St James 2-11
St Mary’s 1-11
MATTHEW HURLEY REPORTS
ST JAMES booked their place in the Bandon Co-op Carbery Junior A Football Championship final after defeating St Mary’s in an epic semi-final that lit up a dreary Ballinacarriga.
The Ardfield side lost to St Mary’s in the first round of this year's championship, but a repeat result wasn’t going to happen.
Player/manager Alan O’Shea, who got the decisive second James’ goal, was delighted with the win.
‘It was 50/50 really. St Mary’s are an excellent team. We knew we had to bring everything to them, and we did. We stood up, it was a great battle and that’ll stand to us,’ O’Shea said.
His match-winning goal was not only a crucial score but was very well taken, especially given that the clock was in stoppage time and the sides were level.
‘It was a great pass in by Aaron (Hayes) and I couldn’t miss really. I just wanted to score,’ he said.
‘It was just the experience of knowing what to do. I practice every night in training and that’s what I did, just took the chance,’ O’Shea added.
The 2019 champions did open the scoring as their star man against Ballinascarthy, James O’Driscoll, split the posts. But Ballineen/Enniskeane side St Mary’s scored the next 1-3 though to stamp their authority on a pulsating encounter.
Full forward Darren O’Donovan hit the first of 1-2 of that tally which included an expertly-taken goal after a chipped pass from Jack Hurley.
It was 1-2 to 0-1 after ten minutes. Olan Corcoran extended Mary's lead before St James’ first-half surge came.
‘I always said to them, keep tipping away and we’ll see how we get on. In fairness they did and kept plugging away,’ O’Shea added.
O’Driscoll and Conor Hayes both scored to make it 1-3 to 0-3 before St James got a goal of their own. After a misplaced pass from St Mary’s in the middle of the park, James pounced. The ball was fed into Frank Hayes who spun his man and hand passed into Conor Hayes.
The full forward had the easiest of tasks to palm the ball home. Now we had a game. It was 1-3 apiece after 20 minutes.
‘It was a goal that we needed. We took our chances when we had to take them and that was the big thing. We showed great character; super character altogether. That’s what got us over the line,’ said O’Shea.
Championship top scorer Aaron Hayes opened his account for the day by hitting the next two points. St Mary’s did respond well before half time as Corcoran converted a couple of frees, and it was 1-5 each at the short whistle.
The third quarter was dominated by a determined Mary’s, who lost last year’s final. They outscored the Ardfield outfit by 0-5 to 0-2 between the 30th and 52nd minutes.
Frank Hayes slotted over a free to give James’ the lead but a mazy run and class finish from Niall Kelleher levelled it once more.
Corcoran converted two more frees before wing back Mark O’Driscoll cancelled out Frank Hayes’ second score to make it 1-9 to 1-7. Mary’s forward O’Donovan blazed the ball over the crossbar on 52 minutes and while he did get something out of the attack, a three pointer was certainly on. A three-point deficit with ten minutes left and wet weather could have impacted a side trailing, but not St James.
‘There are fellas there that are so honest and that’s the main thing. Honesty takes you a long way. With these lads, they’re special. They never die, you just drill it into them. They give you everything and that will carry you a long way,’ admitted O’Shea.
That never-say-die attitude was certainly evident as they scored 1-3 without reply.
Points from O’Shea himself, an outrageous effort from Conor Hayes and a Frank Hayes curler levelled the teams once again.
It then became a battle around the middle. The sides looked inseparable until one big moment.
St Mary’s conceded a free while attacking. St James took it quickly. The ball was suddenly in the hands of Aaron Hayes. He played in a superb pass to an unmarked O’Shea who coolly slotted home, 2-10 to 1-10.
A host of Mary’s men tried to fist the ball to the net from a dropping free shortly after, but Jason Collins could only manage a point.
St James’ Frank Hayes rounded off the scoring by hand passing over the bar.
The team that had been written off by many before the quarter-finals now find themselves back in a Carbery football final – and have the chance to win promotion to the new county premier junior football championship in 2023.
‘We have nothing to fear. We’ll go off and have a crack at whoever it is,’ the victorious manager concluded.
St James: Conor Hayes 1-2; Frank Hayes 0-4 (1f); Alan O’Shea 1-1; James O’Driscoll, Aaron Hayes (1f) 0-2 each.
St Mary’s: Darren O’Donovan 1-3; Olan Corcoran 0-5 (4f); Niall Kelleher, Mark O’Driscoll, Jason Collins 0-1 each.
St James: Niall Evans; Micheál McCarthy (Brittas), James O’Sullivan, Tadhg Feen; Peter Whelton, Cristóir Hayes, Micheál McCarthy (Donnycove); Kevin O’Leary, James O’Driscoll; Ian Evans, Aaron Hayes, Joseph O’Sullivan; Frank Hayes, Conor Hayes, Denis White.
Subs: Kevin O’Brien for I Evans (11); Alan O’Shea for D White, Paul O’Sullivan for K O’Leary (both 43); David Hayes for P Whelton (53).
St Mary’s: Paul Gleeson; Finighin O’Driscoll, David Curtin, Billy O’Brien; Ryan Scannell, Dylan Scannell, Mark O’Driscoll; Rory O’Connor, Brian Everard; Aaron O’Driscoll, Olan Corcoran, Michael O’Driscoll; Jack Hurley, Darren O’Donovan, Niall Kelleher.
Subs: Stephen Keohane for A O’Driscoll (42); Cillian McGillicuddy for B Everard (44, blood sub); Jason Collins for M O’Driscoll (54); Rory Baggott for D Curtin (60); Cillian McGillicuddy for D Scannell (64, inj).
Referee: Michael Collins (Clonakilty).