk-overs, appeals and objections, the Intermediate grade settled down to its usual pattern and produced football and contests very close to Senior standards, plus a finish that equalled or even surpassed anything that we had witnessed in the past.
Quarter-finals: Aughrim 0-13; Ashford 0-7; Avondale 4-8; Shillelagh 1-9; Coolkenno 0-13; Ballymanus 1-8; Ballinacor 0-15; Dunlavin 1-12. Replay: Ballinacor 1-17; Dunlavin 1-13.
Semi-finals: Avondale 1-7; Aughrim 0-10. Replay: Avondale 0-13; Aughrim 1-7. Ballinacor 2-13; Coolkenno 1-7.
From the moment Paddy Byrne took off like a rocket from midfield to send over a point, this final was thriller all the way with pace and passion remaining until Ian Heffernan pointed a free for the winner in the dying seconds.
Ryan Cahill got the only goal of the match in the 19th minute and that put Avondale in front but by half time Ballinacor were back in the lead by 0-6 to 1-2.
The excitement and tension never waned. A long stoppage for injury had held up play and the game was in the 13th minute of added time when the 'Dales' won a free.
The foul was committed out near the corner flag but the referee awarded the free from where the ball landed straight in front of the goal.
It was an easy one for Ian and the cup was on the way to Corballis - the 'Dales' were back in senior
ranks once more.
JUNIOR A FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
Final - Rathnew 2-14; Blessington 0-7 Again football above what might have been expected in the grade and contests of a high order. Twelve teams took part in two groups of six. One of the early surprises was that Kilmacanogue who were running away with Division 2 of the league were in trouble in the group and in the end did not qualify.
Semi-finals: Blessington 1-8; Baltinglass 1-8. Replay: Blesssington 0-16; Baltinglass 0-12. Rathnew 3-14; Kiltegan 0-4.
This final was not as one-sided as the score line suggests but that is not in any way taking from the merits of a great victory by a talented Rathnew side.
Blessington put up a brave fight for a long time and with 40 minutes gone were just one point in arrears.
Then a goal by Chris Gregory opened the flood gates. Stewart Murphy at midfield, Ross O'Brien in defence and Gregory, Trevor Doyle and John Sawyer in attack were the Rathnew stars. A feature of the game was the high fielding of veteran Fergus Daly for Blessington but once again one of Wicklow's greatest ever midfielders left the field without a medal.
Rathnew later made it a double when they beat Barndarrig to bring home the Swan Cup.
JUNIOR B FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
Final - Barndarrig 1-8; Rathnew 1-7 When Barndarrig lifted this trophy they were the first bona fide junior team to get their hands on any silverware in adult football this year. But definitely they were very deserving winners.
Quarter-finals: Avondale 3-8; St Patricks 2-12; Barndarrig 0-12; Baltinglass 2-5.
In the semi-finals Rathnew beat neighbours St Patrick’s while Barndarrig had a good win over a strong Carnew team.
In the final Barndarrig had to take the extra pressure of a Rathnew team hell bent on making it a championship double for the club.
While they held the edge for most of the way led by 1-4 to 0-4 points at half time, they were still hanging on by a thread when referee Pat Dunne sounded his final whistle.
Barndarrig, who had one of their better years, made it a league/championship double when they beat Baltinglass to win Division 4 of the SFL and pick up the coveted Gerry Finan Memorial Cup.
JUNIOR C FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
Bray Emmets 3-10; Blessisngton 0-4 If close contests is what makes a competition then this latest addition to the programme has more than justified its inclusion.
However like most competitions in the Junior grade this one is now being dominated by second and third teams from senior clubs.
Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is a subject for debate. Anyway in the end this year Bray Emmets, as you can see from the score line, proved that bit too strong for the opposition almost all the way and won pulling up in the end.
In fact their top scorer Conor Flannery got the unusual distinction of being named junior footballer of the year for 2012.
Quarter-finals: Aughrim 2-8; Feargal Og 0-14; Replay: Feargal Og 2-16; Aughrim 2-9. Kilmacanogue 1-13; Kilcoole 2-4; Blessington 0-13; Ashford 2-5. Bray Emmets 3-14; Valleymount 0-4.
Semi-finals: Bray Emmets 1-9; Kilmacanogue 1-3; Blessington 3-6; Feargal Og 0-11. The full list of championship winners reads: SFC: St Pats (Baltinglass) IFC: Avondale (Ballinacor) Junior A FC: Rathnew (Blessington) Junior B FC: Barndarrig (Rathnew) Junior C FC: Bray Emmets (Blessington) MFC: (A): St Nicholas (Blessington) MFC (B): Baltinglass (Eire Og) MFC (C): Ashford (Ml Dwyers) U-16 FC: Blessington (Bray Emmets)
St Patrick’s goalkeeper Colm Byrne celebrates after his side defeated Carlow champions Eire Og in Aughrim. The Wicklow town men went on to face Portlaoise in the next round but were well beaten.