This was a heartbreaking defeat for St James. To lose an All-Ireland final in Croke Park is never easy, but to lose one you could and should have won is devastating. The James lads will know this is one that got away.
They started sluggishly and were behind by two points, 0-6 to 0-4, at the small whistle. However a brilliant second-half display inspired by Paul Conroy looked to be enough to bring the cup back west.
Sean Donnellan, Conroy and Eoin Concannon hit the scores to push Seamus Burke’s charges into a 0-9 to 0-6 lead going into the last 10 minutes.
It looked like they were home and hosed. All you felt they had to do was to keep their shape and close out the game, but instead they allowed the Fermanagh boys to come back at them and in the final minute of the game St James were only one ahead.
Then a critical incident occurred. Paul Conroy stepped up and hit what seemed to be a good score over the bar. It would have put his team two to the good, but it was waved wide. From the ensuing attack, Lisnaskea managed to equalise and push the game into extra-time.
Had Conroy’s effort been signalled as a point, the cup would be in the St James’club house this week.
It appeared to be a poor umpiring decision, but it was not the only reason why St James lost.
They were not clinical enough up front and they kicked too many wides, 14 in total, and they missed some good goal-scoring opportunities into the bargain.
The absence of the suspended Seamie Rabbitte was a big loss too as he is a very experienced player and you would believe that he would have been worth a few scores to the side.
Seamus Burke, the St James’ manager, was very disappointed with his side’s narrow defeat.
“We had the chances, but we just didn’t take enough of them. When we went three points ahead in normal time we should have scored another point and stuck with it and held the game.
“At the end I was certain Paul’s effort went over and I said to the linesman that it had, but he wouldn’t call it. That said, it could have gone either way and we’ll take our defeat the way we took our victories. It’s all about senior football from now on and we’ll have to give a good account of ourselves in the senior grade.”
Best on the night for “The Jimmies” were Galway senior player Paul Conroy, Sean Donnellan, who hit 0-4 from wing-forward, Alan O’Donnell on the edge of the square, and Johnny Duane, who has been called up to the Galway senior panel this week.
Others who caught the eye at different stages were Alan Deacy, Jamie Burke, Tommy Walsh, Eoin Concannon and team captain Mark Kelly, who gave it his all as usual.
St James: J Egan; S Coughlan, A Deacy, C Glynn; J Burke, J Duane (0-1, ‘45 ), T Walsh; P Conroy 0-3 (0-2 fs ), M Kelly; M Elwood, E Conconnan 0-4 (0-2 fs ), S Donnellan (0-4 ); R O'Connell (0-1 ), A O'Donnell (0-1 ) B Dooney. Subs, S Boyle, D O’Connell (0-1 ), M McCormack, A Connolly.