SENIOR CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL: Austin Stacks 1-21; Dr. Crokes 1-15.
In ideal conditions in Austin Stack Park we won our 4th Club Championship title and our first since 2016 after another brilliant display by all our 20 players who lined out during the 69 minutes of play (32m in the first half, 37m during the second period). Crokes were also the opposition on that September Saturday in 2016 in Fitzgerald Stadium when we had only one point to spare at the end but on this occasion we finished the game with a margin of six points.
It didn’t look like that half way through the first half when the current champions had a lead of five points (1-4 to 0-2). Both of our opening points came from two well-taken frees by Darragh O’Brien. But in a five minute spell between the 15th and 20th minutes we scored six brilliant unanswered points – all from play – with Kieran Donaghy and Greg Horan on target twice and one each from Fiachna Mangan and Ronan Shanahan. Crokes responded well with three more points inside the 25th minute. Both sides then had a point each in the closing minutes of the half – ours a super effort from distance by Shane O’Callaghan – and it was looking like Crokes were going in at the break with a two points lead. But in one last attack Kieran Donaghy fielded a mighty effort, as he did all afternoon. He was fouled in the square and Darragh O’Brien sent the keeper the wrong way from the resultant penalty to give us a one point lead at half time (1-9 to 1-8).
With both sides exchanging points during the third quarter that was still the margin between the sides (1-13 to 1-12) as the game entered the final quarter – three of our four points coming from the boot of Seán Quilter after Darragh O’Brien had opened the second half scoring in the 34th minute. But the preparation done by Wayne, Damien and their colleagues really showed in the final quarter when we outscored the opposition by eight points to three. Four of these came from Seán Quilter (two frees), one from Shane O’Callaghan and one each from three of the subs that came on during the second half – Conor Jordan, Shane Carroll and Ferdia O’Brien.
Again our defence was superb. Robbie Murphy was soundness personified in goals and his kick-outs always found a colleague. Time after time, when Crokes were on the attack one or other of our six defenders were there to do a turn-over and all six mounted attack after attack when the occasion arose. Wayne Guthrie and Joseph O’Connor won the midfield battle over the course of the game. Wayne picked up a nasty leg injury ten minutes into the second half and we all wish him a speedy recovery (however it didn’t stop him from climbing the steps of the stand to accept the Michael O’Connor Cup after the game) . Up front all our six starting forwards got on the score sheet as well as three of the subs (already named above) and Ronan Shanahan in one of his many attacks up field also put over. Seán Quilter won the Man of the Match award. In his last five games he has amassed a total of 31 points which brings him into joint second spot with Shane O’Callaghan (4-19), just four behind the current top-scorer, Darragh O’Brien (3-26).
Team: Robbie Murphy, Colin Griffin, Barry Shanahan, Jack O’Shea, Ciarán O’Reilly, Ronan Shanahan (0-1), Jack Morgan, Wayne Guthrie (Capt), Joseph O’Connor, Greg Horan (0-2), Darragh O’Brien (1-3 –one penalty goal; two frees), Fiachna Mangan (0-1, Seán Quilter (0-7 – three frees), Kieran Donaghy (0-2), Shane O’Callaghan (0-2).
Subs used: Conor Jordan (37m) (0-1), Michael O’Gara (40m), Ferdia O’Brien (51m) (0-1), Shane Carroll (58m) (0-1), Brandon Patterson (60m).
We won the very first Club Championship in 1979. We then had to wait 24 years before our next title in 2003. And one man who had another stormer today was also on that team 16 years ago – the one and only Kieran Donaghy. And also on the playing panel during the course of that campaign were three men who are part of the management team today – Wayne Quillinan, Jonathan Conway and Eoin Colgan.
Our next game, in a fortnight’s time, will also be against Dr. Crokes. The game, in Connolly Park, will be in the 3rd round of the Co. League.