Glory, glory Garrycastle - next stop Croke Park

Seanie O’Donoghue shows his delight at the final whistle. Photo: johnobrienimages.com

Seanie O’Donoghue shows his delight at the final whistle. Photo: johnobrienimages.com

Garrycastle 1-11

St Brigid’s 1-09

Dreams sometimes do become a reality. Last year the Garrycastle players watched in admiration as St Brigid’s took on the mighty Crossmaglen in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day. The likes of Cathal Mullin, Dessie Dolan , Doran Harte, and David O’Shaughnessy, who have all graced Croke Park on many occasions in the maroon and white of Westmeath, must have been more than a little envious of their neighbouring club from across the river who share the same colours as themselves.

Little did they know that 12 months on it will be them sporting the green and red in GAA headquarters on the most important date in the club football calendar. That they had to beat St Brigid’s to earn their ticket only adds to the sense of drama surrounding their unlikely voyage to Croke Park where the best club side of all time awaits.

The 6,000 or so who were present in Pearse Park and the thousands of others who tuned into local radio or watched on TG4 were treated to a thriller. This game had everything from wonderful scores, uncompromising tackles, bravery, a penalty, a sending off, and a nerve-racking finish. Most importantly, on the day the best team won.

While defeat will be a bitter pill for St Brigid’s to swallow they deserve huge credit for the part they played in the game. Football-wise there is very little between the sides but Garrycastle showed a greater hunger and willingness to put their bodies on the line. They displayed an enviable sense of self belief particularly during the second half when the odds were stacked against them. Oh and they had Dessie Dolan!

Garrycastle had wind advantage in the opening half and got things underway with three top-drawer points from James Dolan, Paul Dillon, and James Duignan. Brigid’s fought back and by half time were two points to the good thanks to an expertly taken Karol Mannion penalty.

The general half-time consensus was that St Brigid’s were in the driving seat with a two-point advantage and the benefit of a considerable wind to come. That was obviously not the feeling in the Garrycastle dressing-room however as they emerged to kick 1-3 without reply to forge a lead they would not surrender. Even the dismissal of David O’Shaughnessy with a quarter of an hour to go for a second yellow card offence failed to rattle Anthony Cunningham’ s men.

While this was the ultimate team performance from the victors who used 19 players in total, there were some outstanding individual performances. David O’Shaughnessy and Seanie O’Donoghue won the midfield sector which is always vital. Dessie Dolan was at his mercurial best kicking 0-7 and pulling the strings up front. James Dolan made a telling contribution of 1-1 while Paddy Mulvihill’s performance, especially in the second half, earned him the man of the match accolade. Alan Fox, Aidan Browne, Conor Cosgrave, and Alan Daly all played their part when introduced.

It will take St Brigid’s some time to come to terms with this defeat. The tag of favouritism didn’t sit well with them. Perhaps deep down they had one eye on Crossmaglen. Why they didn’t give special consideration as to how they could curb the influence of Dessie Dolan seems a glaring oversight. An injury in the warm-up to Frankie Dolan certainly didn’t help their cause as the talented marksman was uncharacteristically subdued throughout.

St Brigid’s will look back to Ian Kilbride’s near miss when a goal looked certain, to missed frees and won’t be too happy with Joe McQuillan’s decision to award a free in for an alleged pick-up by goalkeeper James Martin in the dying minutes. Technically he was right but it was a very harsh call under the circumstances. It may be a long road back but the Roscommon and Connacht club champions have the material to be a force in the coming years.

The realisation that they are now just 60 minutes away from being crowned All-Ireland club champions has surely sunk in to Anthony Cunnningham’s men by now. That they will be big-time underdogs against the men from Crossmaglen matters little. In fact they are going into the game in the best way possible. Nobody outside their own camp will give them a prayer. Anything is possible on any given Sunday. Remember Caltra?

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