Bray People

St Nicks

O’Rourke goal in­spires


1-11 2-7

ST NI­CHOLAS kicked off what would be­come a truly mem­o­rable week­end for West Wicklow when they pro­duced a stir­ring come­back to break Bless­ing­ton hearts in the 2020 Mi­nor ‘A’ foot­ball fi­nal in Aughrim on Saturday af­ter­noon.

With some re­ally ex­cel­lent foot­ballers on dis­play across both sides this was a won­der­fully en­ter­tain­ing game of foot­ball lit­tered with great scores and fine foot­ball and it is a huge boost to the Dunlavin and Donard-The Glen clubs who will hope to wel­come the ma­jor­ity of those play­ers to both adult teams now com­pet­ing in the Se­nior foot­ball cham­pi­onship in 2021.

Eoin Phibb’s Bless­ing­ton have to be com­mended for play­ing their part in this thrilling en­counter. No one will know bet­ter than them­selves that this game was there to be closed out when they led by 2-7 to 0-8 af­ter 20 min­utes.

But hold­ing a team like St Ni­cholas down when you have foot­ballers of the cal­iber of Joe Mills, Rory Martin, Mickey O’Rourke, Mark Murtagh, Sean O’Sul­li­van and Sean Doyle in their ranks is not an easy job and when Mickey O’Rourke linked up with Mills to blast home to the back of the Bless­ing­ton net af­ter 22 min­utes the writ­ing was very firmly on the wall given that the St Ni­cholas blood was up and they had the wind at their backs.

Joe Mills opened pro­ceed­ings with a fine score off his left af­ter three min­utes. Him­self and the ex­cel­lent Luke O’Brien en­joyed a great bat­tle through­out this game.

But Bless­ing­ton soon gath­ered their thoughts and raced out to a 0-4 to 0-1 lead af­ter 13 min

utes through points from Austin Bren­nan, Mikey O’Toole, Lukas Sarkauskas and mid­fielder To­mas Fisher (free) as they com­pletely dom­i­nated St Ni­cholas all over the field.

A Mills point set­tled the nerves af­ter 17 be­fore Dy­lan Pren­der­gast fired over a minute later in what was half a goal chance.

Three Bless­ing­ton wides wer­ent help­ful in their hopes of build­ing up a lead to take with them into

the sec­ond half where they would play into that wind blow­ing up the field in Aughrim but Eoin Phibb’s side got a mas­sive boost when a free that dropped short from To­mas Fisher bounced hor­ri­bly in front of Meitheal Cleary and quick­est to re­act was the classy Dan Silk Fether­ston at full-for­ward for Bless­ing­ton who flicked the ball home to make it 1-4 to 0-3 at the break. St Ni­cholas would have the ad­di­tional blow of los­ing Cleary who ap­peared to in­jure his shoul­der in the pas­sage of play. James Wal­she took his place af­ter the break.

To­mas Fisher ex­tended the Bless­ing­ton lead but two con­verted frees from Sean Doyle and Joe Mills brought St Ni­cholas back right back into the game with five gone in the sec­ond half.

Fisher added an­other free af­ter a foul on Silk Fether­ston and then Bless­ing­ton surged ahead when the tal­ented full-for­ward gath­ered a high ball be­fore turn­ing and ri­fling home past Wal­she to make it 2-6 to 0-5 af­ter eight min­utes. St Ni­cholas looked in real trou­ble.

A piv­otal few mo­ments were to fol­low. Joe Mills kept St Ni­cholas alive and well with two su­perb pointed frees but Bless­ing­ton missed a goal chance when Sam Gough fired wide with space in front of him af­ter 11. The wa­ter break was a wel­come event for Ed­die Ea­ger’s side.

But it was Bless­ing­ton who re­turned the live­lier. Silk Fether­ston fired over a peach and then James

Wal­she saved smartly from Sam Gough af­ter a pass from Ethan McNally.

A Mills free made it 2-7 to 0-8 but St Ni­cholas were about to stage a re­mark­able come­back. Adam Byrne gath­ered a Bless­ing­ton restart and he fed Mills. The sub­lime full-for­ward laid off a pass to the on­rush­ing Mikey O’Rourke who lashed home to the top cor­ner of the Bless­ing­ton net past the ex­cel­lent Jack Sargent who hardly put a foot wrong the en­tire af­ter­noon.

This was a mon­strous score in the con­text of the game and you could see St Ni­cholas play­ers vis­i­bly grow all over the field. Bless­ing­ton, how­ever, had ex­pended mas­sive amounts of en­ergy by this stage and were start­ing to tire slightly.

