Roche Emmets' Kevin Callaghan was unable to help his side over Shannonbridge in Offaly on Saturday. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
AIB Leinster JFC quarter-final
Shannonbridge 2-13 Roche Emmets 1-8
Roche Emmets were chinned by repeated sucker punches during their Leinster quarter-final defeat on Saturday afternoon.
Having conceded a goal after just two minutes and lost Liam Carthy to a red card on the interval’s eve, Paddy McGuinness’ team showed courage to manoeuvre themselves into a competitive position.
But, forced to soldier for a lengthy spell minus a man, they lost their way, especially after being floored for a third time via Shannonbridge’s second goal with mere minutes to go.
As in the Louth junior final, a palmed three-pointer by Dan O’Connell breathed life into Emmets’ challenge, but rather than inspire a prolonged comeback, it, tellingly, proved to be the Faughart Parishioners’ penultimate register. Equally, O’Connell’s reversion to full-forward saw Roche lose control at midfield. It was a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Not that the local team’s management should be criticised, considering they’ve returned a league and championship double this term, ending Emmets’ five years of marriage to the junior abyss.
And, perhaps every cloud has a silver lining. Albeit Dundalk Young Irelands made history in winning the last renewal of this competition, fatigue caught up with the Hoey’s Lane charges as 2019 progressed, which almost culminated in demotion back to the bottom rung.
The anticipated eight-week break until pre-season begins could have longer-term positive consequences for Roche, whose aim it will be to graduate further prospects from their youth structure in a year where intermediate consolidation will be of primary importance.
“Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise, I don’t know,” said captain Liam Dawe after the match.
“It would have been nice to go the whole way, but we’ll get a couple of weeks off and go again.
“We’ve a big 12 months ahead and without speaking too soon, Roche are on the way up. Please God we’ll retain our status next year and take it from there.”
Dawe agreed that the early let-in of a goal was far from ideal, man-of-the-match and scorer Darragh Corbett profiting from Roche’s wayward play in defence, but more significant was the dismissal of Carthy, who had battled strongly in a functioning attack beforehand.
Into the face of a powerful breeze, Emmets remained within one score until their No.11 was sanctioned for an off-the-ball incident, which referee Keith O’Brien was alerted to by his linesman.
And not only were they in contention, through playing controlled football, Roche were finding the target more often than not, with Barry O’Hare, O’Connell, Kevin Callaghan (2) and Dawe all registering as the visitors trailed by only two, 1-4 to five, when Carthy received his marching orders.
"It’s probably the first time this year where we have got into a wee bit of difficulty with the ref. We pride ourselves (on that discipline)," Dawe added.
"It was that last five minutes where they got three in a row."
Thus five was the deficit at the change of ends and while Roche restarted strongly, wastefulness became a theme, even where Emmets' most skilled finishers were concerned.
Attacking the gust, Shannonbridge were prone to picking off points at idyllic intervals, giving the affair an inevitable guise.
That was until O'Connell raised a roar from the large travelling cohort, making it 1-10 to 1-7. False hope was all it garnered, though, with lethal Jack Darcy perforating Roche's burgeoning optimism with a ruthless strike to the net.
"It’s a tough one to take," said the skipper, after emotionally surveying the surface, hands kissing hips.
"We felt with that wind in the second half that we’d every chance, but they’ve a couple of very good players and they’ll go far, so we can’t have any complaints.
"I’ll not say we were in bonus territory, don’t get me wrong, we’re disappointed we’ve lost today, but it’s been a super year and you can’t complain really."
Shannonbridge: Barry Rohan; Cathal O’Shea, Paul Maloney, Shane Flannery; Ronan Devery, Bill Egan, Aaron Brazil; Ronan Hynes, Philip Egan; Ronan McEvoy (0-2), Darragh Corbett (1-1), Christian Brazil; Jack Darcy (1-7, 0-5 frees), Gavin Kelly (0-1), Kieran Flannery (0-2, one free)
Subs: John Egan for P Egan, Ciarán Mannion for Kelly, Karol Kelly for Devery, Peadar Kelly for Darcy, Shane Kelly for McEvoy
Roche Emmets: Jamie O’Hare; Joe Bishop, David Quigley, Dermot Carthy; Glen Stewart, Enda Murphy, Gerard Browne; Liam Dawe (0-1), Dan O’Connell (1-2); Seán Dawe, Liam Carthy, Eugene Murray; Kevin Callaghan (0-3, one free), Shane Byrne, Barry O’Hare (0-2, one 45)
Subs: Mark Reynolds for Murray, Evin Quigley for S Dawe, Robert Mackin for Callaghan, Andrew Carroll for Browne, Cathal Byrne for S Byrne, Tom Quigley for D Carthy
Referee: Keith O’Brien (Westmeath)