Despite the effects of Covid, the atmosphere for the Connacht Shield Final was building up nicely last week. There were bits & bobs being incubated and discussed all week by the management quartet of Niall Rohan, Gary Devaney, Ollie Crowe & Garry O’Grady – team formations, nursing injuries, attendance trackers, collating the order of drill tops sponsored by Adrian Burke, Porter Cooling Services especially for the occasion amongst other usual bits & bobs in preparation for a Provincial Final. The long awaited and much anticipated Connacht Shield Final against Roscommon side Ballaghderreen FC finally arrived on Saturday night in RDFL’s County grounds, Lecarrow which looked splendid by 7pm kick off time.
Colemanstown started well enough but it was Ballaghaderreen who created 4 early chances as they almost snuck in to convert 2 of them at the back post. Their ability to spin the ball around at ease was rewarded on 10mins when Cathal Horan got on the end of a long crossfield pass to head past Alan Finn into the far right corner. Jayo Finn couldn’t connect properly to a bobbling ball in the box while Stephen Rabbitte had another chance to level matters in the same passage of play but he just couldn’t pull the trigger and the ball was eventually scrambled clear off the line. Immediately up the other end, Alan ‘Junior’ made a great diving save from a set piece to tip over the crossbar and pulled off another great save from the resultant corner.
On 22mins, Tom Flannery was introduced up front for the injured Savo Kenny who had been fighting a niggling groin injury all week. It was sad to see Savo walk towards the sideline – after all his late winner in the semi-final against Glenhest FC had brought Colemanstown to this Shield Final. On 26mins, Ballaghderreen scored their 2nd with an inviting crossfield pass which Conal Docherty contested and as keeper Alan Finn came towards the edge of his box, Cathal Horan again, this time found an empty net. 2-0 down and it looked like it would be an uphill battle but these lads were down 2-0 before and turned the tide around so the small Colemanstown contingent had plenty of hope.
In a bid to claw one back, a nice flicked header from Flan into the path of Damo Wynne saw his effort booted well wide. Ballaghaderreen scored another on 35mins but was adjudged to be offside by the vigilant lady lineswoman. At this stage, Colemanstown were under immense pressure and on 38mins Geordan Kenny upended the striker throttling through and the ref pointed to the penalty spot. Danny Browne swept them 3-0 in front with a comfortable advantage when he converted the penalty. 2 mins later Junior had to be alert as he came rushing to the edge of his box to avert the impending danger. 2 mins before the break, Alan Finn again showed great athleticism with another fantastic stop. Just at the half time whistle, Damo Wynne got his head to Jayo Finn’s free kick and Flan had a lovely deft touch to control the ball before driving his piledriver well wide. At this stage, Colemanstown couldn’t wait for the half time whistle to re-group.
Ballaghderreen restarted the second half in the same vein. 3mins in, they had a shot from the edge of the D but Alan Finn had the area well covered. Geordy Kenny’s cross early in the 2nd half found the Ballaghderreen keeper but Damo Wynne was lurking in the box to make him earn the save. Colemanstown had a great chance to pull one back as Geordan Kenny found Flan whose effort came off the feet of the keeper. Colemanstown by now had brushed off their lethargic start and on 65mins Stephen Rabbitte’s corner met the diving head of Geordan Kenny but was well saved. 2 mins later though the opposition turned the screw as a defence splitting pass found the inrushing striker who slammed home No. 4 which starved the Colemanstown lads of oxygen. Flan did his best with a knuckleball effort from a free which was saved by the keeper with the rebound headed over by Captain Gary Lally. Flan hit the woodwork soon after but straight up the other end Danny Browne was taken down and he laid the ball on the golden spot to convert his 2nd penalty himself.
The last 10minutes belonged to Colemanstown as they burst into life when Richie Lally’s free kick was headed home by Stephen Rabbitte. With 5 mins to go Flan was off target after good work from Richie Lally. Colemanstown pulled back another with 5 mins to play. John O’Brien was dragged down as he danced his way dazzlingly past the Ballaghderreen defence and Richie Lally’s free kick drew a one-handed save from the keeper but as the ball fell to Gary Lally he was fouled in the box and the ref awarded a penalty which Richie converted well to make it 5-2. Right at the end a good one-two between Jayo Finn & John O’Brien saw Jayo at full stretch in an attempt to finish but the keeper saved. Right at the death Geordy Kenny was upended with Richie taking the free from a dangerous position but again the keeper made a good stop. 5-2 it finished to an impressive Ballaghaderreen outfit with blood, sweat and tears for the Colemanstown lads. There were still post-match injuries to be nursed by Eoin Kenny & Jayo Finn while we must also mention Alan Finn who broke his nose in the semi-final and showed great courage in togging out on the day.
It was a long hiatus to this point since last September thanks to Covid but a rollercoaster last couple of games with late goals to pull the game out of the fire on a few occasions. But with the new season about to begin this coming weekend, there will be more matches to look forward to. It might not have been as captivating a Final as we would have liked, but to get this far is a testament to the players and management quartet. So lads, thanks for the entertainment as Colemanstown United entered the archives in reaching their first ever Provincial final.
Massive thanks also to Adrian Burke, Porter Cooling Services who made sure the lads were well donned in sponsored drill tops for the entire squad. Thanks also to Ballymac Hall Committee who sponsored grub & refreshments for the lads after the game & to Sky TV’s new pundit Niall Gelston who assisted in the match commentary as the game was streamed live by the Connacht FA. Also we must mention John Lally, our own social media guru who spent every waking hour giving prominence to the game.
Squad: Alan Finn Junior, Stephen Rabbitte, Conal Docherty, Jason Finn, Alan Finn, Damien Wynne, Padraig Quirke, Gareth Lally, Geordan Kenny, Dylan Grady, Eoin Kenny, Tom Flannery, Richie Lally, John O’Brien, Tomas Carr, David Mullins, Ronan Carr, James Barclay, Conor Callaghan & Kevin Sayers.