Seneschalstown prevail

Story by Fergal Lynch

Wednesday, 11th November, 2009 4:55pm

Nothing is ever won without some degree of luck and Seneschalstown will be the first to agree that they enjoyed good fortune at Pairc Tailteann last Thursday night when they defeated Wolfe Tones in the SFC final replay to claim their fourth Keegan Cup.

However, you make your own luck and while Seneschalstown were fortunate that Wolfe Tones squandered many great chances and also had goalkeeper David Nolan sent-off before the start of the second-half following a half-time clash with Joe Sheridan they were the better team on the night and fully deserved their victory.

Wolfe Tones must be gutted. They failed to perform to their best and many of their star turns struggled to find top form. They were completely blown away in the second-quarter when, in a six-minute spell, Seneschalstown surged into a 2-4 to 0-1 lead.

Trailing by nine points Wolfe Tones looked down and out, but they showed tremendous courage and determination to slowly whittle away the deficit and despite being reduced to 14 men for the second-half they owned the ball for the majority of the period.

Owning possession wasn't enough because Cathal O Bric's side struggled to turn their second-half supremacy into scores and that, coupled with their failure to take a plethora of chances in the opening quarter, ensured that destiny would confine them to the history books as runners-up.

The reality of the opening half is that Wolfe Tones should have been out of sight before Seneschalstown's second-quarter scoring burst put them in the driving seat.

Mark Coleman fisted against the bar, Stephen Sheppard was denied a goal by a brilliant David Lyons save and even Cian Ward missed a 24-metre free from in front of the posts. That wide by Ward was his side's fifth in the opening 10 minutes and three minutes later Ward blasted a penalty over the bar to finally open the 2006 champions account.

In reality, had that penalty found the net and Wolfe Tones, had they taken all their clearcut chances, could have been 2-3 to 0-1 ahead, but they weren't and Seneschalstown drew confidence from being let off the hook and during a blistering second-quarter they produced some outstanding football.

All those misses severely effected Wolfe Tones' confidence. While they did have a lot of the ball in the second-half they were very wasteful. Seneschalstown made good use of possession and with some magnificent defending and superb midfield play from Damien Sheridan they were deserving winners.

In the drawn game Damien Sheridan left the field in agony with cramp following a non-stop effort, but on Thursday he found new strength in reserve and served up a master class of midfield display that laid the solid platform for Seneschalstown to go on and win.

It was also felt after the drawn game that Seneschalstown hadn't performed as well as they could have in attack considering Joe Sheridan failed to score. The Allstar nominee righted that wrong emphatically on Thursday with a personal return of 1-2 and he was a constant menace.

Seneschalstown were forced to start without Bryan Clarke, who had contributed four points in the drawn encounter, but they welcomed back Robert Ruddy and he had a huge influence on the game when switched out to midfield at the end of the first-quarter with Joe Sheridan switching to the full-forward line.

That move paid dividends, but just as important as the scores was the defending. As Wolfe Tones piled forward in the second-half with the aid of the breeze, but the disadvantage of being a man down, Seneschalstown had to find new levels of defending, some of which bordered on the fortunate and sublime.

Paul Carey made two great blocks to deny Alan Fox and Ward, but he didn't know too much about either of them and Gerry Sheridan also made a magnificent last gasp lunge to deflect a Niall McLoughlin effort out for a '45' when Wolfe Tones went in search of the goal that would force extra-time.

Lyons also ensured that the added period of play wouldn't be necessary when he produced one of the saves of the championship to tip Gordon Beggy's goal-bound effort out for a '45' which Seneschalstown managed to clear and ensure a well deserved victory.

The early stages of the game belonged to Wolfe Tones, but Seneschalstown also missed a couple of opportunities before Brian Sheridan capitalised on Ciaran McLoughlin's mistake to open the scoring. After numerous missed chances Wolfe Tones were handed the perfect opportunity to hit back in the 14th minute.

Andrew Collins needlessly kept Niall McLoughlin's centre in play and that forced Paul Carey to foul Ward for a penalty. Luckily for Collins and Paul Carey, Ward blasted his kick over the bar.

