Solid Defence Lay Foundations for Commanding Victory

U15 Paddy O’Brien Cup Division 1 Semi-Final
Seneschalstown 1-10 Ratoath 1-3

By the time referee Derek Ryan had blown his full-time whistle in Tuesday evenings Paddy O’Brien Cup semi-final, many supporters in attendance could not have been anything but impressed with the display of Seneschalstown’s Under 15 side in seeing off Ratoath in the clash played in Fr. Tully Park. While the score at the end may look low on paper, the attitude of the players was top notch, and on another night the scoreboard would definitely have reflected their overall dominance on proceedings.

Nerves appeared to be a big factor on both sides early on with chances wasted and possession regularly changing hands, but the signs were there that the two teams were intent on playing positive attacking football. It did take 11 minutes for a score to arrive, but just like a bus, two came along in consecutive attacks thereafter. The visitors Ratoath opened the scoring with a point from play but from Luke Healy’s kickout Seneschalstown kicked themselves into gear with an immediate score of their own.

Darren O’Brien expertly fielded the kickout, one of a number of marks he would claim over the hour, and laid the ball off to Sam Kirwan. The ball was eventually played into Joe Norris who steadied himself and nearly took the net off with a superb finish to the top right hand corner of the Ratoath net. A perfect reply to Ratoath’s opening score, and from there the home side never looked back. Darren O’Brien then got himself on the scoresheet with a fine point from 30 metres as the first water break was called for. After a quick chat, the game resumed and Ratoath registered another score for themselves, but that was to be their last score of the half. Alex Finnegan restored the three point advantage from the right of the posts with an effort that hung in the air for an age before just having enough to creep over the bar. The Seneschalstown defence was proving tough to break down, and players such as Danny Watters and Ben Lynagh typified this by breaking up many phases of Ratoath attacks. After Sam Kirwan was fouled, Robbie Finnegan tipped over the resulting free from 13 metres after it was brought forward for an indiscretion after the awarding of the original free. Finnegan had another from play soon after, when his goal-shot cracked the crossbar on the way over. It was another fine team move involving both of his namesakes, Alex and Éamon. That concluded the scoring for the first half with five points between the sides at interval, 1-4 to 0-2 in favour of Seneschalstown.

Wary of the threat posed by Ratoath, Seneschalstown were very keen to pick up in the second half from where they left off in the first, and knew a big second half performance was needed to ensure victory. What followed was an impressive showing of resilience and tactical nous that belied their age. Cian Commons, who was having an impressive game picking up possession all over the pitch from his centre half forward berth, got the ball rolling for the second period with a beautiful curling point. He was indebted to the hard work of Alex Finnegan who did extremely well to win the ball by the sideline and hold it up awaiting support which eventually came from Commons. Ratoath’s answer to this came in the form of a pointed free, but this was their only score in the midst of a period where Seneschalstown made a game-winning push for the finish line. Five more Seneschalstown points were to follow, with the score of the game arguably coming in the 43rd minute. After a high press on the Ratoath defence, Danny Watters claimed the ball from the rapidly darkening evening sky. Without hesitation, he played a wonderful kick pass into the arms of Sam Kirwan. Kirwan had the option of taking a mark and taking his time to shoot, but he made the decision to play on. Making space for himself, he dropped the ball onto his supposedly weaker right foot and watched as the ball split the posts. A key score which only added to the growing confidence of the Seneschalstown players.

Fresh from his exploits in the Premier Championship semi-final on Sunday morning, Jack McDonnell was introduced from the bench and made an immediate impact by adding the next score. After a move involving Cian Commons and Robbie Finnegan, the ball found its way to McDonnell who did the right thing and take a point where there might have been half a goal chance on. Nonetheless, it only added to the lead. Robbie Finnegan and Darren O’Brien were now really asserting their dominance in the middle sector of the pitch, and Finnegan knocked over another free following a foul on first-half goalscorer Joe Norris. From open play, Finnegan was also beginning to drift into menacing positions in attack and it was him and Sam Kirwan who patiently held the ball in setting up the next score. Séimí Byrne also made a foray forward to get involved in the attack and after a number of short passes, Cian Commons found himself with ball in hand and with the aid of the crossbar put over another point. Seneschalstown’s last score typified their effort over the course of the night, where the work of the forwards forced the Ratoath corner back to throw the ball and Finnegan scored the duly awarded close-range free. With a ten point lead, Seneschalstown could begin to relax and enjoy themselves, but not for a long as a ball played across the Seneschalstown defence caused confusion allowing a Ratoath player to nip and bundle the ball to the net with seven minutes remaining. However, the defence held firm for the remainder and were really disciplined in the tackle to not allow Ratoath eat into the lead any further as they held on for a comfortable victory.

With victory secured, many spectators were heard making plenty of positive remarks about the team performance, but the lads know themselves that it will have to go up another notch or two for the final against an extremely talented St. Colmcilles side. However, this performance was not a bad marker to set for the showpiece, which will be played on Tuesday 29th September in Paddy O’Brien Park, Navan. It will be a repeat of both the Under 14 League and Cup finals, and with both sides recording a win apiece it will undoubtedly be another close encounter.

Seneschalstown: Luke Healy, Conor Rooney, Oran Lawlor, Josh Keating, Liam Dillon, Danny Watters, Séimí Byrne, Robbie Finnegan (0-4, 3f), Darren O’Brien (0-1), Éamon Finnegan, Cian Commons (0-2), Sam Kirwan (0-1), Ben Lynagh, Joe Norris (1-0), Alex Finnegan (0-1).
Subs: Jack McDonnell (0-1) for Dillon, Colin Scanlon for Alex Finnegan

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