The Conall Connection Come Through in Play Off Thriller

21 Aug 2016

Despite having played most of their division two league campaign with an average of only four or five top twelve players per game, the Joes intermediate team still managed to qualify themselves for a league promotion play off! An excellent performance from this squad of players, many of whom had previously been deemed junior grade, but who have accounted themselves extremely well throughout the year. Their opponents in this play off would be the Fechins, who had been plying their trade in the higher division of the league. Not only this, but the two sides had recent history, having played out a thrilling championship match in the Grove just over a month ago, one which the Joes had shaded. However, on this occasion the Joes would have to travel to Beaulieu on what proved to be a wet and windy, miserable Saturday night.


With the wind at their backs, the home side got off to an excellent start and after twelve minutes were leading 1-4 to no score. Ronan Holcroft leading the Fechins attack, hitting 1-2 of that early haul. The Conall connection got the Joes off the mark, when O Hanlon set up Smyth for a goal. A Ben Mulligan point was added shortly after, but the Fechins very quickly set about nullifying these scores and hit another five on the bounce, including an excellent back to back brace for midfielder Paul Matthews. A Derek Mulligan point gave brief respite for the visitors, but Holcroft again drove his team forward, hitting a brilliant hatrick of points in as many minutes to leave his side leading by ten points as the game entered injury time. This quite possibly might have been an insurmountable gap to bridge for the Joes in the second half, but the fractious nature of the opening half meant that there was plenty of added time still to be played. The Joes hit three quick fire scores, a Quigley free, was followed up by a Jack Mulligan point from the kickout and then the Conal combination struck again, this time Smyth playing a ball across the face of goal for O Hanlon to palm the ball to the net. With only five between them again at the break it was very much a case of game back on.
Half Time Score: St Fechins 1-12, St Josephs 2-4


As he had done in the first half, Ronan Holcroft opened the scoring in the second minute. But this would turn out to be a rare Fechins attack in this half, as the Joes took over the game. With another element of symmetry with the opening period it was yet again the Conal combination who struck! On this occasion Smyth setting up O Hanlon, with the latter following this up with an excellent point to reduce the Joes deficit to only two points with still more than twenty minutes left in the game. A Tomas Smyth point and a brace of Quigley frees and the Joes were actually in front with 22 minutes played. The Fechins eventually sparked into life again at this stage and it took Philip Kinahan literally putting his body on the line to block a goal bound shot from the home team. They soon followed this up with another goal chance, they did not score on this occasion either, but from their point of view they did benefit from the Joes losing one of their most influential players on the night, when Conall Smyth saw red, after a second yellow card. The resultant close in free would see Holcroft level the game. So it would remain until, with seconds left in normal time, Tomas Smyth turned the ball over in midfield and then was at the end of the move he started to again edge the Joes back in front.


A Quigley point in the 33rd minute would double that lead, but the drama was far from over! The Fechins pushed hard for that crucial goal and it has to be said that it was down to prowess of Mark Neary in the Joes goal that they did not get it. Firstly, fielding a magnificent ball on the edge of his goal, before pulling off two great shot stops. The goal just would not come for the Fechins and with 34.39 played the long whistle eventually came that was greeted warmly by the Joes team and supporters.
Full Time Score: St Fechins 1-14, St Josephs 3-10


The Joes now go on to face the Clans in the final, the winner heading up to the top ranks of league football for 2017. While the Fechins will be back down to division two for next year. But before any of that, both teams will be back to the Grove again next Saturday evening for their respective Intermediate Championship Quarter finals, as they share the stage on a double header card!


St Josephs: Mark Neary, Philip Kinahan, Ben Mulligan (0-1), Stefan Potts, Cian Mc Guinness, David Mernagh, Alan Lynch, Tomas Smyth (0-2), Jack Mulligan (0-1), Daire Smyth, Conall Smyth (1-0), Craig Doherty, Alan Quigley (0-4), Conal O Hanlon (2-1), Derek Mulligan (0-1).
Substitutions: Killian Staunton for Alan Lynch, Adam O Connor for Cian Mc Guinness, Danny O Brien for Jack Mulligan.


St Fechins: Mark Savage; Donal Ryan, Brendan Fanning, Karl McDonnell; Harry McArdle, Jamie King (0-1), Tom Burke; David Collier, Paul Matthews (0-2); Ryan Sheridan, Eoin Duffy, Colm O Neill; Niall Devlin (0-1), Ronan Holcroft (1-8), Joseph Corrigan (0-2)
Substitutions: Sean McConnell for Ryan Sheridan, Niall Carolan for Billy Fanning, Brian Devlin for Colm O Neill


Referee: Gerry Corrigan


(Report: Michael Kinahan)

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