Ryan Walsh hit 1-08 for St Fechins in Dunleer on Sunday afternoon as the lads from Termonfeckin lifted the Louth GAA Under 16 Championship, narrowly overcoming Ardee St Marys 1-13 to 0-14.
Jonathan Commins hit 0-09 for the Ardee side and despite a late push, Walsh’s second half penalty proved the difference as Marys were denied.
Many of the players lining out for the Marys in Dunleer on Saturday were embarking on a big week personally and for the club. In a weeks time in Drogheda, several included today will be involved as Tom Kirk’s minors’ aim to win a first ever Minor Championship for the club as a standalone side at that level.
Tom Jackson, Tiernan Corrigan, Carl Gillespie and Jonathan Commins will all have key roles to play against the Geraldines at the Gaelic Grounds. This Sunday afternoon, their eyes were solely fixed on one prize. Next Sunday will perhaps provide them and the club with a sense of redemption.
If the Marys were considered favourites, the Fechins came fast out of the traps – letting the lads from Ardee know they’d have a game on their hands. Sean Kerrisk registered the opening score of the game before Luke Matthews’ reply.
Ryan Walsh kicked a 45 over the bar and followed it up minutes later with a well taken free. In between, the Marys were dealt not one but two blows with potential repercussions for next week too. Commins took a bad knock and had to depart – but only briefly thankfully – before Tom Jackson also left early on.
After a slack Marys giveaway, Adam O’Neill slotted over. Then came the Marys response – and Commins was at the heart of it. Two routine frees from Commins and a Carl Gillespie effort from play had them in front. Commins then got his fourth of the day to extend the advantage.
Finding their feet, Darragh McCoy forced goalkeeper Conor Flynn into a five save, tipping his shot around the post. Marys goalkeeper James McGillick also had work to do at the other end. Kingsley Akinbode beat him to a ball but after finding O’Neill, his chance was touched over the line and Walsh couldn’t convert the 45.
Gillespie popped over a free of his own and then Commins span away from Peter Meegan and put over after excellent work from Dylan Whyte. With four points in it at the break, the Marys would have been eager to put the game to bed.
Just seconds had been played in the second half when Cathal Quinn was called upon to deny Matthews after a goalmouth scramble. They backs did their job well. Walsh scored from play and although Commins replied via a 45, the Fechins ate into their deficit.
Harry O’Neill broke through two challenges in midfield and put over and then Walsh hit two frees, either side of Luke Matthews’ fine effort. With 15 minutes to play however, the Termonfeckin outfit edged in front for the first time in approaching half an hour of play.
Aaron Keenan was black carded when he dragged O’Neil down to the ground right in front of the posts. Walsh dispatched the penalty past McGillick to hand his side a one point advantage. Jackson was the black card replacement for Keenan.
Commins got scores seven and eight of his afternoon to restore the Marys advantage but Peter Meegan, O’Neill and two more scores from the brilliant Walsh left the Fechins with a three point lead with five to play. At this stage, the game looked as if it was getting away from the the Blues.
The irrepressible Walsh managed one more before the end – before Tiernan Corrigan pointed just as the clock ticked into injury time. Commins added another – his ninth – but it wasn’t enough.
As the 1957 All-Ireland winners are celebrated this year, there is no doubt it would have been extra special for the Marys to get their hands on the Dermot O’Brien Cup in 2017 but it wasn’t to be. David Lally and Walsh lifted the cup.
ARDEE ST MARYS: James McGillick, DJ McKeever, Nathan Buckley, Andrew Rogers, Aaron Keenan, Tom Jackson, Jay Crawley, Eoin Clarke, Tiarnan Corrigan (0-01), Carl Gillespie (0-02), Jonathan Commins (0-09), Dylan White, Conor O’Brien, Luke Matthews (0-02), Darragh McCoy.
Subs: Pariac McKenny for Tom Jackson (13), Callum Markey for Eoin Clarke (31), Cillian Keenan replaces Conor O’Brien, Tom Jackson for Aaron Keenan (BC) (45).
ST FECHINS: Conor Flynn, Paul McEvoy, David Lally, Neil Boylan, Josh Halpin, Peter Meegan (0-01), Cathal Quinn, Harry O’Neill (0-01), Sean Kerrisk (0-01), Neal Hodgins, Eoghan Ryan, Cormac Dolan, Ryan Walsh (1-08), Kinsgley Akinbode, Adam O’Neill (0-02).
Subs: Jack Bohill for Akinbode (25), John O’Connell for Jack Bohill (30), Anthony Dillon for Peter Meegan (30+6).
REFEREE: Aidan Shevlin (Stabannon)