O’Donovan Rossa 2-11
Owen Gaels 2-8
O’DONOVAN Rossa were made sweat before advancing to the final of the South West U21B football championship.
Leading by nine points at the three-quarter stage in Ardfield against Owen Gaels, Skibb looked certain to ease into the final – but they were pushed all the way as the losers closed the gap to just two points at one stage.
It took a marvellous save by Rossa goalkeeper Paul Minihane, two opportunist late points by super-sub Eoghan O’Connell, and three bad wides by the Gaels’ forwards to guarantee the Skibb side’s place in the divisional final.
‘We seemed to lose our way in the middle of the second half, something we’ll have to work on,’ admitted Rossa mentor Shane Crowley.
‘We consistently try to get quick ball into our forwards and it worked well in the first half but it takes a lot of energy. We can’t expect perfection just yet but we’re in the final where we want to be.
‘We try to play good, positive football, the Skibbereen way. We want to be positive, get scores on the board, none of this defensive stuff. You don’t want to be too tactical with young lads.
‘We needed a win like this, it’s good for the club, we haven’t reached this stage in U21 for a long time. That was a great battle, just what the team needed.’
Rossas played some great football for 45 minutes of this exciting clash, inspired by a first-minute goal from outstanding full-forward Elliot Connolly. Even though Brian O’Donovan kicked a superb solo goal to equalise in the fourth minute, it was all Rossas courtesy of some strong play from midfielders, Sean Cowhap and Sean Fitzgerald, with Connolly and Dylan Hourihane leading the charge up front.
Points from Brian Crowley and Hourihane shoved Rossas back in front before Connolly struck for his second goal, in the sixth minute, resulting from a great catch by Cowhap at midfield.
Rossas led 2-3 to 1-1 at the end of the first quarter and 2-4 to 1-2 at the break, as only two scores were registered in the second quarter, Padraig Cullinane for Gaels and Dylan Hourihane for Rossas.
The third quarter was all Rossas, playing a superb brand of fast, running football, reminiscent of Skibbereen teams at their best, and points from sub Rory Byrne, play and free, Hourihane and Connolly (2) had the Reds nine points to the good by the close of the third quarter, 2-9 to 1-3, Gaels’ only reply coming from a Ciarán Nyhan free.
There seemed no way back for Gaels at that stage but with Daniel O’Brien and Colin Crowley driving forward from defence, the tide certainly turned in the closing stages.
Two points from the flying sub Dean Harte, and another from corner back Daniel O’Brien were followed in the 52nd minute by a goal from Murray and suddenly the gap was down to a very manageable three points.
Rossas were seriously struggling now against a rampant Gaels, with Sean Ryan lording midfield, but Gaels kicked a few poor wides before sub Eoghan O’Connell kicked a precious point for Skibb with his first touch.
Undaunted, back came Gaels and a point from Ciarán Nyhan had the deficit down to three as the Rossa supporters anxiously scanned their watches.
Gaels almost stole it in the 60th minute when a rasper from Ben Murray was brilliantly tipped over the crossbar by goalkeeper Paul Minihane.
Super-sub Eoghan O’Connell relieved Rossa nerves with a point in the 62nd minute and the winners hung on to record a nerve-wracking, but deserved, three-point victory.
O’Donovan Rossa: Elliot Connolly 2-2, Dylan Hourihane 0-3 (1f), Eoghan O’Connell, Rory Byrne (1f) 0-2 each, Brian Crowley, Joe Lynch 0-1 each.
Owen Gaels: Ben Murray 1-2, Brian O’Donovan 1-0, Ciarán Nyhan (1f), Dean Harte 0-2 each, Daniel O’Brien, Padraig Cullinane 0-1 each.
O’Donovan Rossa: Paul Minihane; Ross Fitzgerald, Eoin Fitzgerald, Alan Nott; Shane O’Driscoll, Dylan O’Donovan, Brian Minihane; Jack Cowhap, Sean Fitzgerald; Darren Daly, Dylan Hourihane, Brian Crowley; Joe Lynch, Elliot Connolly, Kevin Hurley.
Subs: Rory Byrne for J Lynch (ht), Michael O’Sullivan for D Daly (50), Eoghan O’Connell for K Hurley (55).
Owen Gaels: Cian Ryan; Daniel O’Brien, Colin Crowley, David McCarthy; Brian Dowling, Stephen Shannon, Ciarán O’Neill; Sean Ryan, Tristan Walsh; Ciarán Nyhan, Ben Murray, Sean O’Donovan; Brian O’Donovan, Kevin O’Neill, Padraig Cullinane.
Subs: Ronan McCarthy for T Walsh (20), Dean Harte for K O’Neill (25), Sean Nyhan for S O’Donovan (42).
Referee: Connie Murphy (Kilmeen).