Valeo from Tuam came up just short in an epic All Ireland Junior football semi-final played in ideal conditions in Claregalway on Saturday.
In a cracking match, the Tuam outfit lost by 3-8 to 1-13 to Belfast’s Citi Bank.
Valeo trailed by six points at the break having conceded two goals in the space of 90 seconds, However they came out fighting in the second half, narrowed the gap to the minimum, but could not force the game into extra time.
Without the unavailable Paul Varley and Derek Savage, it was a brave performance against a strong Citi Bank side which had strong performers all over the field. Conor Starrs caused all sorts of problems throughout, scoring the two late first-half goals, and he was instrumental in most of the Belfast side’s scores.
The Belfast side had the better of the exchanges in the first half at midfield. Declan Shannon converted an early free, but Liam Garvey, who was injured midway through the half, fired over from 40 metres.
After Starrs was fouled, Citi were back in front on 11 minutes before Starrs fed the in running Sean Corrigan who fired home to put Citi four clear.
In a dramatic six minutes Valeo first levelled through John Cleary and a Darren Durcan goal, but Citi replied with two Starrs’ goals for a six-point lead, 3-3 to 1-3.
Valeo produced a powerful second-half display with Aonghus Tierney and Cathal Reilly turning the screw around the centre. John Cleary popped over a point within two minutes of the resumption before Tierney converted two 45s.
It was all Valeo in this third quarter. Martin Newell brought the gap down to two, and Darren Durcan fired over to leave just one between the sides.
But the Tuam outfit could never get their noses in front.
With three points in it with 10 minutes to go, Tierney and Gavin McWilliams exchanged points before John Cleary, with his fourth point, reduced the gap again. Durcan fired over from out on the right to reduce the gap to a single point with four minutes remaining.
In end to end play, substitute Sean Cassidy seemed to have secured it when he pointed moments later, but once again Veleo tried valiantly to force extra time and another Newell free reduced the arrears again.
In injury time, Citi edged two clear once more, and when Starrs was black carded shortly after,Valeo still had their chances. Newell converted a close in free with time running out, but Citi held on to set up an All Ireland decider against Astellas from Killarney.
Valeo: D Steede, P McVeigh, D O Dea, D Reilly, M Towey, L Garvey (0-1 ), Michael Newell, A Tierney (0-2 ), C Reilly, P Rowsome, D Durcan (1-2 ), Martin Newell (0-4 ), M McDonagh, J Cleary (0-4 ), B Dever. Subs: J Naughton, O Craddock.