St Brigid’s 2-11
Ballymun Kickhams 2-10
If ever a man was born for a job then Frankie Dolan was born to be a postman. The one thing the affable Kiltoom man can be counted on to do is to deliver. Being a postman Frankie is more accustomed to early morning deliveries but from here on he will be forever remembered as the man who delivered the late match-winning point in one of the most entertaining club finals ever played.
To say you couldn’t write the script for this game is perhaps to admit to underestimating the resolve of Kevin McStay’s men but let’s face it - not many of us held out much hope for the south Roscommon men when they trailed by eight points after just nine points. The fact that they kept their self-belief intact and clawed their way back to write their name in to the history books only adds to the sense of achievement.
Ballymun raced into a commanding early lead with two majors coming from Dean Rock and Philly McMahon before the game had even settled down. Senan Kilbride offered a lifeline when he in turn raised a green flag to reduce the deficit to a more manageable five points.
Paul Curran’s side held a four point half time lead but there were encouraging signs that the Saints were still very much in with a shout despite their poor start.
Senan Kilbride and Dean Rock exchanged points after the restart before Kilbride narrowed the gap to just three points. Karol Mannion then displayed the importance of intelligence in the armoury of a footballer when his powerful fisted effort brought the sides level for the first time.
It was ferociously competitive from here on with each side nudging ahead only for the other to claw them back. Both sides missed chances with Kickhams in particular guilty of melting under the intense pressure. With the sides deadlocked at 2-10 apiece Ballymun came in search of a winner but Niall Grehan crucially won back possession. When the ball fell to Frankie he didn’t wilt as he fired over the defining score of his career.
It will be a bitter pill for Ballymun to swallow who will be kicking themselves for letting an eight-point lead slip and for squandering some gilt-edged chances in the final quarter. Yet nobody will begrudge this St Brigid’s team their day in the sun having been knocking on the door for the past couple of years. For them not to win a club All-Ireland would have been an injustice.
While Karol Mannion was a worthy recipient of the man of the match award the contributions of Senan Kilbride, Ronan Stack, and Frankie and Darren Dolan were also immense. Indeed the 18 players who saw action all contributed to this first ever club All-Ireland for a Roscommon club while there were many more ready and willing to do their bit if called upon to do so.
The management team led by Kevin McStay also deserve enormous credit for overseeing this success. Liam McHale who took charge of most of the coaching finally came out on the winning side in an All-Ireland final at the 10th time of asking. Now that is what you call perseverance.
An ecstatic green and red army boosted by well-wishers from surrounding clubs on both sides of the river, were out in force to witness the Andy Merrigan Cup being carried across the bridge of Athlone shortly after 9pm by joint captains Gearoid Cunniffe and Darragh Donnelly.
The celebrations moved from St Peter’s Square to Hodson Bay before ending with an epic night in the St Brigid’s complex. The Snug was the focal point of the celebrations on bank holiday Monday and no doubt it will be some time before the last of the celebrating will be completed.
It is far too early to talk about defending their title but with the ambition and hunger they displayed all year they won’t want to be knocked off their perch too easily. Their success is a testament to what can happen when a group of players commit unconditionally to maximising their potential. There are many other clubs in these parts who could learn a lesson from them