Historic win for St. Marys who overcome Oliver Plunketts in classic final
St. Mary's 1-11
St. Ol. Plunkett's 0-12
CARVE their names with pride, the lads of St. Mary's who won their first ever SW Junior A football title on Sunday last in perfect conditions in Castletown Kenneigh.
This unique final, the first in the history of the championship between two teams from the same parish, was a real classic encounter that had the huge crowd in a welter of excitement as the hour progressed. Celebrate the marvellous achievement of the young men from Ballineen-Enniskeane, who had to dig really deep for this win, but spare a huge thought for gallant Plunkett's who gave their all in a tremendous encounter and whose first appearance in the final may have ended in defeat but earned them the admiration of all those lucky enough to be present on the day.
Predicting how local derbies will turn out is a tricky business, some becoming thrillers, some damp squibs. This final was definitely one of the former as the two well-matched teams went all out to write their name on the Mick McCarthy Cup for the first time.
In keeping with this wonderful game, it took a moment of pure magic to separate the sides. With four minutes to go, the teams were level on the scoreboard, 0-10 each, St. Mary's having fought back from a four-point interval deficit, which could have been much more with Plunkett's in breath-taking form in a breeze-assisted first half.
Then, in the 56th minute, as supporters began to scan their watches and neutrals were hoping it would stay all square and produce extra time, Mary's Peter Daly, inspirational in their second-half comeback, laid off the ball to Brian 'Fox' Murphy on the right wing of attack. Murphy, a real hero on the day, looked up and spotted corner forward Gary Twomey, slipping in behind the defence and with the most exquisite 50m cross-field kicked pass, he landed the ball into Twomey's lap and the corner man finished brilliantly to the net. It was a moment of magic from Murphy, and from Twomey, and was indeed a score fit to win such a brilliant contest.
Plunkett's tried their level best in the remaining seven minutes to haul back that goal but could only manage two pointed frees and when they reflect on this game, the Magpies will realise it took a wonderful goal to beat them, but they will also look on a three-minute spell just before the interval when they allowed their impressive six-point lead to be cut to four with two late Mary's points. It was those two points, from the outstanding Daly brothers, Chris, free, and Peter, play, that gave Mary's the courage to up their second half form tremendously and take the game to Plunkett's.
There were times in the first half when Mary's really seemed out of this final as rampant Plunkett's, playing a wonderful brand of running football, seemed in a different class. With Eoin Barrett putting the shackles on Peter Daly, Tim Coffey immaculate at full back and the three O'Driscoll brothers putting up an impenetrable barrier in the half back line, Plunkett's grabbed control from the start.
Kevin Coffey, looking every inch the class act, rifled over two marvellous frees from way out on the left wing and Plunkett's were off and running. John Paul O'Driscoll, who had a great first half, kicked the first point from play and Coffey pointed a 45 to give the Magpies a four-point lead after ten minutes and with midfielders Conor McCarthy and Mike Barrett winning the midfield battle hands down, Plunkett's swept forward in waves of beautifully controlled football.
Mary's were really hanging on, like a punch-drunk boxer, in the first quarter and had to wait thirteen minutes for their first score, a wonderful effort from Chris Daly from play. Many of the scores in this final, from play and frees, were right out of the top drawer. With Michael P. Keohane working his socks off on the forty and Donal Walsh and Barry O'Driscoll mopping up loads of breaking ball, Plunkett's looked set to surge into a comprehensive lead but some hasty long-distance shooting cost them dearly and the Mary's defence, inspired by Stephen Keohane at centre back, goalkeeper, Paul O'Keeffe, and corner backs, Eanna Kelleher and Daniel Milner, began to settle as the second quarter began.
Brian 'Fox' Murphy, whose move to wing forward paid rich dividends as he won piles of possession, kicked a free to cut the gap to two points, with Plunkett's stuck on four for some time. Then came a glorious period for the Magpies as Keith O'Driscoll, John Paul O'Driscoll, Michael P. Keohane and Kevin Coffey kicked four marvellous points from play and Plunkett's were six in front and looking good. Much of their good work was spoiled when they allowed the Daly brothers to grab those two points before the interval and it was 0-8 to 0-4 at half time, which scarcely reflected Plunketts' dominance.
