Kiltimagh celebrations will have gone on long into the night on Sunday, as the east Mayo men put themselves within sixty minutes of bringing an All Ireland title back to Mayo on Valentines day. And while everyone involved in Kiltimagh's success in Pearse Park in Longford will be fondly remembered for years to come with 37 minutes gone in this clash, only those diehards would have thought that in a fortnight's time their local hero's would be trotting out on to Croke Park.
Emyvale took this All Ireland semi-final by the scruff off the neck just before half time and looked to be kicking on to victory as thanks to two quick points in the second half put them 1-5 to 0-4 to the good. Kiltimagh were on the ropes and looking to avoid a knock out punch, they then contrived to deliver what looked like the knockout blow to themselves. Brian Gallagher picked up the ball in the left hand corner of the field, and did extremely well to cut inside his man and deliver a killer ball into the path of Liam Lydon. The Kiltimagh wing forward bore down on goal and sold a dummy to the advancing goalkeeper Gerard McCaffery, with an empty goal to finish the ball to from four yards out, he somehow managed to scoop the ball high over the bar for a point rather than a goal to bring his side right back into the contest. As Lydon held his head in shock of what happened even the awarding of the point from the chance was contentious as referee Damien Brazil looked to have signaled the effort went wide, while his umpires had to confer with the referee before they were sure that the ball did indeed go between the posts rather than outside them.
But from great misfortune, came a great performance for the next 25 minutes where Kiltimagh showed all the heart, fight, passion and skill that one needs to win an All Ireland semi-final. It could have been quite easy for the Mayo men to think that their chance had gone and just ran out the clock. But thanks to the like of Aidan Lydon, Tomás Morley Ciarán Charlton and Damien Gallagher they left absolutely everything on the field and outscored their opponents by 1-5 to 0-0 from then on to the final whistle.
The game changing score came in the 42nd minute. Ciaran Charlton who showed strength and determination throughout to belittle his tender 18 years, dropped a free into the danger area which broke onto the deck six yards out and Ronan Malee who came on just before half time pulled on the ball to direct it to the back of the net to level the game up. From then on in it was all Kiltimagh as they played the ball into space behind the Emyvale defense allowing Brian Gallagher and Seán Malee to run onto and cause consternation in the Ulster champions defense. Brian Gallagher put Kiltimagh into the lead for the first time since 15th minute of the first half. In the build up to that score the determination to not loose the game was shown by Kiltimagh defense when Aidan Lydon, Conor Heneghan and sub Paul Lydon all put their bodies on the line to block down three attempts by Emyvale for points.
Gallagher was the main man again for Kiltimagh with seven minutes left on the clock to put them two points to the good, but a two point lead is a dangerous one and misses by Ciaran Charlton and Damien Gallagher had Kiltimagh supporters living on their nerves as they impatiently awaited the final whistle, but those nerves were calmed by a pointed free from Charlton, just as five minutes injury time as announced. But Kiltimagh weren't going to loose it and another point from a Charlton free and a monster score from Adrian Forkan just after he came on sealed a famous day in Kiltimagh history.
The first half saw Kiltimagh race into an early 0-2 to 0-0 lead thanks to scores from James Byrne and a Brian Gallagher free. The Monaghan men took their time finding their feet in the game and the dangerous Daniel McMahon clipped over their first score of the contest after six minutes, before Charlton restored the Mayo sides two point lead on seven minutes and he added another point from a free on 14 minutes. But that was to be their last score until Liam Lydon's effort seven minutes into the second half. Robbie McHugh and Daniel McMahon pointed for the Emyvale men, before they scored the first goal of the game which put them into the lead. Brendan McKenna won a kick out from Peter Burke with ease and found Gareth McQuid in acres of space 35 meters out, the wing forward broke for goal and took one bounce before launching an unstoppable shot to the top corner of the net. The Ulster champions looked to be in control of the game from here on in, until Kiltimagh took the game by the scruff of the neck and marched towards Croke Park.
Kiltimagh: P Burke; J Mulhern, J Murtagh, P Larkin; D Gallagher, C Heneghan, A Lydon; T Morley, P Regan; C Charlton (0-4, 4f ), S Malee, L Lydon (0-1 ); B Gallagher (0-3, 3f ), N Lydon, J Byrne (0-1 ), Subs: R Malee (1-0 ), A Forkan (0-1 ), M Schlingermann, P Lydon, K Lydon
Emyvale: G McCaffery; C Connolly, S McKenna, S McMeel; B Askin, J Flannery, JT Treanor; PJ McKenna, B McKenna; G McQuaid (1-0 ), M McAree, R McHugh (0-2 ); D McMahon (0-3, 1f ), G McKernan, B O'Brien. Subs: C McKenna, J Morrough, S Downey, M Flannery, D McKernan.
Ref: D Brazil (Offaly )