Leinster Intermediate Championship Final
St Mogue’s Fethard 1-15 Dunshaughlin 2-11
A match report on this game would not be complete without acknowledging the background and emotions involved going into the fixture, with his sister Maria Kealy Johnson passing away the previous afternoon it took great courage and commitment to the Dunshaughlin & Royal Gaels club that manager Richie Kealy took charge of the team on Saturday in what must have been very difficult circumstances for him.
The pitch in Chadwicks Wexford Park was in fantastic condition and along with the top class facilities, provided an ideal setting for what turned out to be one of the best club football games of 2022. The Dunshaughlin boys under 11 team formed a Guard Of Honour on the pitch prior to the start of the game to welcome their heroes. The crowd were treated to a pulsating encounter as Fethard St Mogue’s and Dunshaughlin battled it out in the AIB Leinster GAA Intermediate Club Football Final. Unfortunately for Dunshaughlin their Intermediate Championship journey for 2022 came to an end just falling short by the bare minimum as they went looking to capture the clubs first Leinster since 2002.
Dunshaughlin were dominant in scores from play, scoring 2-9 compared to Fethard only scoring 1-5 from play but in a game with such fine margins one particular number stands out, the number 10 and that is because Dunshaughlin conceded 10 frees in the scoring zone which were converted by Fethard, compared to Fethard who only conceded 2 frees in the scoring zone which were converted.
The Meath champions Dunshaughlin were hot favourites coming into the game, prior to throw-in Dunshaughlin made two changes to the starting line up from the starting 15 listed in the match programme, with David Fildes and Conor Jennings coming in for Meath Young Footballer of the year Ruairi Kinsella and another Meath under 20 player Ciaran McCarrick, who both had started in all previous nine Intermediate championship games for Dunshaughlin. Kinsella was not only Dunshaughlin’s best player in 2022 but was also voted Intermediate Championship Footballer of the Year and both players were a huge loss to Dunshaughlin and they trailed by a goal by halftime.
The visitors from Meath were first off the mark as Luke Mitchell showed his class by firing over after a great run from midfielder Ben Duggan. It was Mitchell’s turn this week to start instead of Aaron Murphy as the Dunshaughlin management continued their tactics to rotate one of starting corner forward positions between their two highest scoring corner forwards. Mitchell’s effort however was quickly cancelled out by Fethard as John Tubritt opened up his account by finishing a fine move. This set the home side up for a small period of dominance as the pushed right up on Dunshaughlin kick out. The result of which saw the ever-lively Cian Byrne create and ultimately score his own free, before notching his first from play from the resulting kick out again. This led to another free for the South East side as this time it was Tubritt who stepped up to slot over and move them into a 3-point lead. Fethard showed no signs of letting up as a breaking ball around the middle was snatched up by half back Sean Nunan. Nunan set off on a direct run through the middle before being hauled back as he was bearing down on goal, Tubritt did the needful from the resulting free.
This seemed to spark the visitors into life as the slowly began to make progress up the field. This was thanks to two fine efforts from John McDonagh and Niall Byrne respectively. A wayward kick out from Fethard which was fielded by John McDonagh who ran at speed towards goal, passed it to unmarked Conor Duke which led to Duke getting off the mark as his score left the bare minimum between the sides approaching the 15th minute mark. A third kick out won in a row for Dunshaughlin resulted in Mitchell landing a monster free and bringing the sides back all square.
It was from here that the game upped a gear. The raucous crowd were buoyed by the opening exchanges and themselves steamed into proceedings. Fethard latched onto this energy and a fine run by County Hurling star Mike Dwyer saw him deliver the ball to Morgan Ellis inside the 20 meter line. Ellis showed a beautiful stutter step to create an inch of space, from here the Fethard man made no mistake and fired home the games first goal. Not to be out done Dunshaughlin went about creating their own goal scoring chance shortly after. A give and go between midfielder Conor Gray and Mitchell saw Gray shoot narrowly wide. However, the big centre fielder was ultimately fouled in the process and Mitchell made no mistake from the resulting free.
Dwyer again showed his turn of pace as he too was fouled while threatening to break through the defense just outside the D and Cian Byrne fired over once again. The ensuing kick out saw Dunshaughlin move the ball not only from defence to attack but from side to side before Matthew Moyles shot for one of the points of the day. The final act of the half fell to Fethard full forward Tubritt who was fouled and kicked the free himself to leave the goal between the sides heading into the break.
