Superb 15's Soar to Summit with Scintillating Show

Under 15 Paddy O’Brien Cup Division 1 Final
Seneschalstown 2-9 St. Colmcilles 0-8

By the time Keith Sheerin blew his full-time whistle, many keen onlookers could have little argument about which side was about to step into the winners enclosure following Tuesday night’s U15 Paddy O’Brien Cup Division 1 final. Character, resilience, skill and ultimately hard work underpinned the latest display from Seneschalstown’s U15 squad, keeping their best performance for when it really mattered most.

With the club having lost both MFC Division 2 Shield and adult Premier Football Championship Division 4 finals in recent days, the Under 15 crop were not going to let that turn into a hat-trick of defeats at the final hurdle. They were faced with the challenge of overcoming a St. Colmcilles side who topped the group stage table with five victories from five, including a comfortable 12 point victory over their hosts when they travelled to Seneschalstown in late July. However, as the competition went on Seneschalstown only became stronger and went undefeated for the remainder of the campaign including an excellent performance to beat Ratoath in the semi-final. Despite the first round result, the lads were quietly confident of overturning the first round result at the excellently presented Paddy O’Brien Park, the home of Navan O’Mahonys.

Having won the toss, Seneschalstown opted to play down the hill but, significantly, into the stiff breeze blowing straight up towards the Aldi end of the ground. Team captain Robbie Finnegan was certainly intent on leading by example and right from the start he laid the gauntlet down to St. Colmcilles with a surging run from the throw in. As he gathered momentum, he was felled 30 metres from goal. Dusting himself down, he picked up the ball for the resultant free and with the aid of the crossbar registered the opening score of the night. Despite owning the ball for the early stages of the game, Seneschalstown were failing to turn it into any dominance on the scoreboard and had to wait until the 8th minute for their next score. After some kick passes had been intercepted by the sweeping ‘Cilles defender, Seneschalstown opted to hold the ball and patiently hand pass around the 45 metre line, probing for an opportunity. Once it arose, Darren O’Brien took the ball at pace and broke the line. O’Brien’s resultant shot went between the posts and Seneschalstown were two points up.

Despite having a considerable wind advantage, St. Colmcilles were struggling to make advances into the Seneschalstown red zone early on and had to wait 12 minutes for their opening score. However once they had one on the board, all of a sudden passes were beginning to stick and their menacing half forward line began to have a greater impact on proceedings. Before the first water break, St. Colmcilles scored two more points to move into the lead for the first time in the game. Seneschalstown were still struggling to get the final kick pass to the inside forwards right, so Joe Norris and Alex Finnegan began to drift in and out looking to get on the ball and make an impact. On one such occasion, Norris picked up the ball in front of the dugout and shrugged aside the initial tackles. Needing support, he played a one-two with Cian Commons and found himself in front of goal, and dropped the ball onto his right foot. The ball flew over the crossbar for a well-deserved point. That score only appeared to rise St. Colmcilles again, and their half forward trio were beginning to dominate around the middle third along their midfield pairing. Rattling off three points in as many minutes, some of which were huge wind assisted efforts from long range, it looked as if the game was getting away from Seneschalstown. This was only emphasised further when Alex Finnegan was presented with a one on one goal opportunity. Nine times out of ten, Finnegan would have finished to the net but in keeping with the theme of the game at this point, St. Colmcilles got the stroke of luck with the ball rebounding off the post and away to safety. A four point gap was soon to be the difference between the teams as the east county side kicked over another score, and at that stage Seneschalstown could not have complained if the half time whistle was blown. Lesser teams would have caved in and shirked the challenge, but the hallmark of this side over the course of the year has been not to lie down, and this was a game where they were not willing to do so either. In typical fashion they responded emphatically. Firstly, Joe Norris put over his second point in very uncanny to his first, exchanging passes with Robbie Finnegan in the build-up. The score would not have come about had it not been for some excellent pressure applied by Sam Kirwan to force a turnover further out the pitch.

