Joe Mallon SFC final
Down to 13 men for more than 40 minutes of this game, not many would have expected to see Moorefield players climbing the steps of the clubhouse of St Conleth's Park to collect the Dermot Bourke cup on Sunday evening. Moorefield are no ordinary team however, and they backed up their Division 1 league win earlier this year with a monumental performance in the aftermath of red cards to veterans Daryl Flynn and David Whyte which looked certain to derail their aspirations.
They had heroic performances throughout their ranks, but in Eddie Heavey and Eanna O'Connor they had a pair of forwards who managed to retain possession up front when their defence needed a break, while Kevin Murnaghan was an inspirational figure at the back for the newly crowned champions.
Celbridge are likely to feel disconsolate after letting a golden opportunity slip through their grasps as they failed to kick on once they got going, and their failure to really convert the few chances they created up front ultimately proved to be their downfall.
Having seen the Dermot Bourke cup resting in the Sarsfields clubhouse for the past two years, 2017 was all about wrestling back possession of the county title for Moorefield. For Celbridge, picking up their second ever county title in as many final appearances was the task at hand on Sunday.
There was no shortage of intriguing match-ups throughout the field as Celbridge opted to pit Ollie Lyons against Adam Tyrrell from the start, while Mick O’Grady tracked Eanna O’Connor, one of the standout forwards of the championship in the run up to the final. At the other end it was interesting to see 18-year-old Mark Dempsey given the big task of marking Paddy Brophy, a role he carried out brilliantly for the most part.
The opening exchanges were extremely lively and both sides almost netted early goals, but Brophy saw his effort blocked by Kevin Murnaghan at one end while Eddie Heavey’s powerful effort was well stopped by Celbridge ‘keeper Shane McNamara almost immediately afterwards.
Moorefield settled into the game thanks to a point from a free from Eanna O’Connor, before Heavey doubled their early tally with a fine point off his left after shipping a couple of heavy challenges in his run up to scoring. Celbridge finally got off the mark in the eighth minute when Kevin Flynn raided up the right wing and slotted over a stunning effort from distance to finally inject a bit of impetus into his team, but they became ponderous in possession and they were far from clinical in their shooting after that.
Tyrrell nudged them two in front before a remarkable period in the game saw referee Noel McKenna dish out two straight red cards and award Moorefield a penalty all in the space of three minutes. The first big incident saw McKenna award a penalty to the Newbridge men when Kevin Murnaghan was fouled as he shot for goal inside the square. Adam Tyrrell stepped up to take the resultant penalty, but his effort went down the middle and was parried by McNamara, and though he got to the rebound, Mick Konstantin slid across superbly to block his follow up shot.
Before the resultant ’45 could be taken, McKenna went to his pocket after an off the ball incident involving Flynn left Celbridge captain Fergal Conway in a heap on the ground, and the referee had no hesitation in sending off the Moorefield captain. O’Connor split the posts with the ’45, but Moorefield were down to 13 within the blink of an eye as Whyte appeared to throw an elbow back towards Brophy in another off the ball incident.
Space was obviously going to open up for Trevor O’Sullivan’s men after that, and it appeared as if they would make hay when David Hughes had plenty of time to slot the ball over close to goal in the 22nd minute, but Moorefield were superb for the remainder of the half as they kept their opponents at bay until the break.
At the other end O’Connor and Tyrrell were on target from frees, while the boundless energy of Kevin Murnaghan saw him shoot up from his wing-back post to smash over a brilliant point from the left wing, helping Moorefield into a 0-7 to 0-2 half-time lead.
The Moores were roared into the dressing rooms by a massive gathering of supporters on the Hill End of the ground, with the efforts of the 13 men clearly being widely appreciated by their followers. When they emerged for the second half and Heavey scored a quite splendid point into the Moorefield end of the ground, it had that end of the ground rocking.
Celbridge finally began to exploit some of the spaces that were appearing in the Moorefield defence, and they looked to have finally gotten on top when they scored four points in the space of six minutes to draw ever closer to their opponents. The problem that they faced was a lack of a scoring threat from play however, as they continued to kick wides and their passing was lateral and lacked penetration. Three of their four points came from frees - two from Hughes and one from Harte -, but Dylan Corcoran at least showed some drive to pierce a hole in the stretched Moorefield backline to fire over a 38th minute point.
With the gap narrowed to just two points and with 19 minutes left on the clock, it looked like Celbridge had every chance to go on and snatch the win, but Moorefield are efficient and ruthless if nothing else, and they hung on by the skin of their teeth. Celbridge were guilty of giving away needless fouls at times, and two such instances allowed Tyrrell to nail a couple of excellent points from placed balls to double his side's lead. Trevor O'Sullivan's men rallied again as Harte split the posts from the left and Brophy floated over a beautiful effort from 45 metres out to narrow the gap again.
From that point onwards Moorefield were nothing short of superb, and the fact that they held Celbridge to just one point in the final 15 minutes of play is a testament to their will to win. O'Connor and Hughes swapped points at either end in the final 10 minutes, but it was all about the defensive effort as they sealed a ninth county title in the most remarkable of circumstances.
Scorers for Celbridge: D Hughes(2f) and S Harte(2f) 0-3 each, P Brophy, D Corcoran and K Flynn 0-1 each.
Scorers for Moorefield: E O'Connor(3f, 1'45) and A Tyrrell(4f) 0-4 each, E Heavey 0-2, K Murnaghan 0-1.
Shane McNamara; Mick Konstantin, Mick O'Grady, Darragh McEvoy(Dylan Corcoran 20mins); Ollie Lyons, Hugh McGrillen, Kevin Flynn; Conor Brophy, Fergal Conway; John Costello, Tony Archbold(Kevin O'Callaghan 50mins), Paddy Brophy; Kevin Murphy(Mark O'Sullivan 39mins), David Hughes, Shane Harte(Paraic Carty 52mins).
Tom Kinsella; Liam Callaghan, Mark Dempsey, Liam Healy; Kevin Murnaghan, James Murray, Sean Healy(Ryan Houlihan 40mins); Daryl Flynn, Aaron Masterson; David Whyte, Eddie Heavey, Cian O'Connor(Aaron Mullins 48mins); Adam Tyrrell, Eanna O'Connor, Niall Hurley-Lynch(Ronan Sweeney 20mins).
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