Dunshaughlin substituted Jenning’s and Fildes at halftime with Aaron Murphy and Ruairi Kinsella. While Kinsella came on at the break, although all three players who were tried in Ciaran McCarrick’s position at wing back struggled to make an impact, he was surprisingly left warming the bench for the entire game. The second half was barely a minute old when the sides were back level, as Matthew Costello proved to be coolness personified as he steadied himself in the penalty area to rattle the Fethard net. The Wexford side responded instantly as Tubritt once again stood up to win a free with this time half back Jake Molloy slotting the placed ball. It was a repeat episode only minutes later as Molloy notched his second of the afternoon from another Tubritt engineered free.
Then came the third goal of the afternoon a move involving nine Dunshaughlin players from a short Adam McDermott kick out to Adam Kealy, onto Moyles who gave it to Niall Byrne who went on a run, gave it to Mitchell ,who sent it on to Kinsella, who with a beautifully accurate cross field pass to Matthew Costello opened up the Mogues defence and with his handpass to Conor Duke had Duke bearing down on the left side of goal and from an acute angle he laid the ball dangerously across the goal mouth, from here substitute Aaron Murphy made no mistake as he riffled home. Byrne (free) and Mitchel then traded scores to leave Dunshaughlin one point ahead (2-8 to 1-10). It was at that stage Dunshaughlin made the surprise decision to retire John McDonagh who was their combined top scorer in the Leinster quarter final and semi-final in the absence of and with the rotation of the top two scoring corner forwards.
Tubritt intercepted a Dunshaughlin kick out however the Fethard man chose the sensible option and tapped over his easiest score of the day. Then it was the turn of himself and Mitchell to once again trade points, the latter with an acrobatic effort over his head to draw the sides level again.
Richard Waters then popped up with his first of the afternoon, and what a score it was as the midfielder’s point moved the hosts back in front. Not to be out done by the Wexford man Mitchell snatched the equalizer with a shot that seemed to curl for eternity. The game was right in the melting pot and the crowd continued to play their part as neither side seemed destined to lose. However, as is always the case someone must. Fethard seemed to decide in the closing stages that today it wouldn’t be them. Half Forward Eoin grabbed a breaking ball and was pulled down just as he was pulling the trigger. Cian Byrne once again held his nerve and swept over the free.
The drama however wasn’t finished, Mike Dwyer got on the end of a sweeping move and looked set to rattle the net. However, the Fethard speedster was bottled up by Adam McDermott and Dunshaughlin moved the ball away. The resulting attack looked like it could prove pivotal only for a Dunshaughlin effort to ultimately drift wide and leave the momentum with the home side. A Joe Sutton point all but sealed the victory and despite a late score from Matthew Moyles it was Fethard who came out on top.
In a post-match interview, Dunshaughlin coach Paul Curran when questioned about not starting Kinsella or McCarrick, stated that the management were comfortable with their decision not to play the two lads and it had no bearing on the outcome of the game. It was probably a view not shared by Dunshaughlin supporters who attended the game in large numbers. Four Meath under 20 players who played against Dublin in the Leinster Championship earlier in the year were not included in the starting 15. Indeed on a day when Dunshaughlin were not at their best, some of their best performances came from members of last years Meath under 20 Division 1 Championship team, Luke Mitchell, Mathew Costello, John McDonagh and from Ruairi Kinsella when he came on.
St Mogue’s Fethard: W Doyle; C Molloy, D Mullan, M Doyle; S Nunan, G Foley (capt), J Molloy; J Sutton, R Waters; E Whelan, J Tubritt, G O’Grady; C Byrne, M Dwyer, M Ellis. Sub. – A Swan for Nunan (44).
Dunshaughlin: A McDermott; O Foley, A Doyle, N Byrne; D Fildes, N Murphy (capt), A Kealy; B Duggan, C Gray; J McDonagh, M Costello, M Moyles; C Duke, C Jennings, L Mitchell. Subs. – A Murphy for Jennings (HT), R Kinsella for Fildes (HT), J Rushe for McDonagh (50), F Toolan for Doyle (59).
St Mogue’s Fethard: C Byrne 0-6 (5 frees), J Tubritt 0-5 (3 frees), M Ellis 1-0, J Molloy 0-2 frees, R Waters 0-1, J Sutton 0-1.
Dunshaughlin: L Mitchell 0-6 (2 frees), M Costello 1-0, A Murphy 1-0, M Moyles 0-2, N Byrne 0-1, J McDonagh 0-1, C Duke 0-1.
Referee: A Coyne (Westmeath).