Monday, August 27, 2012

Senior Football: Shannon Blues Complete an Unbelievable Season

Donegal 1-17 Shannon Blues 4-13

The stands and sidelines were bursting with anticipation for the senior football final between Shannon Blues and Donegal and the punters were not disappointed by the classic game of football served up by the two top teams in Boston this year.  Donegal looked to have the game in the bag with a five point lead and three minutes left.  The Donegal crowd was singing in the stand, but the Blues forced extra time thanks to a Kieran Hurley goal and two Sean O’Connor points.  At the break in extra time the northerners again led, this time by three but back to back goals by the never say die Blues catapulted them into a lead.  The Blues slowed it down in the last few minutes of extra time, and got two insurance points, to win the 2012 senior football championship in amazing style.

Shannon Blues Celebrate the Senior Football Championship
A goal separated the sides at the end of the first 30 minutes, though it could have been more.  Donegal missed a penalty early in the half after Fergal Clancy was pulled down in the area.  Brian White went low for the corner and ball rolled wide of the post.  The Blues tried to get their quick handpassing game going and had a degree of success.  Sean O’Connor put two well worked points over the bar, James Hynes two, and Caolan Rafferty one that came from running moves that the Blues managed to craft.  Donegal had the upper hand though, especially in the middle of the field.  Clancy was in great form at wing forward and at times opened up the Blue rearguard.  Conor Phelan did well at corner back to recover several balls, and Thomas Sayers made three very good saves when a goal beckoned for the northerners.  Dessie Dolan was on form putting three points over, two from frees while Derek Maguire also found the mark on two occasions.  Donegal’s goal came from a typical defence splitting move.  Kieran Williams found White who was steaming down the middle and the Louthman’s shot gave Sayers no chance.  At the break Donegal were a goal to the good.

The excitement level rose considerably in the second half.  Donegal stretched their lead to five points and were on top of the Blues short kickouts.  One score came straight from a short one that was returned over the bar by Kevin Mulhern.  The Blues kept up their running game but when it was critical to hold on to the ball, the Blues spilled it at crucial moments.  James Hynes netted to bring the Blues within two points and Cathal McHugh pointed to make it a one point game.  The Blues then had several chances to take the lead but chance after chance went awry as the forwards lost their touch.  Donegal made the Blues pay for their errors.  With less then 10 minutes to go Donegal turned a one point lead into five.  Donnelly, White, Maguire and Kelly each put fine points over the bar and it looked as the game was Donegal’s.  Driven forward by captain Brian Curran, the Blues earned a last chance to win the game with a few minutes left.  Peter Boyle made a great save from Caolan Rafferty from point blank range but the ball spilled to Hurley who pulled on it and into the net.  Sean O’Connor put two points over the bar, one from a free to level it, and unbelieveably extra time was now necessary to separate the teams.

Donegal got off two quick points to get extra time going.  The Kickouts favoured Donegal who ran the ball at the Blues back line.  Dolan curled over a beauty and Kelly followed with another.  Dolan and Cassidy put two more over as the Blues found themselves under pressure in the early going.  O’Connor pointed once for the Blues before the break in play.  Could the Blues keep the running game up enough to pull off a win?  The answer was a yes.  Two goals, both characteristic of the Blues handpasssing game carved open the Donegal defence.  Cathal Cregg fired home to draw the teams level and shortly afterwards Rafferty buried a spectacular shot to the far side after begin fed by O’Connor.  The goal stunned Donegal who were now all at sea and the northerners failed to score in the second period of extra time.  Cregg now went into holding mode and used up time before pointing and then Brian Curran put another over the seal the victory.  Delight for the Blues which surely more than made up for a tough season last year.  Good luck in Philly!  

Referee:  Syl Doyle

Man of the Match:  Brian Curran (Shannon Blues)  The Blues captain kept the side going when the chips were down.

Donegal:  P. Boyle, D. Reynolds, M. Canny, K. Mulhern, G. Reynolds, K. Cassidy, B. Donnelly, B. White, F. Clancy, D. Dolan, E. Kelly, K. Williams, D. Maguire.  Blues:  T. Sayers, C. Phelan, R. O’Callaghan, B. Curran, M. McGowan, S. Moriarty, D. Clark, D. Dineen, C. Cregg, J. Hynes, S. O’Connor, C. Rafferty, K. Hurley.

By Rory O'Donnell

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