FAVOURITES tags don’t mean much if you don’t do the business on the field of play, but Kildress managed to repel a fierce challenge from Drumragh to claim the Pat Darcy Cup on a final scoreline of 3-9 to 1-8.
The Wolfe Tones were massive favourites heading into tonight’s night’s match at Healy Park, but they looked massively out of sorts early on and trailed by four points at the break.
With the rain finally subsiding after a wicked day’s weather, their opponents Drumragh bossed most of the first-half and their fans will have dared to dream that a third ever Junior Championship title was well within reach.
But that dream was unceremoniously snatched away as the Wolfe Tones got their act together in the second-half and left Drumragh feeding on scraps while they made hay at the other end, eventually securing a relatively comfortable seven-point victory.
The pre-match favourites opened the scoring when Shea Murphy, positioned on the right flank, curled over a beauty, but Drumragh’s Tommy Mullin soon equalised after Stephen McGurk picked the ball off the ground.
With Drumragh’s confidence growing with every passing second, they edged into the lead with a pointed free from their captain Shane Cleary, who recovered from a hamstring injury in time for yesterday’s match.
The Kildress fans were getting agitated, and no wonder; most of their forays forward were coming to nought against a simultaneously disciplined and fearless Drumragh rearguard, but they did manage to draw level by the water-break with points from Conor Quinn and Philip Lennon.
Drumragh midfielder Eamonn McCann, who had been doing well, was forced off with injury, but they bossed the remainder of the half regardless.
Sean McGale showed great skill to nudge the Sarsfields into a 0-4 to 0-3 lead, and even better was to follow when Shane Devine fisted the ball home after a miscued shot from Tommy Mullin.
The Drumragh supporters waved their green and white flags in delight, and Kildress became increasingly panicked in attack, repeatedly trying to work a goal when they’d have been better served with a point or two.
Drumragh led 1-5 to 0-4 at the break but that’s basically as good as it got for the underdogs. Kildress were a side transformed in the second-half, achieving almost total supremacy in the middle third and making good use of their possession at that.
They restored parity within seven minutes of the restart with points from Lennon (two), Conor Quinn and veteran half-forward Dessie Tracey, and it was no more than deserved given the vigour and energy of their general play.
Drumragh were struggling badly with the tide, though they got a much-needed score when their captain Shane Clearly hit a fine point from distance and being fouled.
Even though he’d spent some time on the ground after winning the free, it didn’t stem Kildress’ momentum and they got their first goal after Shea Murphy palmed the ball to the net after a hopeful long ball.
They were in no mood to sit back and pushed for home with a Lennon free and another goal. In this case, Conor Quinn kicked the size five into an empty net after Drumragh failed to clear their lines.
The Sarsfields fought to the bitter end and got two late points from Cleary and Aaron Montgomery, but Kildress had the final say when Lennon slammed home a penalty with the final kick of the game after Pauric Lagan was fouled.