Starlights fail to shine in Le­in­ster Club loss

Last pro­vin­cial win was by En­nis­cor­thy side 13 years ago

Enniscorthy Guardian - - SPORT - ALAN AH­ERNE


A GIVEAWAY goal mid­way through the first-half marked the be­gin­ning of the end for Starlights in In­no­vate Wex­ford Park on Sun­day when they departed from the AIB Le­in­ster Club Se­nior foot­ball cham­pi­onship at the quar­ter-fi­nal stage with a seven-point loss to Si­mon­stown Gaels.

The En­nis­cor­thy side had shown signs of re­cov­ery by pick­ing off two points af­ter con­ced­ing four on the trot to the Meath side in the early stages.

How­ever, just when it looked like they were set­tling down, Starlights con­ceded that cheap goal in the 15th minute.

A tele­graphed pass was in­ter­cepted by Si­mon­stown sweeper Mark McCabe, with Conor Sheri­dan and cap­tain Pádraig McKeever also fea­tur­ing in the break­away move be­fore Meath Se­nior Seán Tobin got on the end of it and fin­ished to the net via a Starlights hand.

That cru­cial score was fol­lowed by a su­perb long-range point from mid­fielder Shane O’Rourke, but all was not lost for the Wex­ford cham­pi­ons at half-time as the mar­gin stood at a mere four points (1-5 to 0-4).

Si­mon­stown had failed to score in the last 14 min­utes plus added time in the open­ing pe­riod, and their ri­vals cre­ated three de­cent goal chances in that spell but didn’t make them count.

Colm O’Rourke’s side re-dis­cov­ered their scor­ing touch on the re-start, and they went on to man­age the game ef­fec­tively and keep Starlights at arm’s length at all times.

At least the losers were rea­son­ably com­pet­i­tive and made the op­po­si­tion work hard for their vic­tory, un­like the ham­mer­ings en­dured by St. James’ and Gusser­ane re­spec­tively in 2015 and 2016.

Quite re­mark­ably, this lat­est de­feat for the Wex­ford cham­pi­ons came al­most 13 years to the very day since a suc­cess was last forged in this com­pe­ti­tion.

That hon­our also fell to Starlights on their last ven­ture into Le­in­ster, beat­ing Rathvilly from Car­low in a re­play in Belle­field on Novem­ber 13, 2004, be­fore bow­ing out to Colm O’Rourke’s na­tive club, Skryne, in the semi-fi­nal.

They had their in­di­vid­ual matchups sussed out for this clash, with Jack Kelly drop­ping into left cor­ner-back to mark Pádraig McKeever, Kevin Fo­ley on the ’40 in op­po­si­tion to ex-Meath Se­nior Sea­mus Kenny, and Ricky Fox to his left on cur­rent county player Seán Tobin.

Mel Doyle started at right half- back on Mark McCabe who im­me­di­ately went back to sweep, while num­ber 15 Ryan Ma­hon spent most of his time in the mid­dle third and his at­tack­ing from deep was one of the most suc­cess­ful as­pects of Starlights’ game.

It looked like they might be blown away in the first six min­utes when Si­mon­stown reeled off four points with­out re­ply.

Nathan O’Brien got the first be­fore cor­ner-back Niall McMa­hon fin­ished im­pec­ca­bly from a Seán Tobin hand­pass, and the lat­ter made it three when he was set up by for­mer Mayo player James Kil­cullen.

Although Si­mon­stown were with­out their ver­sa­tile Aus­tralian Rules gi­ant Conor Nash who re­turned down un­der af­ter the county fi­nal win against Sum­mer­hill, they are still blessed with a strong squad and were able to bring on six sub­sti­tutes with­out weak­en­ing the team in any way.

Starlights were strug­gling to break out of their own half at this stage, and Pa Doyle had to save smartly from Seán Tobin be­fore they fi­nally man­aged to work the ball to­wards the Clonard end posts.

Alan Tobin is blessed with one of the most ac­cu­rate left pegs in the county, and he duly got them off the mark from 40 me­tres af­ter a Jack Kelly lay-off in the eleventh minute.

Dar­ragh Pep­per quickly made it 4-2, pick­ing up the pieces af­ter a Nick Doyle kick was blocked fol­low­ing a strong run to cre­ate the chance from Ryan Ma­hon.

How­ever, that good work was quickly un­done with the con­ces­sion of that goal, and when Shane O’Rourke pointed from 50 me­tres it left Starlights trail­ing by 1-5 to 0-2.

