Final quarter flourish secures the spoils

Meath U-17 Division 2 League Final

Seneschalstown 3-08 Navan O’Mahonys 0-10

The Meath Centre of Excellence in Dunganny bore witness on Wednesday evening to an U-17 Final which showcased plenty of cause for optimism that the future of Meath football is very bright. Neighbours and rivals through the decades, Navan O’Mahonys and Seneschalstown can look forward to two special groups of players making their way onto their respective Senior panels in the not too distant future if the fare both produced on a typically Autumnal evening is any barometer to go by.

Many of these players represent their county on Development Panels, keeping up a strong tradition of players from their clubs representing their county and the high level of coaching that they are receiving whether it be through playing schools football in St. Pat’s, with Meath or in either club really shone through on Wednesday as throughout the hour the calibre of football played was out of the top drawer. Whether it was the countless examples of brilliant defending, excellent shot stopping from the goalkeepers, high fielding around the middle of the field or sumptuous shooting for points all that is good in Meath football was on show in Dunganny.

From the first whistle the match brimmed with an intensity which can only be seen when two sides loaded with talented players who have a drive to emerge victorious clash. Up for grabs was more than just the spoils of taking home the cup for when players who are friends and go to school together play against each other then and especially for teenagers, bragging rights are a central tenet of any match, particularly a final.

As is often the nature of matches played in Dunganny a strong breeze blew in from the Trim end which meant that the team defending the clubhouse end of the pitch were going to be under pressure to relieve their lines. Whichever team made the most of playing with the elements and limited the damage when playing into them were always likely to be the one going home with the cup and to this end Seneschalstown must have been content at the interval to be only two points in arrears, 0-05 to 0-03 having played up the slope and into the wind. This feeling though would have been quickly wiped away when Navan O’Mahonys made a blistering start to the second half and over the third quarter opened up a six point advantage and appeared to be making an early kick for home.

The final quarter however is where the strength of character that the Seneschalstown players have in abundance really shone through as they suddenly discovered their mojo and opened their shoulders. Breaking ball was hoovered up as the half backs and half forwards began to show a reckless abandon for their safety as they did whatever it took to get their hands on the ball and pin O’Mahonys back in their own half. Meath U-15 player Sean Commons knocked over a few points from frees and there was now a sense that the momentum was beginning to shift towards the youngsters in blue and yellow. And once Brian Maguire nearly burst the net when scoring a goal that momentum turned into a tidal wave of pressure as Seneschalstown moved through the gears and put their foot on the accelerator. Destination? Victory.

Those in the large attendance didn’t have to wait long for the game’s opening score when with only two minutes on the clock Navan O’Mahonys opened the scoring when landing a free from in front of the posts forty metres out. They quickly extended that advantage when after winning the kickout their centre forward popped over another. Backed by the wind O’Mahonys were certainly looking to make a blistering start and in the fourth minute could have had a goal were it not for the stunning reflexes of Seneschalstown’s captain, Keith Waters who pulled off a superb point blank stop as he got a hand to the ball, diverting it out for a forty-five which ultimately came to nothing.

Seneschalstown, looking to weather this early storm, did manage to open their account a few minutes later. Joseph Moore picked out his midfield partner Brian Maguire with a free kick deep in his own half out near the right flank. Maguire, noting the need to carry the ball against the wind took off on a run before sending a searching delivery in the direction of Cathal Finnegan who raced out to gather, burrowed his way infield before driving his shot over the bar. Five minutes later Seneschalstown drew level when Finnegan scooped up a loose ball in front of the goals and chipped over

Now back on level terms there was a pep in the Seneschalstown step and almost straight after Finnegan’s point they were to be awarded a penalty. Dynamic midfielder Brian Maguire embarked on a typically penetrative run and after flicking the ball past the goalkeeper he had his run brought to a halt when the net minder adopting a thou shalt not pass attitude tripped him. A penalty was duly awarded while the colour of card shown was yellow. Dylan Keating stepped up to take to kick and went low to his left but saw his effort expertly stopped by the O’Mahonys goalie.

Buoyed by this let off the town side sent over the next three points, two from frees to open up a three point gap. In the midst of this scoring burst though they were indebted once more to their goalkeeper when he pulled off a smart stop from a Cathal Finnegan goal effort. O’Mahonys were well on top at this stage but with defender such as Cathal Hickey and Simon Rooney leading the defensive effort alongside Sean Carey who was dropping deep putting in a huge shift, cutting out countless passes and organising the defence. As well as this the hard work of the forwards such as Cillian Gormley and Eoin Traynor helped to prevent O’Mahonys breaking out at pace from their defence.

