O’ NEILS’S ACFL 1 League Final
Bryansford 0-17 Mayobridge 1-13Three minutes into the second half, ‘They’re home-in a-boat’ was a comment heard from one sage as Mayobridge sailed seven points ahead of a seemingly floundering Bryansford writes Michael McCartan.
BUT! Joe Ireland’s torpedo, with the last kick off the match, holed the Bridge below the waterline. Their ship sank beneath the waves, with players falling to their knees, distraught and in disbelief, all over the pitch as referee Ferghal Laverty sounded the ‘Lutine Bell’.[caption id="attachment_52279" align="aligncenter" width="540"] The Ford are the O’Neil’s ACFL Division 1 champions, beating the Bridge in the last kick of the match.[/caption]
Ford players and supporters were euphoric. Playing the entire second half and five minutes of the first with only fourteen men, following Kalum King’s second yellow, the green and gold crew managed to salvage the spirit of ’78, the last time the club won the ‘O’ Casey’ Cup, and navigate their way to victory.
A bombardment of yellow cards, Joe Ireland and Jamie Barr, before the ‘engagement’ commenced, signalled a fractious game and by the second minute all four midfielders had been booked.[caption id="attachment_52280" align="alignleft" width="260"] Captain Luke Howard led Bryansford to a win against Mayobridge.[/caption]
However, the match had all the hallmarks of a championship final… very competitive, exhilarating, enthralling and going down to the final kick of the ball. Up until the twenty-first minute the teams had exchanged point for point with both sides scoring six points. Ciaran Brannigan (2), Luke Howard, Chris Clarke, Joe Ireland and Conor Devlin for Bryansford. Michael Lively, Kevin O’ Rourke (2), Caolan Gallagher (2) and Conleth O’ Hare for Mayobridge.
Bridge keeper, Shealan Strain also made two vital blocks to keep his goal intact. In the seventeenth minute, King forced his way past two tackles and his low shot was superbly blocked. A minute later Strain met Chris Brannigan head on, literally, as both players tried to fist the ball to their advantage. Strain won the dual but both players clashed heads and play was held up while attention was given to both. The game see-sawed for a couple of minutes without score and some tough tackling before Bryansford appeared to press the self-destruct button.
With five minutes remaining in the half, Ireland, who had been having a good game, lost possession coming out of defence. Brendan Coulter was on-hand to claim the ball and skilfully stepped around Ford keeper Mark Reid and planted the ball in the net. In the following play from the kickout, Kalum King received a second yellow and left the field. Listing badly, the Ford ship managed to restrict the Bridge to a point from Ryan Brady leaving the score at break reading 1.07 to 0.06 in favour of the ‘Blues’, who now had the upper hand.
Four points adrift soon became seven. O’ Rourke, Kevin Mc Clorey and Conor Fitzpatrick each raised the white flag within three minutes of the restart. Bryansford looked dead and buried. Timmy Hanna who had been moved into midfield began to link the half-forwards and half-backs. Six unanswered points accrued from David Mc Kibbin, Clarke, Chris Brannigan, Hanna, Danny Savage and Conor Maginn. In fact it would not be until ten minutes from time that the Bridge scored again claiming two points from Brady and Gallagher. Bryansford needed to do something to re-establish their momentum especially as Hanna was black-carded.
In came Conor Gribbin and Ruari Wells. Wells burst onto the stage at midfield, clattering Coulter and Fitzpatrick to win the ball. The young Ford substitute was obviously fired up and his combative entrance motivated those around him. Three points arrived through Savage(2) and Mc Kibbin.
Extra time loomed as the end of normal time arrived and the teams locked at 1-12 to 0-15. Two additional minutes had just been signalled by the fourth official when Corey Quinn who arrived as a substitute for the Bridge thought he had won the game for his team with a sweetly taken point. The Ford however moved the ball up field and a free was awarded.
The pressure on David Mc Kibbin must have been immense. Only thirty seconds or so left he flighted the ball straight over the black spot on the crossbar. All square and the Ford supporters grateful and thinking of returning to fifteen players for the extra period. But their thinking was premature as Ireland claimed the kickout and fed Clarke.
Expectations were that he would shoot but instead passed to Savage who also failed to shoot. The ball however arrived with Ireland who had drifted out to the wing to assist. Forty metres out and five metres in from the sideline he let fly with his left boot.
The Ford supporters were shrieking with delight long before the ball sailed over the bar in apparent slow motion to some. The white ‘ensign’ was raised and the whistle sounded, the game was over. Ireland, looked stunned but, the villain of the Bridge goal, was now the toast of Bryansford, with the players ploughing on top of each other in celebration.
Mayobridge players fell to their knees in disbelief. How had they let a seven point lead while playing for over forty minutes against fourteen men slip? The answer! The Ford finally stepped up to the mark. Their soft underbelly which had been exposed on a number of occasions this season was finally eradicated. They certainly didn’t shy away from the battle and deserved their victory.]]>