O'Connells' Niall Conlon and Eoin Nolan of Kilbride. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
Leinster Intermediate Club Football Championship Round One
O'Connell's 2-10 Kilbride (Carlow) 1-8
The Leinster Club Championship is a voyage into the unknown. You never quite know where or what the journey will bring and what happened in the Grove on Saturday afternoon was just downright bizarre.
The O’Connell's came away with victory over Kilbride from Carlow, but that will be the least talked about feature of the game. Ten players and two Maor Uisce's - one from either side - were sent to the line.
This report will not account for a nasty mass brawl or punch up, the contrary in fact, the game was played in the right spirit, but comically both teams ended up severely abridged.
Match referee Noel McKenna from Kildare - the unfortunate star of the show - sensed the big day and like the players was over-anxious to get himself into the game, which led to some hasty decisions and the game's overall downfall.
In between the disciplinary bingo, some football was played, but the comedy will overlook the serious drama that was on display. The Castlebellingham men were on the ropes for the majority of the first-half and trailed 0-4 to no-score at an early juncture. Carlow captain Darragh Foley and Pauric Nolan nailed a brace of frees apiece and the hosts' deficit could have been more only for a slew of wides from Kilbride.
Then the first red card. Paul McKeever struck James Foley and justifiably, he saw the line. But this numerical disadvantage actually brought out the best in the O’Connell's, sparking them into action. Niall Conlon stood up and kicked two-points either side of tidy Robert Quigley effort.
They were just settling into the game when Quigley himself picked up his second yellow. It was another blow, but again Paddy Bates side didn’t deter as Seán Cairns amazingly levelled the game before half-time.
The extra men only complicated matters for Kilbride. With plenty of men to aim at, they went short on kick-outs and double-marked Niall Conlon. Both ploys were wiped out in the opening play of the second-half, however. Stuart Osborne turned over the receiver before finding Conlon who finished beautifully to the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
The O’Connell's looked relatively comfortable and pushed out a four-point lead. Although, once the referee levelled matters, with Seán Foley and Pauric Nolan seeing red, it was Kilbride who got the bounce. The quick-thinking Darragh Foley caught the ball and shot in the same motion to the top-corner of the net. It was now a one-point game; 1-8 to 1-7.
But 'leader points' from Conlon and Jackie Agnew settled the home side before the dramatic final act. Mark Curry marauded up the field to pull one back and then with minutes remaining Jason Carroll gave away a penalty and was handed a second yellow. Just before the spot-kick was taken Davy Moran was given a straight red in the usual jostling for position behind the taker.
Stephen Curry’s feeble penalty wasn’t worth the wait, though, as it was easily saved by Stuart Reynolds. A save which set the O’Connell's off on the counter-attack. The breakaway ended in a foul and a second yellow - and red - for James Foley, however, there was still room for more drama.
While the referee was dealing with the seventh sending off, O'Connell's substitute Seán Connolly and Kilbride’s Michael O’Brien got into a tangle and they both got the line.
But the Carlow outfit continually came back and had an effort crash off the crossbar before Conlon appropriately finished the game by converting a penalty with the game more resembling a soccer match than a Gaelic one.
And to round it all off, Mark Curry got his marching orders on a second yellow for conceding the penalty. One somehow reckons we’ll be hearing about this game for many years to come.
O’Connell's: Stuart Reynolds; James Clerkin, Salem Rifaie, Jason Carroll; Michael Cairns, Jackie Agnew (0-1), Keith Woods; Dean Stanfield (0-1), Seán Cairns (0-2); Emmet Byrne, Paul McKeever, Stuart Osborne; Conor McGill, Niall Conlon (2-5, goal pen and three frees), Robert Quigley (0-1)
Subs: John McLoughlin for Woods (40), Seán Connolly for Michael Cairns (43)
Kilbride: Thomas Gray; John O’Neill, Mark Curry (0-1), James Foley; Sean Foley (0-1), Eoin Nolan, Michael O’Brien; Darragh Foley (1-3, 0-3 frees), Seamus Gray; Brendan Butler, Stephen Curry (0-1), Davy Moran, Michael Brown, Pauric Nolan (0-2, frees), Colin O’Toole
Subs: Jason Carroll for O’Toole (29), John Fitzpatrick for Brown (53)
Referee: Noel McKenna (Kildare)