Padraig Pearses 0-12 -
Western Gaels 2-14
Hodson Bay Hotel Group Senior Football Championship (Section A)
Whisper it quietly, but Western Gaels are going places. The problem for Gerard Nolan’s well-oiled machine is that the championship now takes a three-month break at a time when all the momentum is behind them.
An eight-point victory didn’t flatter the winners on Saturday evening. They’re one of the form teams in the county right now. Their prosperity is based on the simple fact that they possess good ball players, many of them occupying a solid central spine. With Cathal Cregg and Kevin Higgins stationed at wing-forward but very much centrally involved in all the good things that Western Gaels are doing, a potent cocktail is being brewed around Frenchpark and Ballinagare.
Western Gaels may be cursing the mid-season championship siesta, but the break can’t come quick enough for Padraig Pearses. They were miles off the pace on their home patch on Saturday evening. Their turnover count was disastrous, and very few of their players emerged from this encounter with much credit.
Conor Daly’s departure with a hamstring problem after three minutes didn’t help their cause but, in general, they were second best in too many departments. Their supporters could only watch on in frustration as possession was needlessly tossed away, often with no pressure being applied to the player delivering the ball.
They produced a similarly toothless performance against Clann na nGael in the second round last season, but made the most of the break to turn things around and reach their second final in succession. It seems that they’ll have their work cut out to repeat the trick in 2017.
Aaron Feehily posted their opening score after a minute, but that’s where the home side’s good news ended. Niall Higgins’ equaliser set the visitors on their way, and they went on to dominate the remainder of the contest.
Kevin Higgins’ fourth minute goal gave them a platform. Derek Moran’s sideline delivery was missed by Finbar Cregg but Higgins was on hand to find the net. Cregg took advantage of a poor Pearses kickout to make it 1-2 to 0-1 after 13 minutes.
Western Gaels continued on their merry way, helped by a typically flamboyant Kevin Higgins score and a free by Derek Moran. Then wing-back Oisín Ward won a breaking ball, ran 50 metres and registered an inspirational score.
Seán Fahy stopped the rot for Pearses with a 20th minute free before a superb Western Gaels move ended with a sublime pass from Cathal Cregg to his brother Finbar, and the full-forward turned on a sixpence to find the corner of the net with aplomb.
Pearses almost responded instantly when Daniel Glynn was unlucky not to see his fisted effort dip under the crossbar after great work by Hubert Darcy. But a brilliant point from Ciarán Cafferky from the left wing highlighted the confidence flowing through Western Gaels veins.
Shane Carty managed a much-needed score for Pearses after a good run. Glynn added another after Darcy picked him out with a quick free. But Kevin Higgins had the final say of the half when he availed of more generous Pearses defending to bisect the posts spectacularly to give his side a 2-7 to 0-5 interval lead.
The anticipated Pearses revival never materialised in the second half as both sides shared 14 points between them. Western Gaels always held the upper hand, often breaking up Pearses moves and moving possession on the counter-attack with purpose. They also cleaned up on their own kickouts, thanks to precise deliveries from Padraig Cummins, obviously coming straight from the training ground.
Moran (a free) and Darcy swapped early second-half points before Fahy found the target from a free in the 34th minute. But the next 11 minutes belonged to Western Gaels as Finbar Cregg, Tommy Gill, Seán Conroy and Cathal Cregg raised white flags.
The game was over as a contest entering the final quarter but Pearses had something to cheer about when Leon Feehily, Darcy (a free), Seán Fahy and Aaron Feehily pointed. But Kevin Higgins and Moran (a free) did likewise to leave Western Gaels very much in the comfort zone by the time referee Paddy Neilan’s final whistle confirmed the inevitable.
WESTERN GAELS: P. Cummins; S. Conroy (0-1), D. Ward, A. Dowd; S. McDermott, C. Cafferky (0-1), O. Ward (0-1); N. Murray, M. Higgins; C. Cregg (0-1), N. Higgins (0-1), K. Higgins (1-3); T. Gill (0-1), F. Cregg (1-2), D. Moran (0-3, all frees). Subs used: J. McDonnell for N. Higgins (37 mins), J. Duffy for Murray (45 mins), B. Creighton for McDermott (52 mins, black card), N. Murray for M. Higgins (59 mins).
PADRAIG PEARSES: A. McManus; S. Dolan, M. Richardson, S. Carty (0-1); R. Daly, D. Murray, L. Daly; C. Daly, A. Feehily (0-2); C. Payne, C. Óg Sullivan, D. Glynn (0-2); S. Fahy (0-4, three frees), H. Darcy (0-2, one free), L. Feehily (0-1). Subs used: E. Donoghue for C. Daly (3 mins), T. Butler for Donoghue (28 mins, black card), E. Kelly for Payne (42 mins).
Wides: Western Gaels – 7; Padraig Pearses – 7.
Yellow Cards: Western Gaels – K. Higgins (48 mins); Padraig Pearses – L. Daly (18 mins), Óg Sullivan (49 mins), Kelly (51 mins).
Black Cards: Western Gaels – McDermott (52 mins); Padraig Pearses – Donoghue (28 mins).
Red Cards: Western Gaels – none; Padraig Pearses – none.
Referee: P. Neilan.
Player of the Match: Kevin Higgins (Western Gaels). A towering performance from the Western Gaels and Roscommon player. Kevin kicked 1-3 from play and was a constant outlet for primary possession.
Donal Ward ran Higgins close with a foot-perfect display at full-back. Finbar Cregg won every ball that came his way at full-forward. Ciarán Cafferky, Oisín Ward, Niall Murray, Michael Higgins, Cathal Cregg and Tommy Gill were also impressive for the winners. A mention too for goalkeeper Padraig Cummins who got his kickout strategy spot on.
Pearses didn’t have a whole pile to shout about, but Shane Carty and Hubert Darcy never gave up the ghost.