Our 1-9 to 0-8 win over the Rossies in the FBD this afternoon was enough to guarantee us a place in the final where next month we’ll face the FBD league specialists, Galway. But the result from this afternoon that everyone in the county will be talking about came at Pearse Park, Longford, where Kiltimagh overcame Monaghan’s Emyvale by 1-10 to 1-5 to claim a place in the All-Ireland junior club final.
It sounds like the lads were always in a comfortable enough position against the Sheepstealers in Ballinlough. We went in at the break with our noses in front by a point (0-5 to 0-4) but the score that effectively decided the match came in the second half when Enda Varley was fouled in the square and Mark Ronaldson goaled from the resultant penalty. The diminutive Shrule-Glencorrib man ended up accounting for 1-7 of our total this afternoon, with the other two points coming from Seamus O’Shea – who made a very welcome start for the county for the first time since our 2008 league clash with Donegal – and Andy Moran.
Our four-point win, coupled with IT Sligo’s inability to beat NUIG by more than a single point, means that – for the first time since 2006 – we’ve only gone and reached the FBD final, albeit only by edging out the students on points difference. Galway, back in the final for the millionth successive year (what is it with them and the FBD?) will provide the opposition and this particular decider will be held, at a Mayo venue, towards the end of next month.
The other point of interest from today’s game was, of course, the team selection. PJ, who didn’t make it to Ballinlough, had an ear cocked to Midwest (I hadn’t – most of my info on today’s action comes courtesy of Club Mayo Dublin’s excellent and very frequent Twitter updates) and this is the line-up that he said he heard:
David Clarke; Liam O’Malley, Ger Cafferkey, Donal Vaughan; Peadar Gardiner, Trevor Howley, Keith Higgins; Seamus O’Shea, Tom Parsons; Andy Moran, Barry Kelly, Trevor Mortimer; Mark Ronaldson, Aidan O’Shea, Enda Varley.
Johnno had said in advance that there’d be changes for today’s game and, with five alterations from the side that took the field against IT Sligo, you’d think that a one-third swapout in planning personnel constitutes significant alteration. However, with regulars like David Clarke and Trevor Howley (who’d both started against NUIG) as well as Ger Cafferkey (returning from an injury incurred during the big freeze) making up three of that five, it was the reappearance to the colours of Seamus O’Shea in midfield and Enda Varley at corner-forward that represented the only real experimentation today.
Such conservatism, in a match we weren’t enormously bothered about, is a tad disappointing. The opportunity could, for example, have been taken to try out other options at corner-back, perhaps by keeping Alan Feeney at full, with Ger in the corner (or vice-versa) and maybe recalling Trevor Howley to corner-back and giving Lee Keegan some more game time at centre back. It was good, however, to see Keith being moved out to wing-back, a position more suited to his pace, not to mention his disdain for tight marking.
Seamus O’Shea’s recall was also hugely welcome and I’d hope this means he now gets an extended run at midfield over the next few months. It’d be great fun entirely to see Seamus winning loads of possession at midfield and bombing it in on top of the kid brother. Enda Varley’s first appearance for the county since the corresponding fixture to this one back in January 2008 was good to see too and he’s another player who should be given further chances in the starting fifteen over the course of the spring. Surely, though, we could we have tried out some different options at wing forward: is there really anything we don’t know about Andy and Trevor in those positions at this stage? Barry Kelly’s second start on the forty would indicate, I suppose, that he’s being seen as a direct replacement for Pat Harte for the early rounds of the league.
That’s all that can reasonably be said about today’s FBD match and what it might (or might not) mean for our first NFL team of 2010, a team we’ll be selecting in just a few days time from now. You can, however, be sure that it’ll be some time (and rightly too) before we hear the end of Kiltimagh’s heroics in this afternoon’s All-Ireland Junior semi-final at Pearse Park in Longford, where the lads from Raftery country fought back from two points down at half-time to beat Monaghan’s Emyvale by five points to seal their place in the final. Colm Gannon of the Mayo Advertiser has already filed a comprehensive match report from Pearse Park: here it is.
Kiltimagh were well in it at half-time but their inability to get scores on the board, following a positive opening quarter, would have been a worry for their supporters. In the second half, however, they really got motoring and, although Emyvale quickly doubled their lead on the restart, Kiltimagh held them scoreless for the rest of the game. Once Ronan Mallee (there’s an illustrious Kiltimagh GAA surname for you) poked in a goal to bring the match level after twelve minutes of the second half, the East Mayo lads never looked back and they pulled away to win by an impressive five-point margin at the end.
Kiltimagh can now look forward to an All-Ireland final appearance at Croke Park in two weeks time where – you’ve guessed it – they’ll face Kerry opposition, in the form of Castlegregory. After the manner of today’s win, however, they shouldn’t fear anyone and here’s hoping they can now go on and create their own piece of history on Valentine’s Day.