Whatever training sessions that Hollymount-Carramore put in over the next fortnight preparing for the Connacht Intermediate Football Championship Final against Moycullen, it’ll be nothing compared to the battle they came through on Sunday in MacHale Park.
Tom Connelly’s men looked to have the game won, then almost lost it, won it again in the first half of extra time and then they failed to score in the second half of that extra time and if the Gods had been with David McSharry and his free-taking they could very easily be going back to Leitrim next weekend and trying to do it all over again. But at the end of a hectic, heroic and hard fought 80 minutes they south Mayo men did just enough to seal their place in the provincial final on November 15.
The action on and off the ball in this encounter from the get go was hard to keep up with as both sides put their foot to the floor and squeezed every sap of energy out of their bodies. Melvin Gaels played a highly intensive possession brand of football, working the ball through the hands from front to back with every possession. While Hollymount-Carramore mixed up their play a bit more, letting the ball do the work when it could.
The Leitrim champions opened the scoring inside the first 90 seconds though a well taken point from the boot of Jesse McGuinness, the big Melvin Gaels midfielder would play a far more pivotal part in the game later on in the afternoon. Hollymount-Carramore responded through a Kevin Ferrick point one minute later and by the ninth minute they pushed themselves into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead thanks to a pointed free from captain Darren Coen and fine score from out near the left-hand touchline from Conor Keane. They also had the first real goal chance of the game 15 minutes in when Keane and Stephen Coen set up Darren Coen but his shot was well saved by Michael Neil Gallagher in the Gaels goal. Coen stretched his sides lead out to three points from another free a minute later, before Jonathan Connolly got his side moving again on the scoreboard. Robert Molloy and Peter McGowan swapped scores, with McGowan’s point coming after the hard work of Melvin Gales centre-half-back Fabian McMorrow, who left one man on the deck after he tried to shoulder him as he broke forward. But the Mayo champions were able to tag on two more points before the short whistle through two Coen frees to leave the score at 0-7 to 0-3 at the break. But what happened on the field rather than the scoreboard in the closing stages of the half really heated up the atmosphere. First up Hollymount-Carramore’s Keelan McNamara got a yellow card for a late hit on Peter McGowan, to most in the crowd the hit looked to have warranted a black card rather than a yellow and as tempers flared after that incident the game got away from referee Sean Heir. A minute before the break, Hollymount-Carramore did see a man sent to the line, this time permanently when Conor Keane was shown a straight red card for what appeared to be a blow to the head in the aftermath both Darren Coen and Ian Costello were flashed yellow cards. The break came at the right time for both sides, but there were still lots more flashpoints and excitement to come.
Five minutes into the second half McGown cut the gap back to three points, but just a minute later Hollymount-Carramore looked to have struck a killer blow. Kevin Ferrick got in down along the end line and lofted the ball across the face of the goal where McNamara was on and to fist the ball to the net and put his side six clear with 24 minutes to go. But Melvin Gaels weren’t going to go away that easy and the reeled off five unanswered points in a row to cut the gap to just one with a quarter of the game left to play. David McSharry kicked three of those points from frees, with Darragh Rooney chipping in with the other two. A pointed free from Ian Costello looked to have stemmed the flow from the dyke on 59 minutes and when Louis Macken was upturned as he shot for goal eight minutes from time and a penalty awarded by Heir. It looked like, that would be that if Hollymount-Carramore could convert it. And convert it they did in some style, with Darren Coen driving the ball past Gallagher to leave the score at 2-8 to 0-9 with seven minutes left on the clock.
Melvin Gaels didn’t panic and a point from Rooney had the game back to a four point contest with six minutes to go, two minutes later McSharry drove over a long range free and there was just a goal between the sides and the wind was behind the Leitrim men. A minute later that goal arrived to complete an amazing three minutes of football. The ball was pumped into Rooney and the Leitrim minor man showed strength beyond his years to take a heavy shoulder and still hold on to the ball and make space to get off a shot. His effort was saved by Niall Campbell in the Hollymount-Carramore goal, but Jesse McGuinness was following it up and he send the rebound to the back of the net and it was all square as the game entered the finishing straight. Both sides had chances to force a shot in the closing minutes and injury time, but neither were able to get one off and the game headed for 20 minutes of extra-time and Hollymount-Carramroe were going to be back up to 15 men for those 20 minutes.
The first period of extra time went as well as it could for Connelly’s men as the reeled off five points without reply in the half. Darren Coen hit two points from frees with Robert Molloy, Kevin Ferrick and Conor Heneghan all chipping in with one each. It looked like they had done enough to close the game out for a second time, but Melvin Gaels weren’t throwing in the towel this time either. David McSharry kicked a pointed free a minute in, then full back Michaéal Ferguson drove one over the bar to make it a three point game. McSharry had another chance to put over a free with 77 minutes on the clock, but this time he pulled his effort wide on the near side. A minute later he made no mistake with another effort from a placed ball. Tempers began to fray as the Mayo champions tried to slow the game down and the Leitrim men were frantically trying to get things moving as quick as they could. Melvin Gaels were reduced to 14 not long before the end when Liam Ryan was shown a straight red after needlessly getting involved in two incidents in the space of 30 seconds. Time ticked down and Hollymount-Carramore did enough to hold on and set up a mouthwatering encounter with Galway champions Moycullen in a fortnights time.
Hollymount-Carramore: D Coen (1-6, 1 pen, 6f ), K McNamara (1-0 ), K Ferrick (0-2 ), R Molloy (0-2 ), I Costello (0-1, 1f ), C Keane (0-1 ), C Heneghan (0-1 )
Melvin Gaels: D McSharry (0-6, 6f ), J McGuinness (1-1 ), D Rooney (0-3 ), P McGowan (0-2 ), J Connolly (0-1 ), M Ferguson (0-1 )
Hollymount-Carramore: N Campbell; R Connelly, D McHugh, D Ferrick; P Ferrick, B Sheridan, R Molloy; K McNamara, S Coen; K Ferrick, I Costello, K Costello; C Keane, D Coen, D Costello. Subs: L Mackan for R Connelly (HT ), A Fahy for D Costello (49 ), C Heneghan fo L Mackan (55 ), E Maloney for D Costello (BC,74 ), O Gill for F Molloy (78 ).
Melvin Gaels: M N Gallagher; S Ryan, M Ferguson, L Ryan; C McGowan, F McMorrow, D Clancy; P McGowan, J McGuinness; D McSharry, J Connolly, L Ryan; D Roper, D Rooney, J Langan. Subs: T Simpson for L Ryan (41 ), D Clacncy for J Langan (50 ), P Simpson for D Roper (59 ), S Clancy for J McGuinness (61 ), C Regan for T Simpson (66 ), K Sweeney for P McGowan (BC, 73 )
Ref: S Heir (Galway )