It often takes a piece of individual magic to separate teams in a tight contest and so it proved in Pearse Stadium on Sunday. St Mary’s Leaving Cert student Fiach Ó Bearra stroked over a spectacular winner to see Micheal Breathnachs defeat an unlucky St Michael’s by 0-10 to 1-6.
The sides were level and referee Teddy Kerins was wetting his lips in readiness for the final whistle and extra-time when Ó Bearra was popped a hand-pass a few metres out from the end-line, and a few feet in from the side-line.
With St Michael’s defenders closing on him fast, he somehow curled over a magnificent score to see his side in the hat for the next round.
It was a score worthy of winning any game and the Connemara players will know they were fortunate to get out of this tie with a win. St Michael’s deserved a chance to play extra time at a minimum.
Apart from Ó Bearra’s wonder strike, the only other reason Na Breathnaigh are in the last 16 is the free-taking ability and movement of their corner forward Pete Kenny.
He shot 0-6, all frees, and he was by far their most impressive player. He won at least half of those frees himself and he always made himself available for the pass from outside. His duel with Colm Tummon was one of the few highlights of a stop-start game.
Even in defeat St Michael’s had fine individual displays from Robbie Hannon, Alan Glynn, Peter Ruane, who had a very good game at centre-back, Cian McClafferty, Conor Hoctor, Patrick Regan, big Shane Maughan at full-forward, and substitute Barry Moran.
Maughan is on Gerry Fahy’s county minor panel and he was the focal point for many of St Michael’s attacks, and kicked three frees. Corner forward David Tierney hit an early goal in the second half and that was almost enough to see them home.
The city side led by one, 1-06 to 0-7, going into the home stretch only to see Kenny, and Ó Bearra hit a rapid 0-3 in a real smash and grab effort.
Na Breathnaigh’s manager Tadhg Mór Ó Curraoin will know his team will not beat any of the bigger teams with such an insipid performance.
They were woefully inept at times and only the powerful influence of Donall Ó Curraoin at midfield kept them in the contest at certain stages.
Wing back Cian O’Grillais tried his guts out for the cause, Pádraig Tim Ó Conghaile did some good things, while team captain Seosamh Ó Conaire at full-forward and the lively Andriú Ó Gaghnáin had some good moments.
Ó Conaire, though, got involved in some needless “argie-bargies” and picked up a silly yellow card at a time when his side was looking for leadership. He will need to cut that out and start skinning full-backs if he is going to hoist any silverware later in the season.
A key incident in deciding the outcome of this contest was the unfortunate injury to St Michael’s captain Greg Rogan just before half-time.
Greg had been doing really well at centre-forward and was snaffling up all the breaks in that area. His loss was a huge blow to his team and it was a critical moment in the entire game. Had he stayed on for the duration, there is a reasonable possibility that St Michael’s would have been victorious.
That’s sport though and the city team has to refocus now and try to pick up a few wins in the league to avoid a relegation dogfight in a few months’ time.