The St Fechins team celebrate with the Seamus Flood Cup. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
CTI Business Solutions Intermediate Football Final
St Fechins 1-11
Cooley Kickhams 1-09
St Fechins are back in the Senior ranks for 2022 following a hard-fought tussle with Cooley Kickhams. Both sides had their purple patches, namely when on top around the middle but the Termonfeckin outfit never fell behind and when it mattered they turned the screw to eke out a narrow victory.
An early goal from Conor Haughney helped the Fechins build up a five-point lead, however they could never shake off the men from the Peninsula who hit the net in first half too through Michael Carron.
They trailed for pretty much the entire contest before finally drawing level with three minutes left of normal time, but the final moments belonged to substitutes Ronan Holcroft and Harry Haughney who bagged points in injury time to seal the Seamus Flood Cup for their side.
It was the men in the green and white hoops who started the brighter as within 60 seconds of the throw in they were in front, a fine diagonal ball from Bevan Duffy finding Niall Devlin who neatly turned his marker and pointed the first of five from play in a man of the match performance.
They duly won possession from the resulting kick out courtesy of Duffy again, whose fielding prowess landed them an early free. Joseph Corrigan calmly slotted that over to double their lead with barely two minutes gone on the clock.
It took five minutes for Cooley to bag a reply, a quickly taken free from Cian Connor caught the defence napping as instead of going for a score he teed up Enda O’Neill for a vital white flag from close range.
Eight minutes in they were level thanks to the lively Patrick Johnson, whose movement was making him one of their biggest threats throughout the contest, yet just three minutes later came the vital goal for St Fechins.
A free was launched into the square and it was dual star Ryan Walsh that rose highest to win the ball. He could only palm it further towards goal and luckily for him his teammate Conor Haughney was alert to this and reacted quickest for the simplest of tap ins.
Devlin was a pain to mark throughout the contest, again showing great skills to finish an impressive team move as the Termonfeckin men took a deserved 1-3 to 0-2 lead into the first water break.
The tactics were clearly defined at this stage, St Fechins with the wind backing them up favoured a fast and direct approach in attack, doing their utmost to get the likes of Devlin and Eoghan Duffy onto the ball.
Cooley have utilised a similar approach throughout the championship but while still using this traditional style where possible, in general they had to rely on a more patient gameplan.
They wanted to kick it long into the likes of Johnson and Connor but were forced to go through the phases in the middle, stay patient and then run at the defence in the hope drawing fouls or getting free to shoot themselves.
This tactic hurt Hunterstown in the semi-final as Fechins work rate and tackling was flawless as they went almost 40 minutes without conceding a free in their own half.
In this tie there was plenty of occasions where they showed this skill through forcing numerous turnovers, yet they also conceded five frees from scorable positions against a highly determined Kickhams attack.
They were rewarded for this with 1-1 without reply that brought them well and truly back into this final, a Johnson free backed up by a wonderful goal from Carron on 23 minutes.
Gerry Malone drifted forward with the ball before duly launching it into the square and it was Carron who got a touch onto it to make sure it hit the back of the net.
While having plenty of mini purple patches in the first half, Cooley were let down by their shooting as they recorded eight wides in this opening period.
Fechins were more efficient during this time and two more late scores from substitute Ronan Holcroft and Eoghan Duffy increased their lead to three at the break, 1-6 to 1-3.
One of the major talking points pre match was the importance the midfield battle was going to have on the match. Both had their attacks set up to prosper through an aerial prowess around the centre of the park and throughout the game whoever was winning this tussle dominated.
St Fechins came out of the break with purpose and had a period of play where everything fell to a man in green and white. Five out of the first six Cooley kickouts were intercepted and they were enduring wave upon wave of attack in the first ten minutes of the half.
It resulted in a brace for Niall Devlin, however just like Cooley in the first half the shooting boots were largely missing as they recorded five wides around those scores. A missed opportunity to put a significant margin between the two sides.
Cooley bounced back well, Brian White landing a monster point from distance to settle his team down after 20 minutes without a score. No surprises where their upturn in momentum came as they won three Fechin’s kick outs in a row while keeping them camped in their own half.
By the final water break they trailed by just three points, 1-8 to 1-5 and they continued to turn the screw, keeping their opponents scoreless for 12 minutes and tagging over a further two points from O’Neill and Cian Connor to cut the margin to just a single point.
Sensing a shock St Fechins needed a leader to turn the momentum and former Louth captain Bevan Duffy took the game by the horns in the final ten minutes. Not only was he winning ball in midfield but drifting forward with menacing runs that Cooley struggled to deal with.
They really should have got a decisive second goal but Sean Hayes, a late goalkeeping change no doubt made after impressing when introduced a week earlier against Kilkerley, justified his inclusion with two sublime saves From Bevan Duffy strikes and another from Holcroft.
It was left to Devlin to increase the lead as once more Cooley struggled to keep the in-form attacker at bay, yet they responded extremely well. Connor landing a free from the sideline before the leveller finally came on 57 minutes through the boot of substitute Michael Rafferty.
A draw looked the likeliest outcome and in fact would be a fair reflection of the game in general which saw both teams on top and both falter many chances throughout. Although when it really mattered, with promotion on the line it was Eugene Judge’s side that found more in the tank.
Up stepped Holcroft who was the man to finish off a patient and well worked team move that put his side back in front on 60 minutes. Then came the insurance score a minute later, Bran Devlin’s attempt hit the post before Harry Haughney reacted quickest to land a killer blow for the Fechins.
Cooley did all they could to try and work a goal, but up against one of the best drilled defences in the competition it was always going to be a difficult task, an ambitious point attempt from Rafferty that drifted wide being all they could muster as St Fechins held on to dubious scenes from their vocal support.
After heartbreaks in 2014 and 2018, they finally grabbed hold of the Seamus Flood Cup once more and can look forward to Senior Football in 2022. With a talented minor side to bolster their ranks next year, who knows what’s in store for them next.
Cooley Kickhams: Sean Hayes; Gerry Malone, Eoin McDaid, Luke White; Ronan McDaid, Aoghan McGuinness, James O’Reilly; Darren Marks, Brian White (0-1); Enda O’Neill (0-2), Fergal Malone, Peter Thornton; Cian Connor (0-3, 0-2 frees), Michael Carron (1-0), Patrick Johnson (0-2). Subs: Michael Rafferty (0-1) for Aoghain McGuinness (47), Richard Brennan for Michael Carron (50), Patrick Sheelan for Enda O’Neill (53), Michael J Hanlon for James O’Reilly (56).
St Fechins: Niall McDonnell; Adam O’Neill, Niall McCabe, Danny Burnell; Sean Kerrisk, David Collier, Jamie McDonnell; Bevan Duffy, Paul Matthews; Conor Haughney (1-0), Colm O’Neill, Joseph Corrigan (0-1), Ryan Walsh (0-1 free), Eoghan Duffy (0-1), Niall Devlin (0-5). Subs: Ronan Holcroft (0-2, 0-1 free) for Conor Haughney (17), Harry Haughney (0-1) for Colm O’Neill (45), Pauric O’Donoghue for Eoghan Duffy (49), Matthew Flanagan for Jamie McDonnell (58), Brian Devlin for Paul Matthews (61).
Referee: David McCardle (St Brides)
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.