Fr Rocks, Cookstown 1-8
It was wet, it was cold and it was ultimately heartbreaking for Charlestown in Pearse Park, Longford on Sunday. It was one of those games where the action and the drama on the field distracted the spectator from some of the cold realities of the actual contest. While the final few moments of the game almost had enough drama in it's own right for Laochra Gael on TG4 to have a look back on it in a couple of years. When the Sarsfields men look back on Sunday's game, they'll see one statistic and wonder what might have been. From the moment that Richard Haran kicked his fifth point from a free in the 52nd minute of the game, Charlestown never caused the umpire at either end of he ground to raise the flag again, over the final eight minutes of normal time, plus injury time and through the entire two periods of extra time. Haran's final point, was only his sides second point of the second half and scoring just two points in over 50 minutes of football is not a winning formula at any level of the game.
But it's not like they didn't give everything they had to give over the 80 minutes, there's not one person who pulled on a green jersey on Sunday that didn't leave all they had on the field in the battle for glory. The dying embers of the contest were a manic hodgepodge of emotion, controversy and the hardly believable. Trailing by a point after a number of near misses from both sides and the game in the hands of referee Gary McCormack, Charlestown launched one final assault down the left side of the field. The ball was worked to Anthony Mulligan who was 30 or so meters out from goal, the frantic Tyrone men hauled down Mulligan for a free. But so frenzied were the Ulster men in stopping a quick free being taken, McCormack punished them and moved the ball in closer to the goal, right to the edge of the large rectangle for what looked like to all intents and purposes a simple score to tie the game once again and send the contest to a replay.
With emotion and nerves boiling over, Denis Kearney played what he thought was his ace card, bringing back into the action the right footed free taker Colm Maye to take the pressure kick. Maye placed the ball on the deck and shaped to shoot. As he made his short run up to kick the size five, off a soggy and slippery surface, the Cookstown defenders broke from their line to close down the distance. His shot had only got above head height when a Cookstown palm deflected the ball, sending it spinning up into the air, still looping towards the target, but loosing the vital velocity it required to cross over the bar. As all eyes watched the ball, it fell just short of the necessary distance and was plucked off the line and cleared to safety by the Ulster champions and with it, broke the hearts of and east Mayo parish.
The game started off with Charlestown going into an early 0-2 to 0-0 lead, Mark Caffrey kicked the opening score after only 20 seconds from 35 meters out after his side won the throw in. A minute later Charlestown had a goal chance when Richard Haran and Anthony Mulligan were involved in move that played in Joe Owens whose goal-bound shot was deflected out for a 45. That placed ball was directed over the bar by Colm Maye who slipped as he connected with the O'Neill's but had got enough on it to send it over the bar. Cookstown missed a good chance four minute s in when John Gilmore pulled an effort wide of the posts. But they got on the scoreboard after six minutes when Shea McGarrity drove one over with his left boot from out on the right, the same player leveled the game up for the first time three minutes later with after playing a one-two with Own Mulligan.
Three minutes later the first of two unusual goals in the game arrived. Charlestown launched a long ball in towards Anthony Mulligan who broke it down behind himself. When he and his marker Stephen Monaghan turned around it was a foot race between the two and Cookstown goalkeeper Marty Rea to get the loose pall. Mulligan proved to be the quickest off the mark and looked to have palmed a bouncing ball past the out rushing Rea. Both sides pulled a few efforts wide of the posts in the following minutes, until Martin Murray who had an outstanding game for the Tyrone champions drove over a long range free. Murray was one of the the most impressive performers on the day along with Charlestown full back Darragh McMeel (a native of Warrenpoint in Down who were beaten in the Ulster final by Cookstown ), both men did all and more than they were asked over the the duration of the game. The final five minutes of the half saw the Mayo champions hit a purple patch, rolling off three points on the bounce before the break. All three scores came from the boot of Richie Haran one from play and two from frees, sending Charlestown in leading by by 1-5 to 0-3 at the break.
