Match Review - FINAL Junior Champ 07 - Westernpeople 24/10/07

GAA: Super Islanders sail to success

By: Michael Gallagher in McHale Park, Castlebar

TF Royal Hotel and Theatre JFC - Final
Achill 2-12 Islandeady 1-8

AFTER a week when tragedy struck both parishes, the young men of Achill and Islandeady produced an excellent football match in a dry, but bitterly cold McHale Park on Sunday.

The sad passing of John Lawless and Brian Collins left the entire population of both areas mourning the loss of their native sons but when the ball was thrown in on Sunday afternoon, the teams laid everything on the line for the honour and glory of their respective parishes.

Islandeady had come into the match as slight favorites given their more impressive run-in, but Achill are past-masters at winning county crowns and they produced the goods when it was most needed. The islanders were hugely impressive throughout the match and played a brand of football that mixed strength, style and skill.

On the other hand their opponents never managed to produce the football they were capable of, and that was an indication of the superb Achill defensive play on show in Castlebar.

The islanders’ back division never allowed Islandeady the time and space they required to build up a head of steam and with Donal Gallagher and Martin Keane the more prominent midfield duo, the boys in green had the foundation on which to build a winning platform.

They began that construction in the opening minute when Michael Daragh Sweeney swung over a free and the same player doubled the advantage four minutes later after good play from Kevin Kilbane.

Islandeady were finding it hard to cope with Achill’s power in the middle of the pitch, but two pointed frees from Vinnie Feeney tied up the scores by the tenth.

Parity didn’t remain for long however as two Donal Corrigan points restored the Achill advantage. Vinnie Feeney was Islandeady’s only attacking threat at this stage while scores were coming much easier at the other end and when Donal Gallagher raced through to point after fine play from the highly influential Colm Cafferkey, the gaeltacht men were flying.

Michael Daragh Sweeney put three between the sides in the 28th but Islandeady finished the half strongly with points by Stephen Staunton and David O’Brien to leave the interval score, 0-6 to 0-5 in favour of the winners. In fairness, Staunton’s effort could have nestled in the net, but crept over the bar after the full-forward fielded a pass from Brendan Horan and raced through on goal.

Achill had been the better team for much of the opening half but Islandeady’s closing salvo gave the white and green huge hope for the second period. That aspiration was severely dampened in the opening seconds of the new half when Michael Daragh Sweeney sent a long ball into the square and their inspirational captain, Colm Gallagher, punched the ball to the net. Colm Cafferkey soloed sixty yards before smashing over a superb point a minute later and Achill were in dreamland.

Islandeady needed a quick response and they got it in the 34th minute.

Martin Feeney’s thirty-yard free came back off the upright and Staunton grabbed the ball and smashed it low into the bottom corner. William McDonnell closed the gap to a single point a few minutes later and the cup’s destination was still undecided as destiny beckoned Islandeady forward, but it was at this juncture that the Achill half-back line came into their own.

Gerry Cafferkey, Joe English and Colm Cafferkey mixed defence and attack and the first mentioned landed a precious point in the 41st. Moments later Martin Keane connected with a Gerry Cafferkey centre only to see his punched effort come back off the cross-bar, but the other midfielder, Donal Gallagher, landed a fine point in the 44th to put his team three up, 1-9 to 1-6.

Islandeady knew that they needed a goal to get back into contention and almost produced one when Staunton won goalmouth possession only to see Richard Moylette’s goal effort blocked by Joe English. Vinnie Feeney followed up with a sweet point but the men in white needed a three-pointer. Their best chance of acquiring such a score lay in the hands of Staunton but the ball wasn’t directed to him often enough and the whites’ charge faltered despite another point from Feeney.

At the other end Donal Corrigan was having a memorable afternoon and his ball-winning and point-taking was highly impressive. He scored a beauty in the 52nd and when he set up Kilbane for another four minutes later, there were three points between the sides again.

Islandeady worked desperately hard in an attempt to get back into the match but they couldn’t find a way past the swarming Achill men who had the scent of glory in their nostrils.

Corrigan stretched their precious advantage to four in the 59th after great play from Colm Cafferkey but the best was yet to come. Islandeady drove forward in a desperate attempt at salvation but they were caught on the counter. Joe English, Martin English and David Cattigan combined before Kilbane fired the ball to the net for the final score of the day.

Moments later the islanders were cavorting on the McHale Park turf in a sea of elation while Islandeady were swimming in a sea of devastation, but only in a football sense. The previous days’ experiences had shown both sets of players that some things were more important than football.

Article taken from, and copyright of "the Westernpeople" 24th October 2007