Brave Lahardane pipped at the post by Westmeath men

All Ireland JFC Semi-Final; Lahardane 2-9 Multyfarnham 1-14

Photo: Lahardane GAA Facebook

Photo: Lahardane GAA Facebook

They looked down and out with three minutes to go in normal time, trailing by four points and playing with a man less - but there was still fight left in Lahardane. A fight born from the bonds of brotherhood, community and pride that you find in small clubs, where fighting for survival is in their blood.

Adrian Leonard tapped over a regulation free from just outside the D and the huge Lahardane faithful that had traveled not just from the butt of Nephin and shores of Lough Conn - but from all corners of Ireland and even further afield - rose in defiance to the expectations.

That defiance soaked it’s way down to the pitch and Cormac Reilly found himself tight to the end-line with the ball and looked to be out of luck with the chance gone, but the Lahardane number 17 calmly stepped inside and then around goalkeeper Henry Reilly and lashed it high to the the net.

Fists pumped in the air, mothers and fathers hugged each other, small children let out squeals of pure emotion as Croke Park was now in touching distance for a small club, that through the years has been ravaged by emigration and relocation to bigger towns. The dream was real and it was alive once more. But, there so often seems to be a but, when it comes to football stories and Mayo - that dream slipped away over the next five minutes as the Leinister champions held their composure to kick two unanswered points through Ciaran Madden and Daniel Loughrey and burst the Lahardane dream in Hyde Park.

There was nothing lost in this defeat, Lahardane played with valour and heart - and if you asked anyone this time last year would you expect to see them here, it would have been only the diehard and the foolhardy who would have told you they did. A Mayo and a Connacht title for the black and amber men, is a brilliant achievement for all concerned. Yes they will be disappointed, but they didn’t disappoint and left every drop of themselves on that field in Roscommon.

The game got off to a hectic start with Multyfarnham’s Adam Loughrey being shown a black card inside the opening minute of the game. Lahardane settled first on the scoreboard with Aaron Murphy driving over a fine point from the left. He followed that up with another excellent score three minutes later to put his side two to the good.

The Westmeath men had chances of their own in those early exchanges pushing three wide of the post and dropping another short, before they finally opened their account eight minutes in through a Max Brady point, two minutes later the same man levelled it up with another good point and that was quickly followed by a Daniel Loughrey score - which came off the back of a poor turn over by the north Mayo men in a good attacking position.

Tony Dever drove a big score over the bar from distance to level it up just before the quarter-of-an-hour mark and Leonard got his first point of the day from a placed ball two minutes later. In between those scores Barry Lenoard, who had fine game until he was dismissed for a second yellow card with ten minutes to go, pulled off a great block to rise the travelling faithful. Leonard put his head and body where others wouldn’t even think of putting it while he was on the field and was an inspirational presence in a team full of warriors.

Nine minutes before the break - the first big, big moment of the game came when James Maughan got on the end of a move involving Shane Loftus and Adrian Lenoard and slammed the ball home from close range to put Lahardane three clear. The eventual victors responded with two quick fire points from Loughrey and a expertly hit 45 from Ronan Wallace to close that gap to just a single point with time almost up in the half, but the final say in the opening 30 odd minutes went to Murphy who kicked his third of the day to send John Maughan’s side in leading 1-5 to 0-6 at the turn around.

The first score of the second half went the Mayo champions way too, with Leonard clipping over his second of the contest. Loughrey hit back with another point from play, but the next two scores went to the Lahardane men with James Mauhgan and Mark Noone finding their range to go four clear with 20 minutes left.

Fortune was about to turn in the Westmeath sides favour though, Loughrey lined up a free from a very kickable position - his effort came around on the near side and hit the upright. The ball dropped in front of the Lahardane goal and Emmet Ferrick was the quickest to react and he drove the ball home from close range to leave just a single point between the sides.

Anthony McGivney levelled it up not long after and the momentum was all with Louis Ennis’ team and Lahardane looked to get heavy legged all over the field. Multyfranham tagged on four more points over the next 15 minutes and looked to be on their way to easing home and pointing the cars for Croke Park.

But Lahardane had other ideas and they roared back into the game late on, a roar that inspired their people to roar back just as loud form the stands, unfortunately at the very end - it just wasn’t to be.

Scores

Lahardane: J Maughan (1-1 ) A Leonard (0-3, 2f ), A Murphy (0-3 ), C Reilly (1-0 ), M No-one (0-1 ), T Dever (0-1 )

Multyfarnham: D Loughrey (0-5 ), E Ferrick (1-0 ), M Brady (0-3 ), B McLoughlin (0-1 ), A McGivney (0-1 ), C Madden (0-1 ), I McGovern (0-1 ), D Wallace (0-1 ), M Fallon (0-1 ), R Wallace (0-1, 1 45 )

Lahardane: J Mulhern; B Leonard, C Coleman, C Rowland; P Coleman, M Queenan, P O’Malley; T Dever, G Naughton; S Loftus, J Maughan, A Murphy; M Noone, A Leonard, K Loftus. Subs: C Reilly for K Loftus, J Murphy for G Naugton, M Coleman for S Loftus.

Multyfarnham: H Reilly; S Moran, P Heavin, J Greene; C Madden, R Wallace, S Rock; B McLoughlin, A McGivney; M Reynolds, D Loughrey, A Loughrey; I McGovern, M Brady, D Wallace. Subs: E Ferrick for A Loughrey, M Fallon for J Greene, G Ferrick for S Rock, T McGivney for B McLoughlin

Ref: S Laverty (Antrim )

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