The next score was ultimately game changing. Following some patient hand passing around the edge of the ‘D’, Sémí Byrne found himself in a promising position. However, he spotted Alex Finnegan unmarked behind the defence again and popped the ball over to him. Finnegan was determined not to miss this chance, and got his just rewards for some smart play by raising a green flag. Despite some protestations, the umpire was adamant the ball had crossed the line and the goal stood. In the next attack, Robbie Finnegan was handed the responsibility of regaining Seneschalstown’s lead with another free. As usual, he was unerringly accurate and Seneschalstown had completed the turn-around in double quick time to lead by a point at the interval, 1-05 to 0-07.

Now playing with the aid of the strong breeze, Seneschalstown were looking to add to their lead at the outset of the second half. Just like he had done so in the opening period, Robbie Finnegan won the throw-in and set off for the St. Colmcilles goal. After the carrying the ball right down the heart of their defence he checked back onto his right foot and pointed from long range. The perfect start to the half! The defensive qualities of this Seneschalstown side were put to the test again throughout the second half, but crucially players like Conor Rooney, Oran Lawlor and Danny Waters let nothing pass, making countless interceptions, and anything that was missed was picked up by Ben Lynagh operating extremely effectively as a sweeper. Behind them all Luke Healy remained calm and composed under high ball, perhaps too much so for some of those on the sideline! With no more scores going either way until the 41st minute, the next effort on target was always going to have a major bearing on the final outcome. Luckily for the Yellow Furze side, it came in the way of a goal courtesy of the boot of Joe Norris. After Sam Kirwan set Robbie Finnegan away on one of his trademark runs, Finnegan played the ball to Norris who finished low to the right corner of the net, and help extend the lead out to five points. The seasiders did manage to register what would turn out to be their sole score of the second half, a close range free but the eventual winners would regain their five point cushion by the second water break – Robbie Finnegan punishing a foul on goalscorer Norris. At the break the scoreboard read 2-07 to 0-08 in Seneschalstown’s favour.

With the hard work of Eamon Finnegan and Liam Dillon getting up and down the pitch throughout, Seneschalstown always had an extra body to help and support where it was need, and the substitutes that came on only strengthened the teams resolve in the final quarter. With the outcome of the game pretty much sown-up late on, the scoring rate dropped in the final quarter. It wasn’t until the first minute of stoppage time that Seneschalstown had their next score, Robbie Finnegan splitting the posts following an assist from Eamon Finnegan to leave two clear goals between the sides. Indeed it was captain Robbie Finnegan who rounded off the nights scoring with a point following another lung bursting run and sidestep. Josh Keating, who himself had a fine game at corner back, set up the score by winning the ball on his own 45.

With the title now heading back to Fr. Tully Park for definite, the lads could relax and enjoy the last few minutes and savour the moment together. Winning on Tuesday night also sealed a unique two in a row of Paddy O’Brien Cup successes. Having won the U14 equivalent last year, the competition was regraded this year as an U15 competition allowing the lads to defend their title. It will go down as another feather in the cap of this team who will continue to make improvements going forward. A special mention to the management team of Declan Byrne, Ted McDonnell, Stan O’Brien, Tony Walsh, Kevin Rooney and Steven Dillon who have put in countless hours of work for the greater good of this team. The future of the club is in safe hands judging by results of many underage games recently, not just at U15 level.

Seneschalstown: Luke Healy, Conor Rooney, Oran Lawlor, Josh Keating, Liam Dillon, Danny Waters, Séimí Byrne, Robbie Finnegan (0-06, 3f), Darren O’Brien (0-01), Eamon Finnegan, Cian Commons, Sam Kirwan, Ben Lynagh, Joe Norris (1-02), Alex Finnegan (1-00).
Subs Used: Jack McDonnell, Tommy Walsh, Kyle Hosie, Sean Davis, Colin Scanlon, Ben Lynch, Sean Reilly.

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