Seán Tobin missed a cou­ple of frees in the sec­ond quar­ter though, while Dil­lon Red­mond and Alan Tobin pulled back points from the left and right flanks re­spec­tively af­ter Si­mon­stown com­mit­ted fouls in score­able ar­eas.

And if Starlights had taken even one of the three goal chances they cre­ated, per­haps the game would have moved in an en­tirely dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion.

The ground opened up ahead of Red­mond in the 23rd minute af­ter a Richie Far­rell hand­pass into space down the left chan­nel, but he thought about pass­ing ini­tially be­fore driv­ing a low shot into the side-net­ting.

Then a Ricky Fox point-scor­ing at­tempt came back into play off the an­gle of post and cross­bar to Ea­monn Fur­long who turned and got his boot to the ball, but some­how net­min­der Rob­bie Burling­ham was able to smother the kick.

In­jury time saw Ryan Ma­hon and Liam Ryan work an open­ing for cen­tre-for­ward Richie Far­rell, but his shot thun­dered off a de­fender’s body.

And while Starlights trailed by four points at half-time, they will surely have taken heart from those op­por­tu­ni­ties when Joe Ha­gan was de­liv­er­ing his team-talk.

Ref­eree An­thony Nolan was busy with pa­per­work even be­fore the re-start, hav­ing shown just one yel­low card - to Ricky Fox - in the open­ing half.

Ea­monn Fur­long and Si­mon­stown duo Nathan O’Brien and Niall McMa­hon were all booked be­fore the ac­tion re­sumed for some­thing that hap­pened at the end of the first pe­riod, while they were quickly joined by new ar­rival Brian Conlon and Richie Far­rell af­ter a grap­pling duel on the ground.

A Pádraig McKeever free pushed Si­mon­stown five clear be­fore Ricky Fox replied from a Mel Doyle lay-off af­ter sell­ing a nice dummy.

McKeever, who hadn’t scored be­fore the in­ter­val, had fi­nally got his eye in and added a brace from play in the 38th and 39th min­utes, but the third quar­ter ended more promis­ingly when Liam Ryan picked out Ryan Ma­hon whose solo and ris­ing shot ended in a point (1-8 to 0-6).

Si­mon­stown never really looked like giv­ing up a goal chance all the same, and Starlights needed one at least and prob­a­bly two at that stage in or­der to really trou­ble the lead­ers.

In­stead, wing-back Brian McGrath and Pádraig McKeever (free) widened the gap to seven en­ter­ing the last ten min­utes.

Ma­hon’s sec­ond point, from an­other Ryan pass, was fol­lowed by his third from a free in the 56th minute, but that proved to be the last Starlights score.

McKeever con­verted an­other free be­fore Shane O’Rourke drove an in­jury-time kick high and hand­some be­tween the posts, leav­ing Si­mon­stown to look for­ward to a semi-fi­nal clash with St. Lo­man’s of West­meath.

Starlights: Pa Doyle; Rory O’Con­nor, Tom Wall (capt.), Jack Kelly; Mel Doyle, Kevin Fo­ley, Ricky Fox (0-1); Liam Ryan, Nick Doyle; Alan Tobin (0-2, 1 free), Richie Far­rell, Dil­lon Red­mond (0-1 free); Ryan Ma­hon (03, 1 free), Ea­monn Fur­long, Dar­ragh Pep­per (0-1). Subs. - Aaron Dobbs for Fur­long (42), Ben Ed­wards for Fo­ley (50).

Si­mon­stown Gaels: Rob­bie Burling­ham; Shane Gal­lagher, Stephen Mo­ran, Niall McMa­hon (0-1); Brian McGrath (0-1), Rory O’Con­nor, Niall Kane; Shane O’Rourke (0-2), James Kil­cullen; Seán Tobin (1-1), Sea­mus Kenny, Mark McCabe; Pádraig McKeever (capt., 0-5, 3 frees), Conor Sheri­dan (0-1), Nathan O’Brien (0-1). Subs. - Brian Conlon for O’Con­nor (HT), Joe Lyons for McCabe (42), Michael Bren­nan for O’Brien (48), Nicky O’Brien for Kenny (53), Eanna Donoghue for Kane (55), Ben Hoey for Tobin (56).

Ref­eree: An­thony Nolan (Wick­low).

Richie Far­rell leaps through the air af­ter beat­ing Si­mon­stown’s Brian Conlon to the ball.

Mid­fielder Liam Ryan un­der pres­sure from Niall McMa­hon (4) and Pádraig McKeever (15).

Nick Doyle ap­ply­ing pres­sure on Si­mon­stown Gaels de­fender Brian McGrath.

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