St. Joes just edge it over gallant Carrigallen
St. Joseph’s Charlestown…3 Carrigallen C.C…………2
Football is a team game and this was clear to see in Bellaghy on Wednesday afternoon where both Charlestown and Carrigallen gave a great exhibition of skill and no little courage in serving up a feast of football on a glorious sunny day. Both teams tried to win the game right up to the death and while no team deserved to come second it was the East Mayo School that came out on top, but only just!
The early running was made by the home team with Cathal Horan calling the Carrig ‘keeper into play with a long range speculative 35 yarder after 2 minutes. Another great move shortly after involving the aforementioned Horan and Keelan Horkan saw Pádraig Duffy send a glancing header the wrong side of the post. Carrig had their first real opportunity after 11 minutes when Captain Ciarán Sweeney had to be at his best to steer a goal bound shot to safety. Charlestown were doing all the pressing now as the middle of the half got closer with Brad Moran and Horkan having the best of the opportunities without registering on the scoreboard. The half turned in the other direction soon after. Now the visitors were pushing their hosts back and had a couple of harmless efforts wide before they hit the front on 26 minutes. A good corner kick delivery to the edge of the Joes box saw the Carrig midfielder hit a shot goal wards that crept into the corner of the net. It was deserving of a score considering their pressure play in this period of the game.
The game ebbed and flowed one way then the other without the home side capitalizing on their possession. Yet it was a period of the game that saw some good defensive play from Lorcan Henry, who was very solid on his senior debut, Captain Ciarán was his usual self, reading moves before they happened while his centre half partner Conor O’Toole, was performing quietly. Eoin Beirne looked at home in a left back position and raided forwarded admirably when the opportunity presented itself.
Carrigallen ramped up the pressure just before half time and Conor O’Toole was unfortunate to have a penalty recorded against his name when the ball contacted his hand in the box. A two-nil deficit going into half time would have been difficult to overcome. Thankfully Declan Forkan came to the rescue, getting down smartly to his right to smother the ball and keep his team in the game. The half ended with a spectacular shot from Shane Doherty, another debutant, that just grazed the crossbar. The half time had been reached with a one goal advantage to the away side.
Patrick Goldrick and Jack Mahon joined the cavalry 5 minutes into the second half to replace the tiring Doherty and Moran. The change nearly brought immediate dividend with both boys combining to create an opening, Duffy just missing out. The equalizer did come after 11 second half minutes when a good move found the net via Paddy “Goals” Goldricks boot. Sometimes a team is at their weakest after scoring and this was nearly the case today as Carrig rallied forward and with Forkan all at sea it took the acrobatics of O’Toole to hook the ball off the line and keep parity. If there is one thing Conor O’Toole likes, it’s a battle on the sports field and suddenly he came alive, in fairness he had to as the onslaught from the Leitrim boys was constant. O’Toole bossed this period of the game with little fuss. Luke Dunleavy was a constant thorn in centre midfield and proved a great screen for Horan who covered acres of ground. The lead goal came after 65 minutes, again a somewhat unfortunate handball by a Carrig defender. Horan dispatched the spot kick with certainty. The lead only lasted 2 minutes however as the gallant Leitrim boys hit back with a sweet free kick from their own midfield general. Their no.8 Peter Prior was a constant threat all day and when he placed the ball 25 metres from goal you just sensed he would deliver something special and that he did. Forkan went full length to push the ball onto the post and unfortunately for the ‘keeper the rebound hit him on the back and nestled in the net. Level again at 2-2, this was turning into a mammoth struggle for supremacy. There was more to come! Further chances were created by both sides; one effort saw Dunleavy find Goldrick in the clear and the mercurial talisman put Horkan through on goal but the outside of the net was the result. Horan then went on a powerful run evading countless tackles but when the ball broke to Duffy he rushed his shot and the ball went agonisingly wide. Mehaul Stecki replaced Dunleavy after 84 minutes. Horkan was moved to centre midfield and the result was instant. The big striker headed a powerful ball forward and there was Horan latching onto it and taking it around the defence before finding the net, a fitting way to cap a fantastic display. Captain Sweeney had another gut bursting run as the clock ticked down but his shot was wide. Relief from the home team greeted the final whistle from Mr. John Mulroe who refereed the game very well. In a game that neither side deserved to lose it was the home side that prevailed on this occasion by the tightest of margins.
Thanks to Charlestown Athletic and their groundsman for the use of the pitch and the fine condition. Both teams commented on how well it looked.