A mighty victory for Gusserane
GAA: Greenstar Recycling Roinn U-21 Football Final
Gusserane rounded out the year in style, edging gallant Realt na Mara to the Greenstar Recycling Roinn 1 Under-21 Football championship title in St Patrick's Park on Sunday afternoon last.
Gusserane 0-14 Realt na Mara 0-10
Different teams have different dreams at the start of every year. Within a club there may be 15 potential county champion calibre sides, elsewhere there may be just one or two. The O'Rahillys men, it's fair to say, had several.
However, it hasn't been all glorious celebrations for the New Ross District side. They have lost two county minor finals, a Junior hurling final and this hard earned under-21 success is just desserts for the lads that were not involved in the senior football success and deserved their own special day.
But they were really made to fight for it. The Gusserane men would have expected a fierce battle. Realt na Mara made the county final on merit, beating a strong Craanford side in the district final before dispatching Oylegate-Glenbrien in the last four.
That was a strong form line to arrive into the county final with, despite the lack of games in recent months. It was no surprise that they really took the game to the favourites from the first whistle.
The Gorey district club dominated the first 15 minutes. Yet, while they put down a marker in terms of control of the ball and territorial dominance, they simply didn't have the score to show for their early forays into dangerous positions.
They did open the scoring when Cormac Moore Kavanagh popped over a dead-ball after a foul on Jack Doyle but Gusserane hit back with two points in a minute, both from Sean 'Mini' Ryan, to take their first lead of the afternoon.
After another sustained period of pressure Michael Burke levelled the scores in the 11th minute. Realt na Mara went 0-3 to 0-2 to the good just over 60 seconds later when Evan Dunbar nailed a long range free.
The fact that the Ballygarrett boys full-back was their fourth free-taker in scoring range in the opening quarter probably says a little about where their problems lay in their spell of dominance. They did go 0-4 to 0-2 up when Gavin Walker pointed.
Sean Ryan was the lone Gusserane scorer in those early stages, he cut the deficit to one in the 17th minute. Most of Realt na Mara's drive was coming from their talented midfield duo and Cathal Dunbar scored a fantastic point from the left wing after a marauding break forward in the 23rd minute.
That would prove to be their last score of the half. At the other end Gusserane suddenly found their stride and got hot. Indeed, half-time would end up coming at a really inopportune time for the New Ross District side.
Between the 25th minute and Aidan O'Brien's interval whistle, the men in blue kicked six unanswered points. The excellent Mark Rossiter knocked over three of them, the inside forward duo of Sean O'Connor and Sam Wall got one each and John Roche popped over a fine score.
Suddenly 0-9 to 0-5 ahead at the break, Gusserane had a lead to defend. Realt na Mara needed a positive response and got it, holding their opponents scoreless in the third quarter. However, like the opening 15 minutes, they failed a little at the other end.
A quick glance at the back seven for the new champions will explain part of their trouble, that's a strong defensive unit, the cornerstone of this under-21 success. Still, Cathal Dunbar pointed, Patrick Fleming added another in the 43rd minute and just two points separated the sides.
Each time Realt na Mara got within two their opponents responded.
Ryan started the final quarter with his fourth score, then, shortly after Shane Quinn raised a white flag, Martin Fitzharris hit right back with a classy over.
Evan Dunbar's booming strike was tipped over by Micheál Ryan but again Mark Rossiter was on hand to make it 0-12 to 0-9. When Dunbar was dismissed late-on for a black card after a yellow it looked like game over for the Ballygarrett boys.
They kept chipping away and again close the gap to two when Cathal Dunbar scored his third of the afternoon in added-time. However, late, late minors from Oisin Foran and Rossiter ensured the cup headed back to the New Ross District after a fierce battle.
GUSSERANE: Micheál Ryan; Jason Sutton, Mark O'Neill, Eoghan Foran; Chris Cullen, Jack Burford, Donal Kiely; John Roche (0-1), Ciaran Conway; Sean Ryan (capt, 0-4), Mark Rossiter (0-5, 3 frees), Martin Fitzharris (0-1); Adrian Redmond, Sean O'Connor (0-1), Sam Wall (0-1). Subs. - Oisin Foran (0-1) for O'Connor (47), also, James Kinsella, Jack Culleton, Gavin Sheehan, Donal Kinsella.
REALT NA MARA: Kiran Gigi; Dara Cahill, Evan Dunbar (0-2, 1 free), David Doran; Patrick Fleming (0-1), Darren Morris, Gavin Morris; Cathal Dunbar (0-3), Gavin Walker (capt, 0-1); Cormac Moore Kavanagh (0-1 free), Shane Quinn (0-1), Michael Burke (0-1); Eoin Corcoran, Brian O'Connor, Jack Doyle. Subs. - Dylan Sweeney for Cahill, inj (30+4), Jordan Redmond for Burke (39), Conor O'Toole for Doyle, inj (54), also, Billy Conroy, Oisin Dunbar, Oisin WIlloughby, Conor Dowling, Philip Doyle, Tom Higgins, James Fleming, Tom Sinnott.
REFEREE: Aidan O'Brien (Cloughbawn).