First blood in the second half went to Fr Rocks with three time All Ireland winner Owen Mulligan kicking the opening two scores of the half one of them from a close range free. Ten minutes into the half Haran, hit Charlestown's first score of the half from a free, which was quickly responded to by Conor Mullan point from way out the country. With 50 minutes gone on the clock, the second goal of the game arrived from an unexpected source. Charlestown cleared the ball out down the right hand side from in front of their goal, the ball was intercepted by Martin Murray who launched an effort from well out, the ball caught David Sloyan out of position in the Charlestown goal and evaded the fingertips of a Charlestown defender on the line to level the contest up. The previous number of minutes had seen all the play with Fr Rocks, but the goal stirred Charlestown to get back into action and Haran hit his sides final point two minutes later. The nerves started to get to bother sides as the the time began to tick down towards the full time whistle. With three minutes left, Conor O'Hare leveled the game up once again with a huge effort from out on the right hand side that just crept inside the post. With a minute left on the clock, Tom Parsons rose the highest in the middle of the park to claim a Fr Rocks clearance. He showed plenty of drive and bravery to power on with two men hauling out him, he was finally illegally stopped out on the left hand side of the field about 40 meters from goal. Anthony Mulligan took on the responsibility, with Charlestown no longer having a right footed free taker on the field, however he skewed his effort off his boot and it fell short of the target. The next play saw, Charlestown turn over the ball and Cookstown throw one last effort at winning the game in normal time. Charlestown pushed the Ulster men back as far from their goal as they could without giving away a foul, the ball came to Conor Mullen who hit a shot from well out the field. The ball came back off the top of the right hand post into the arms of John Gilmore, but he panicked and pulled his effort wide of the target and the game moved into extra-time.
The critical score of the game came in the very first minute of extra time, James McGahan who had been named in the Cookstown number 15 jersey for the game, but was unable to start due to injury, had entered the fray late in normal time. With less than a minute gone in extra time the ball was fed to the Tyrone minor from last year, who steadied himself before bisecting the posts with a great effort for the final score of the game. The next 19 minutes saw both sides have a number of chances to add to their totals but fail, and the game went on to end in the aforementioned heart stopping style.
Fr Rocks: Martin Murray (1-1, 1f ), Shea McGarrity (0-2 ), Owen Mulligan (0-2,1f ), Conor Mullan (0-1 ), Conor O'Hare (0-1 ), James McGahan (0-1 )
Charlestown: Richard Haran (0-4, 3f ), Anthony Mulligan (1-0 ), Mark Caffrey (0-1 ), Colm Maye (0-1, 1 45 )
Fr Rocks, Cookstown: Marty Rea; Paul McGurk, Stephen Monaghan, David Hughes; Ryan Pickering, Martin Murray, Martin Hughes; Conor Mullan, Conor O'Hare, Shea McGarrity, Barry Hughes, Brian Mulligan; John Gilmore, Owen Mulligan, Jason Quinn.
Subs: Brian Kelly for David Hughes (HT ), Paddy Kelly for Brian Mulligan (36 ), James McGahan for Martin Hughes (49 ), Brian Mulligan for Jason Quinn (HT, ET ), Mark O'Connor for Paddy Kelly (ET 13 ), Ruari Mullan for Stephen Monaghan (ET 16 )
Charlestown: David Sloyan; Gerard McLoughlin, Darragh McMeel, Sean Lenehan; Aidan Higgins, Gareth O'Donnell, Dermot Higgins; Tom Parsons, Enda Casey; Richard Haran, Mark Caffrey, Paul Ward; Joe Owens, Anthony Mulligan, Colm Maye.
Subs: David Tiernan for Colm Maye (36 ), Ollie Conway for Paul Ward (49 ), Sean Morris for Joe Owens (63 ), Kevin Deignan for Aidan Higgins (FT ), Brendan Parsons for Dermot Higgins (ET 8 ), Joe Owens for Ollie Conway (ET 13 ), Colm Maye for Tom Parsons (ET 21 )
Ref: Gary McCormack (Dublin )