Controversy galore as St Brigid’s relinquish provincial and All-Ireland titles

St. Brigid’s Karol Mannion and Castlebar’s Tom King battle for possession during last Sunday’s Connacht final. Photo: John O'Brien

St. Brigid’s Karol Mannion and Castlebar’s Tom King battle for possession during last Sunday’s Connacht final. Photo: John O'Brien

Castlebar Mitchell’s (aet ) 3-13

St Brigid’s 2-12

The Irish rugby squad, for all of their heroics last Sunday, will forever look back on November 24 as a missed opportunity. They were within touching distance of writing their names into the history book but let it slip from their grasp. I have no doubt that the St Brigid’s footballers will experience similar emotions in the coming years as their attempt to complete a four-in-a-row of provincial titles came to an end in controversial circumstances last weekend. With it went the chance of putting back-to-back All-Ireland titles together.

Referee Marty Duffy, not for the first time, was one of the main topics of conversation at the end of an absorbing encounter. Many of his decisions were baffling to say the least and he got under the skin of both sets of supporters at various stages of the game.

Yet it was his decision to over-rule his linesman and award a lineball to Castlebar in the closing seconds of ordinary time that will stick long in the minds of the people of Kiltoom and Cam. The lineball led to a free (needlessly conceded by Ian Kilbride ) which brought the game to extra time. Indeed Duffy left everybody confused and bewildered as he first seemed to signal full time before then deciding to send off Kilbride and allow the equalising free to be kicked.

Everything appeared to be going to plan for Benny O’Brien’s men as they were much the better team in the opening half. They entered half time with a comfortable 1-6 to 1-1 lead though they should have been further ahead having squandered a good goal-scoring opportunity in the 16th minute. With five points between the sides, the door was still open for the Mayo men and to their credit they made the most of the opportunity.

Castlebar were a transformed team after the break and set about turning a five-point deficit into a five-point lead by the three-quarter mark. Again St Brigid’s will be kicking themselves for handing some easy points to the visitors with veteran goalkeeper Shane Curran guilty on two occasions.

At this stage St Brigid’s were on the ropes but numerical advantage following the dismissal of Barry Moran following a hefty challenge on Karol Mannion again offered hope. As is the hallmark of true champions the home side refused to lie down and clawed their way back into contention hitting 1-4 without reply. Substitute Richie Blaine supplied the goal while Frankie kicked a screamer to give his side a two-point cushion. It looked as though the Shane McGettigan Cup would be residing on the banks of the Shannon yet again.

Castlebar reduced the deficit to the bare minimum before the controversial equalizer ensured extra-time in rapidly dwindling light.

The dismissal of Brigid’s full back Darragh Donnelly early in the first period of extra-time proved crucial as the more mobile Castlebar kicked four unanswered points to run out convincing winners in the end.

It has been a long journey for St Brigid’s over the past 18 months and they can be proud of the way they set about defending their provincial and All-Ireland crowns. The absence of the likes of Peter Domican, Eoin Sheehy, Darren Dolan, Conor McHugh, and Damien Kellegher certainly didn’t help their cause but they still had enough strength to complete the job in normal time. Like the Irish rugby team they will be haunted by their failure to maintain possession and count down the clock.

This defeat will be a bitter pill to swallow for this group of highly ambitious and talented footballers who once again have been tremendous ambassadors for both Kiltoom and Roscommon. They can now enjoy a well-deserved rest even if they would rather be planning for an All-Ireland semi-final. Castlebar Mitchells go on to represent Connacht in the last four but I have no doubt that St Brigid’s will be back again.

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