The su­perb Sean Doyle pointed a free he won him­self be­fore Joe Mills lev­eled the game af­ter 27 min­utes. In be­tween those scores there were qual­ity mo­ments from Rory Martin on Silk Fether­ston in front of the Bless­ing­ton goal.

Mills would fire wide for St Ni­cholas be­fore Sean Doyle gave them the lead at 1-11 to 2-7 be­fore we had a mo­ment of ma­jor con­tro­versy when ref­eree Ciaran Flem­ing awarded a penalty for a foot­block by Bless­ing­ton full-back Luke O’Brien on a Joe Mills shot af­ter a high ball from Mickey O’Rourke. O’Brien seemed to be well back from the full-for­ward when he took the shot, with the ball com­ing back of his up­per leg. How­ever, the de­ci­sion stood.

Up stepped Mills. Red­nagh Hill end. But Sargent was equal to the chal­lenge and he saved mag­nif­i­cently to give Bless­ing­ton a surge of hope.

Up the field they came and won

a free but Mikey O’Toole’s ef­fort off the ground was poor and blocked by Ciarán Geoghe­gan.

But O’Toole didn’t give up. He chased af­ter the break­ing ball and won it back but his lobbed ef­fort went out for a 45 off a St Ni­cholas de­fender.

He would have one last chance. Into the breeze, to­wards the vil­lage of Aughrim, a rau­cous din in his ears, a bodhran be­ing ham­mered in the stand. His strike was sweet and off she sailed. It would have the dis­tance but it would tail to the left and wide.

The fi­nal whis­tle sounded shortly af­ter­wards and the St Ni­cholas play­ers and sup­port­ers erupted in scenes of pure joy. Bless­ing­ton’s play­ers were dis­traught. They had played so won­der­fully for long pe­ri­ods and your heart went out to Mikey O’Toole whose per­for­mance didn’t de­serve the dis­ap­point­ing fin­ish.

But such is life. St Ni­cholas are the Mi­nor ‘A’ cham­pi­ons. They took their chances and with­stood all that was thrown at them. Fair play to them.

ST NI­CHOLAS: Meitheal Cleary; Cian Fox, Rory Martin, Conor Deer­ing; Mickey O’Rourke (1-0), Mark Murtagh, Sean O’Sul­li­van; Tadgh McCarthy, Wil­lie Ea­ger; Conor Man­i­fold, Dy­lan Pren­der­gast (0-1), Eoin Sheri­dan; Sean Doyle (0-3, 1f), Joe Mills (0-7, 5f), Adam Byrne. Subs: Ciarán Geoghe­gan for S O’Sul­li­van (24), James Wal­she for M Cleary (H/T, inj), Ro­nan Kelly for C Fox (44), J Reid for A Byrne (57).

Jack Sargent; Cil­lian Bai­ley, Luke O’Brien, Liam Phibbs; Kil­lian O’Con­nell, Austin Bren­nan (0-1), James Dooley; Dan Cooney, To­mas Fisher (0-3, 3f); Rob­bie Richard­son, Sam Gough, Lukas Sarkauskas (0-1); Mikey O’Toole (2-1), Dan Silk Fether­ston (0-1), Conor Richard­son. Subs: Rory Cullen for R Richard­son (29), Ethan McNally for C Richard­son (50).

Ciaran Flem­ing (Balt­in­glass)

 ??  ?? Mrs Price presents the man of the match award to St Ni­cholas full-for­ward Joe Mills.
Mrs Price presents the man of the match award to St Ni­cholas full-for­ward Joe Mills.
 ??  ?? St Ni­cholas cap­tain Tadgh McCarthy lifts the MFC ‘A’ cup into the air af­ter their dra­matic vic­tory over Bless­ing­ton in Aughrim.
St Ni­cholas cap­tain Tadgh McCarthy lifts the MFC ‘A’ cup into the air af­ter their dra­matic vic­tory over Bless­ing­ton in Aughrim.
 ?? Pho­tos: Joe Byrne ?? The St Ni­cholas foot­ball team who de­feated Bless­ing­ton in the MFC ‘A’ fi­nal in Aughrim on Saturday af­ter­noon last.
Pho­tos: Joe Byrne The St Ni­cholas foot­ball team who de­feated Bless­ing­ton in the MFC ‘A’ fi­nal in Aughrim on Saturday af­ter­noon last.

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