What a second half we had - wonderful entertainment, as Mary's re-emerged a changed outfit. With Peter Daly now at midfield breaking Plunketts' grip, brother Chris thundering into the action on the forty, Stephen Keohane competing like a man possessed for every ball and Brian 'Fox' Murphy all over the place, Mary's surged forward, with the aid of the freshening breeze, looking for scores. They came, from Chris Daly, free, then a superb effort from Hugh O'Neill on the wing and another from captain fantastic, Stephen Keohane, to cut the deficit to a single point, 0-8 to 0-7, by the 36th minute.
Taken aback by Mary's blistering restart, Plunkett's finally lifted the siege with a superb point from Barry O'Driscoll, a strong candidate for man-of-the-match, and when Michael P. Keohane kicked a point after a great move and a wonderful Conor McCarthy fetch, Plunkett's were three ahead again and looked to have weathered the growing storm as the game entered the last quarter. The excitement was at fever-pitch now as Mary's rolled up their sleeves again and inspired by the Milner brothers, Anto Quinn, Keohane, Peter Daly and, finally, Stephen Cronin, they surged forward in search of scores.
It was backs to the wall for Plunkett's as a free from 'Fox' Murphy and another from Chris Daly cut the lead to a single point by the 53rd minute. A minute later a fabulous catch by Stephen Keohane saw Chris Daly kicking the equaliser, 0-10 each, and the momentum was all with Mary's now. The deciding score came in the 56th minute, the magic goal from Gary Twomey, which put Mary's in front for the very first time in the game.
Full credit to gallant Plunkett's who saw their dream of a first title disappearing but who refused to accept the inevitable. They came in search of a life-saving goal, with corner back, Gary McCarthy very prominent, but opted to kick a point from a free per Keith O'Driscoll. Two points is a nervous lead in any game but Daniel Milner kicked a beauty of a point in injury time to give Mary's breathing space and fierce defending limited Plunkett's to one last chance, Kevin Coffey blasting a close-in free over the crossbar. It finished 1-11 to 0-12 and when the final whistle sounded it was St. Mary's who were celebrating a first title win, with Plunkett's shattered after their great effort. The real winners were the supporters who witnessed a real classic game that will long live in the memory.
Full marks to referee, Tim Murnane of Goleen, who played a big part in a wonderfully sporting contest, and to host club, Ó Mathúna's, who had everything in perfect shape on the day. Before the game, in celebration of the 125th anniversary of the GAA, there was a parade of the flags of all 26 clubs in the division, carried by a boy and girl from each club.
At half time the captains of the last 25 SW winning teams were presented to the large crowd. Before the game, a minute's silence was observed in the memory of Mrs. Agnes O'Flynn of Plunkett's and Shane O'Halloran of St. Mary's.
The man-of-the-match award, sponsored by O'Neill Sports, Clonakilty, went to Chris Daly of St. Mary's. There were tremendous scenes of rejoicing as the Mick McCarthy Cup was presented by Declan Walsh, vice-chairman of the SW Board, to St. Mary's captain Stephen Keohane, who dedicated the victory to deceased players, Shane O'Halloran and Damien Twomey.
Scorers: St. Mary's - Chris Daly 0-5, 0-3 frees, Gary Twomey 1-0, Brian Murphy 0-2 frees, Peter Daly, Stephen Keohane, Daniel Milner and Hugh O'Neill 0-1 each. St. Oliver Plunkett's - Kevin Coffey 0-5, 0-3 frees, 0-1 a 45, John Paul O'Driscoll 0-2, Michael P. Keohane 0-2, Keith O'Driscoll 0-2, 0-1 free, Barry O'Driscoll 0-1.
St. Mary's - Paul O'Keeffe, Daniel Milner, Anthony Quinn, Eanna Kelleher, Brian Brady, Stephen Keohane, Barry O'Mahony, Dermot Milner, Stephen Cronin, James O'Donovan, Chris Daly, Hugh O'Neill, Peter Daly, Brian Murphy, Gary Twomey. Subs, Jason Collins and Shane McGillicuddy.
St. Oliver Plunkett's - Brian Walsh, Gary McCarthy, Tim Coffey, Eoin Barrett, T. J. O'Driscoll, Eddie O'Driscoll, Conor O'Driscoll, Mike Barrett, Conor McCarthy, John Paul O'Driscoll, Michael P. Keohane, Barry O'Driscoll, Keith O'Driscoll, Donal Walsh and Keith Coffey.
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