Lifted by that let-off Seneschalstown struck back when Shane Clarke pointed a free that was moved in to within 40 metres because Niall McLoughlin refused to retreat 13 metres. Then the complex of the game changed.

Joe Sheridan rifled a sideline ball across the face of the goals where Brian Sheridan came steaming in at the far post to fist to the net and from the kick-out Seneschalstown won possession again before Damien Sheridan lofted a long ball into Joe Sheridan and the big man blasted superbly to the net to make it 2-2 to 0-1.

Two minutes later Joe Sheridan left Ciaran McLoughlin stranded to stretch Seneschalstown's lead and when Gary Conlon capitalised on a poor clearance by Nolan it left Wolfe Tones nine points adrift and with a mountain to climb.

Darren McGrath pointed at the end of a sustained period of pressure, but Wolfe Tones were being forced to work hard for their scores and Stephen Corrigan's effort made it 0-3 to 2-4.

Ciaran Macken squandered a great chance to stretch Seneschalstown's lead with a third goal, but they settled for a 2-4 to 0-3 interval advantage.

Then Nolan was involved in an exchange with Joe Sheridan as the sides left the field. Referee Joey Curley had no option but to red-card the goalkeeper when he returned for the second-half.

Forced into a reshuffle, O Bric brought on reserve goalkeeper Sean Power and withdrew McGrath. They moved Alan Fox out to the half-forward line and that left Seneschalstown with Stephen Sheridan as the spare man in the full-back line. Being forced to deploy their extra man so deep allowed Wolfe Tones pile the pressure in the second-half.

Ward (free) and Joe Sheridan traded points in the opening four minutes of the half, but it was Wolfe Tones who looked the better side. A Ward '45' closed the gap, but Ruddy replied with a breakaway chance that he really should have netted.

Wolfe Tones continued to press, but their quest for a goal was repelled twice by Paul Carey. Another Ward free from over 50 metres preceded a perfunctory goal from the Meath talisman and suddenly it was game on, 1-6 to 2-6, with eight minutes remaining.

Three points was as close as Wolfe Tones could get. Joe Sheridan raced away from Richie Brady to make it 2-7 to 1-6 before Ward converted a 46-metre free. A fine point from Mark Carey closed Seneschalstown's account before another Ward free reduced the deficit to three points again and set up a tense finish.

However, Wolfe Tones could find no way through as heroic goalkeeping and some fortunate defending ensured that Seneschalstown held on claim the Keegan Cup in dramatic style.

SCORERS

Seneschalstown - J Sheridan 1-2, B Sheridan 1-2; S Clarke 0-1 free; G Conlon 0-1; R Ruddy 0-1; M Carey 0-1.

Wolfe Tones - C Ward 1-6, four frees, one penalty, one '45'; D McGrath 0-1; S Corrigan 0-1.

THE TEAMS

Seneschalstown - David Lyons; Paul Carey, Andrew Collins, Gerry Sheridan; Mark Carey, Joe Cowley, Stephen Sheridan; Joe Sheridan, Damien Sheridan; Gary Conlon, Ciaran Macken, Stephen Finnegan; Brian Sheridan, Robert Ruddy, Shane Clarke. Subs - Tommy Ledwidge for Clarke 47 mins, Cormac Duffy for S Sheridan 53m, Bryan Clarke for Ruddy 57m.

Wolfe Tones - David Nolan; Richie Brady, Ciaran McLoughlin, Ciaran Martin; Barry McGinn, Eoghan Harrington Gordon Beggy; Stephen Corrigan, Stephen Sheppard; Darren McGrath, Niall McLoughlin, Mark Coleman; Alan Fox, Cian Ward, Paul Byrne. Subs - Sean Power for McGrath half-time, Aodhan McKeown for C McLoughlin 34 mins, Alan Callaghan for Byrne 43m, Joey McKeown for Coleman 52m.

REFEREE

Joey Curley

(Moynalty).

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