Ronan Holcroft scored four points for St. Fechin's in Saturday night's enthralling CTI Business Solutions Intermediate Football Championship clash with Irelands in Stabannon. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
CTI Business Solutions IFC group four
St. Fechin’s 0-11 Dundalk Young Irelands 0-10
They’re made of stern stuff, St. Fechin’s. Faced with an exasperating challenge, Dundalk Young Irelands, they found a route to victory. Hence the Termonfeckin men’s favouritism for this year’s IFC title.
As they left the pitch, roughly 10 minutes after referee Colm McCullough had called a halt to a tit-for-tat affair, Fechin’s boss Eugene Judge made a point of approaching individual players; embracing some, going through match plays with others.
“Eugene is very good at keeping us level headed,” said Joe Corrigan of his manager at full-time.
Of course, Fechin’s went all the way to last year’s final and headed for Stabannon on Saturday night with a petrol-fueled trail in their wake, following nine wins from 10 in the league. Form which has them on the cusp of a return to Division One.
Yet they were meeting the ultimate immovable object, one whose riddle is rarely solved. Junior champions Young Irelands certainly weren’t overawed as an arm-wrestle of epically intense proportions broke out in the sweltering heat.
The match was won with Bevan Duffy’s move further forward in the second half, the Louth captain providing the brute drive which his team lacked during a first period where Irelands looked to have plotted Fechins’ downfall perfectly.
It took the Dundalk side 12 minutes to register, but they soon found their feet and were six points to two ahead approaching half-time, with Jordan O’Donoghue the scorer of 0-3, including a sublime sideline kick.
Fergal Sheekey, Irelands’ ’keeper, was controlling the game, flawlessly distributing and setting his side in motion, but they seemed to abandon a functioning kick-out strategy at around the midway stage and Fechin’s made headway, converting the final three points of the first half.
Just a point behind at the halfway juncture - 0-6 to five - it didn’t take Fechin’s long to push clear into the road-end goals, Duffy, Corrigan and Ronan Holcroft pointing as Irelands’ barren spell extended to well into double digits.
Both sides took issue with the officials in the second half, though their decision-making hardly led to the outcome. Ultimately, having struck late through Jordan O’Donoghue and Mark Savage, cutting the gap to the minimum, Irelands missed a number of scorable frees that would have earned them a draw.
Don’t be surprised if this is October’s final pairing. It will take a good team to prevent it.
St. Fechin’s: Niall McDonnell; Pádraig O’Donohoe, Niall McCabe, Danny Burnell; Matthew Flanagan, Bevan Duffy (0-1), Joe Corrigan (0-1); Paul Matthews, Donal Ryan; Harry McCarthy, Eoghan Duffy, Brian Devlin (0-3); Ronan Holcroft (0-4, two frees), Niall Devlin, Seán Kerrisk (0-1)
Subs: Harry Haughney for McCarthy (36), Ryan Walsh (0-1) for Kerrisk (46), Adam O’Neill for Duffy (49)
Young Irelands: Fergal Sheekey; Peter McCourt, Ciarán Murray, Stephen Bellew; Kevin Keelan, Derek Maguire, Peter Nixon; Seán McLoughlin, Derek Rogers; Cian Ó Náraigh (0-1), Jason Mulligan (0-1), Shadam Azeeze; Aidan Sheekey (0-1), Mark Savage (0-1), Jordan O’Donoghue (0-4, one free)
Subs: Cian O’Donoghue for Keelan (36), Dermot Mone (0-2, one free) for Rogers (45), Keelan for A Sheekey (50)
Referee: Colm McCullough (Naomh Fionnbarra)