U-21 FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINAL: Kildimo/Pallaskenry 0-10 Shannon Gaels 1-11. A goal seven minutes from time for Shannon Gaels proved crucial as they defeated our U-21 footballers in the County semi-final. Up until that point, it had been nip-and-tuck, almost score-for-score all the way but any goal was always going to be vital in such a tight match. Unfortunately, in the middle of exams with players attending college around the country, we were without five of the starting team from the City Final. But we had the better of the game for long periods and there was never much between the teams.

We had the better of the first half but Jamie Hickey was called upon to make a point-blank save in the early moments to deny Shannon Gaels a goal. Bolstered by this, we would kick the first score with Dylan Corrigan converting a free after Adam Butler was fouled. We would soon double our advantage after some great defensive play and then a fantastic team move. Liam O’Sullivan and James Pomeroy combined brilliantly to dispossess a Shannon Gaels forward who was in a threatening position and then the ball was moved the length of the pitch with Paudi Hartigan, Adam Butler and Naoise McGarrigle all linking up well before Adam received a return pass and was fouled again. Once more, Dylan Corrigan kicked the free before Shannon Gaels hit their first point from play. But straight from the resulting kickout, we would restore our two-point advantage. Jamie Hickey pinged a brilliant kickout down the middle which was claimed superbly in the middle of the field by Liam O’Sullivan. Liam turned and drove at goal, carrying the ball over forty metres before popping outside to Adam Butler, who calmly slotted over the bar.

Adam had been fouled for our first two scores and kicked the third one himself but the next score would be another converted free. This time it was JJ Mulcair who was fouled as he raided forward from wing-back but once again, Dylan made no mistake with the free. This gave us a three-point lead but Shannon Gaels would then enjoy their best period of the match and would kick three scores in a row to level the game. The first two scores in this run would come from converted frees before they hit a point from play. But we would then hit the front once again; Paudi Hartigan did brilliantly to win a Shannon Gaels kickout and he then linked up with Cathal Downes coming off the shoulder, who landed a brilliant score off his right foot!

Some fantastic defensive play from Shaun Barry prevented another goal chance from arising, he showed brilliant recovery pace to get back to make the tackle to dispossess the Shannon Gaels forward. At times, the Shannon Gaels runners from deep were causing us issues but we were recovering well in defence with the likes of Shaun organising things and James Pomeroy and Liam O’Sullivan putting in some big hits. Shannon Gaels did level things up with another point from play before Naoise McGarrigle was fouled as he attempted to lay the ball off and Dylan stroked over another free. But the final score of the half would go the way of the West champions, who levelled things up for the break: Kildimo/Pallaskenry 0-6 Shannon Gaels 0-6.

We had a goal chance early in the second half after some good play from Liam O’Sullivan and Evin Kelly set Dylan Corrigan loose. His shot on goal went just wide of the post. We were slightly wasteful at the beginning of the second half as, even though we were dominating possession, we couldn’t get on the scoreboard. A couple of Shannon Gaels scores in a row were a blow, considering they were working off limited possession and they took the lead for the first time in the game. But then another very good kickout from Jamie Hickey,

again brilliantly claimed by Liam O’Sullivan set us off on another attack. Liam linked up with Paudi Hartigan who found Adam Butler inside with a great pass; Adam turned and curled a fine point over the bar. Seconds later, we were level again: Dylan Corrigan intercepted the kickout, he found Paudi Hartigan whose shot dropped just over the crossbar!

Shannon Gaels hit the front again with another point, before we had another goal opportunity. Dylan Corrigan showed great elusiveness to go past a couple of defenders and came along the endline from the left-hand side. His right-footed shot was brilliantly saved by the goalkeeper, who stuck out a leg to divert it around the post! Cathal Downes struck the ’45 brilliantly, however, and the ball soared right between the uprights to level matters once again! But with less than ten minutes remaining, the game’s only goal arrived and it went to our opponents! A kickout was brilliantly won in midfield, they moved the ball through the lines and it finished in the back of the net. As we chased the game, frustrations set in slightly and Shannon Gaels were able to kick two more points.

To be fair, we dominated the closing stages with the likes of Cathal Downes, who was superb in the middle of the field throughout, very prominent! Adam Butler kicked another point to reduce the gap and although we had other chances to narrow the deficit, we knew that we needed a goal and dropped a lot of frees in around the edge of the square but although a few balls broke, we weren’t able to bundle the ball into the back of the net! It was a disappointing end to the season and we are left to wonder what might have been. But the players have done the club proud with their performances on the pitch, and collected another piece of silverware and we’d also like to thank the management team of John Barry, Brian Butler, Liam Hayes, Brian Barry and Damien O’Brien for their efforts all year long!

Team: Jamie Hickey; Aaron O’Donovan, Luke O’Keeffe, Jack Mullane; James Pomeroy, Shaun Barry, JJ Mulcair; Liam O’Sullivan, Cathal Downes (0-2, 0-1 ’45); Adam Butler (0-3), Dylan Corrigan (0-4, frees), Paudi Hartigan (0-1); Cathal O’Shaughnessy, Evin Kelly, Naoise McGarrigle

Subs: Mark Curran for Cathal O’Shaughnessy (half-time); Jack Ryan for Naoise McGarrigle (52 mins); Jai Chaudri for Aaron O’Donovan (55 mins); Mike Nash for Adam Butler (60 mins)