Indeed, Carey it was who started off the move which led to Seneschalstown’s third point of the opening half when he, reading the game superbly, intercepted an O’Mahonys pass before finding Alan Mulvany. The ball was then worked up to Dylan Keating via the hands of Cathal Finnegan and Joseph Moore before the dynamic centre forward split the uprights for what turned out to be the final score of the half, leaving just two points between the sides, Navan O’Mahonys 0-05 Seneschalstown 0-03.

The third quarter was something of a slow burner for Seneschalstown as despite now being backed by the elements they struggled to gain any traction on the scoreboard with only a sublime Cathal Finnegan point from practically on the left touchline to their name. By contrast, Navan O’Mahonys came out in a very impressive manner and landed five points as they looked to open up a match winning gap. In the middle of this Seneschalstown suffered the blow of losing Alan Mulvany to injury as the Meath U-16 player had to be helped from the fray, having already lost Brian Boyd at half time.

First half substitute Sean Commons pulled a point back entering the final quarter when he was presented with the simple task of tapping over a free following a foul on Dylan Keating when he was pulled to the ground after getting goal side of the defender. Commons then landed a second free after another foul on Keating before from the kickout Seneschalstown managed to land the game’s opening goal. A brilliant team move during which the ball was moved at pace ended up with Brian Maguire who spun out of a tackle before unleashing a shot which nearly broke the net

Momentum was now turning in Seneschalstown’s favour, with the strengthening breeze doing them no harm either and the swing in their favour only strengthened when Daire Finnegan, who had started at full back but was now operating further out the field, got on the end of a move involving Jamie Kirwan and Brian Maguire and raised the second green flag in four minutes to push his side into a two point advantage. The deadly accurate Sean Commons made this a three point lead when converting another free before the most controversial score of the evening.

Brian Maguire’s effort appeared to sneak inside the right hand upright but was waved wide by the umpire. Linesman Paul Mooney who was best positioned of all the officials was of a different opinion to the umpire and quickly sought the attention of the referee to inform him that the ball had indeed gone between the posts. A brief discussion ensued before the umpire was instructed to raise the white flag much to the delight of the huge Seneschalstown support present.

This score pushed the Ian Maguire managed side four points to the good but their defence still had to be on full alert as O’Mahonys kept pushing for the scores which they so badly needed to get back on terms. A spell of pressure ensued but to a man the Seneschalstown youngsters stood tall and continually manned the barricades as the sought to protect Keith Water’s goal. To this end they sought press the player in possession and cut off any possible pass to any free player, a tactic they implemented with success as players such as Ross Mullen, Richie McKeown and Sean Carey cut off any possible scoring opportunities. Then on the counter came the score which put the game’s outcome beyond any possible doubt as following excellent play from Dylan Keating and Sean Commons the ball ended up in the hands of Cathal Finnegan who took on a shot for a point from way out the field. Finnegan’s effort just died at the death but in the floodlights the O’Mahonys ‘keeper lost flight of the ball as it ended up creeping under the crossbar for Seneschalstown’s third goal of the night.

This was a victory built on a bloody resoluteness as Seneschalstown just never gave in. Lesser sides would have wilted when losing two key players to injury and going six points behind with fifteen minutes of the hour remaining but Seneschalstown for whom Ian Maguire and Patrick Darby made up the management team alongside Senior players Johnny Gilsenan and Niall Groome refused to bow and in a power packed final quarter turned in a devastating display to secure the spoils.

These two teams have had many epic battles to date coming through the age groups with both sides edging tight encounters over the years and while this time it was Seneschalstown who managed to eke out the victory there is no doubt that in the years to come they will once more serve up classic encounters.

This was a true team effort in winning but as with every performance there were a few players who stood out over the course of the match. Sean Carey got through a mountain of work and regularly intercepted stray passes as well as starting attacks, Brian Maguire drove the team forward relentlessly from midfield while he won plenty of primary possession and kicked 1-01. Then centre forward Dylan Keating. Lesser players would have dropped their head after missing a penalty but Keating dusted himself off and continually linked the play while constantly offering his teammates an out ball, won vital frees and kicked a crucial first half point.

Seneschalstown: Keith Waters, Brian Boyd, Daire Finnegan (1-00), Cathal Hickey, Richie McKeown, Simon Rooney, Jamie Kirwan, Joseph Moore, Brian Maguire (1-01), Cillian Gormley, Dylan Keating (0-01), Eoin Traynor, Alan Mulvany, Cathal Finnegan (1-03), Sean Carey.

Seneschalstown Substitutions: Sean Commons (0-03, 0-03 Frees) for E. Traynor, Ross Mullen for B. Boyd and Eoin Traynor for A. Mulvany.

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