NEWTOWN Blues qualified for the semi-finals of the Senior Football Championship after edging past Dundalk Gaels in a frantic match in Dowdallshill.
The match just about had everything as the scintillating football – combined with a series of botched and controversial decisions by referee Aidan Dunne – left many punters with several talking points and certainly value for their money.
The Gaels had the Blues reeling on the ropes in the final minutes of the game and only for a late Blues flurry, they could have produced an upset, but these things are all about experience, something which may stand in good stead for the Gaels next year when Championship time comes around once again.
Then there is the Blues, who are hungry for Joe Ward glory. They, once again showed their Jekyll and Hyde side on Saturday as they displayed some of the best, if not the best football in the Championship so far at times, with two scores in particular a pleasure to watch as they unfolded.
But for their rampant attacking play, it’s their nasty side which could threaten their title ambitions. Against Kilkerley Emmets, Ian McManus was given his marching orders for an off the ball incident, something which should have been a wake up call to the Blues. Alas, it wasn’t as late in the game, Niall Costello nearly sparked a melee as he sent Anthony McSorley to the turf – again an off the ball incident – which took several minutes to quell.
In the end, it was the Blues who managed to hold their nerve in a game that referee Dunne had a major influence on.
Giving the Gaels a 13 yard free instead of a penalty, the referee somehow allowed Jamie Faulkner to take it quickly, which he fired through the legs of Stephen McCann into the Blues net. The cries of foul by the Blues were waved away, but over the next five minutes, it seemed as though the key decisions went their way as the Gaels shook their heads in disbelief.
Controversial decisions aside, the game was a cauldron of emotion thanks in part to the tremendous skill on display from both sides.
Leading 1-10 to 0-5 at the interval, the Blues had John Kermode to thank for the majority of their scores, including the goal as he hammered the ball past Stephen Faulkner, completing a breath-taking move that started deep in the Blues defence.
If there is one thing about the Blues this year, it’s that they know how and when to take a score as their first five points were all from a great distance as Barry Sharkey, Colm Judge, Kermode (two), Conor Branagan and Keith Lynch all found the back net with effortless drives.
The Gaels responded through Eanna McArdle (two), followed by Derek Crilly as he shrugged off a challenge to score.
After Kermode’s goal, the Blues were in full flight as Lynch pulled another stunning drive out of the bag, followed by a similar score by Branaga.
Before the stroke of half time, Jamie Faulkner had a chance to cut the deficit by three but he dragged a shot wide of the post, leaving his side eight behind.
Despite the large margin between the sides, the Gaels kept within touching distance in the second half, that is until Dunne allowed Faulkner’s quick drive to stand.
Racing through on goal, he was fouled by Emmet Judge for what looked to be a penalty. The rest is history as Faulkner acted on his feet, blasting into the net to see the margin reduced to five, 1-13 to 0-8. Crilly and Kermode exchanged scores before David McComish hooked a point over the bar on 49 minutes. Four points was the difference now.
Returning forward Sean McCann smacked two free over the bar with a Kermode free sandwiched in between them. As the tension increased, so did the frantic nature of this humdinger and fever pitch was well and truly reached when the Gaels grabbed a second goal out of nothing.
A sideline ball from McCann dipped into the heart of the Blues defence. Rising above everything, leaping like a fish out of water, Crilly rose above the crowded pack to fist the ball backwards into the Blues net to leave it all square, 1-15 to 2-12.
The 60 minutes were up but there was plenty of added time to be played. The Blues won a free inside the Gaels 20m zone. Looking for confident players to knock it over, they had to look no further than Colm Judge, who did so with relative ease.
Before the Gaels could launch another attack, the Blues won a free as an eager Dean Hoey lifted the ball illegally, but then chaos ensued due to Costello’s incident with McSorley. Following this, the free still rested with the Blues instead of the ball being thrown up and from the resulting kick, Kermode sent over a long range free to settle the tie and book the Blues a place in the semi-finals against Naomh Mairtin.
Scorers – NEWTOWN BLUES: John Kermode (1-6, 6f), Conor Branagan (0-3), Keith Lynch (0-2), Colm Judge (0-2, 1f), Barry Sharkey, Brian Kermode, Andy McDonnell, Robert Carr all (0-1).
DUNDALK GAELS: Derek Crilly (1-5, 1f), Eanna McArdle (0-3), Jamie Faulkner (1-0, 1f),
Gerard Fee (0-2), David McComish (0-1), Sean McCann (0-1, 1f).
NEWTOWN BLUES: Stephen McCann; Thomas Costello, Cormac Reynolds, Niall Costello; Stephen Moonan, Jamie Carr, Emmet Judge; John Kermode, Brian Kermode; Conor Branagan, Barry Sharkey, Keith Lynch; Robert Carr, Colm Judge, Andy McDonnell.
DUNDALK GAELS: Stephen Faulkner; David McComish, Jamie Faulkner, Eamonn Kenny; Daire O’Callaghan, Stephen Coleman, Jamie Faulkner; Dean Hoey, Derek Crilly; James Stewart, Sean Fee, Andrew Coleman; Eanna McArdle, Sean McCann, Gerard Fee.
Subs: Errol Boyle for A Coleman (H/T), Conall McArdle for E McArdle (54mins).
Wides – NEWTOWN BLUES: 7 (3 first half), DUNDALK GAELS: 5 (4 first half).
Bookings – DUNDALK GAELS: Derek Crilly (9mins), Sean McCann (10mins), Eamonn Kenny (58mins).
Red Cards – NEWTOWN BLUES: Niall Costello (66mins).
REFEREE: Aidan Dunne.