Sunday 20 October 2019

Jimmies my team of year in football

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

Brendan Furlong - Hop Ball

With the county season at an end, it's time to look back on the best and worst of 2015. Looking on the football scene for this week I'll give some awards, some wanted and others not so much.

Team of the year: Can any team other than the county champions be called the team of the year? While Shelmaliers got to yet another semi-final, with St. Anne's and Castletown once again knocking on the door, there were many noteworthy performances, but still the achievements of St. James' cannot be surpassed.

After last year winning the county Intermediate title after extra-time in the final, many felt they would be content with preserving their new-found Senior status. Some said they needed time, while others worried for their immediate return to the top flight.

While some teams sacrificed themselves with a defensive game, St. James' mixed individual talent along with a team game which caught so many by surprise.

They overcame some group setbacks to emerge into the quarter-finals on scoring aggregate, knocking out neighbours Gusserane on a one-point difference. They went on to dethrone reigning champions, St. Anne's, in the quarter-final, followed by a semi-final replay victory over Shelmaliers.

Now gone was any inferiority complex they may have held as they turned on the style against St. Martin's in the final to win their first-ever Senior title.

Player of the year: Matthew O'Hanlon (St. James'). It wasn't a vintage year for stand-out individual performances. Normally it's the forward who gets most recognition when it comes to player of the year, but this time we move slightly further afield.

There were some outstanding defensive performances. Ciarán Lyng's scoring exploits kept St. Martin's on course for the title right up to the final, while the inspiring defensive play of Graeme Molloy shone for St. James', not to mention Lee Chin's outstanding performance in saving Sarsfields from relegation.

But there was no downside to Matthew O'Hanlon's game. A traditional midfield display of high fielding and distribution against Gusserane in the group stages, leading on to an inspirational showing in the final against St. Martin's. He had such a huge impact on St. James' achieving an historic first Senior football title.

Disappointment of the year: Every time I go to a game or watch one on television I'm hoping to see a competitive contest.

The number of scores is irrelevant as there can be a high-scoring match with no physical edge to it. The disappointing aspect of this year was the feeble exit of Gusserane, last year's beaten finalists.

Needing just a victory or draw in their final group game with Horeswood to secure a quarter-final spot, they fell totally flat, not just losing but by a margin that allowed St. James' to slip through the net. We all know what happened after that.

Game of the year: The best game of the championship came in the final. The game between St. James' and St. Martin's was competitive and full of good football, with fine individual displays.

The game had everything that's good about football, with both teams playing the game with great intensity. Typical of a final, it was the underdogs from St. James' who provided that extra sparkle to narrowly come out on top.

Manager of the year: Many believe that the influence of those people who wear the Bainisteóir bib is totally over-rated.

Still, many deserve great credit for what they bring to a squad which only becomes obvious should the side impress through the championship.

Managers take much criticism but the St. James' pair, John and Luke O'Hanlon, have manned the sideline through thick and thin, even when it was unfashionable to play football with the club.

Having steered them through Intermediate, they still patrolled the sideline through some delicate moments this year, before enjoying their hour of glory with the lifting of the Senior championship cup. They are my clear choice as joint managers of the year.

Surprise of the year: I made predictions at the start of the year and none could have been further wrong than my thoughts on St. James' prospects.

They had just won Intermediate so I felt they would be happy with preserving their Senior status.

I did not envisage they would experience such a season but the players reached out to embrace the challenge. That's why the proved the surprise packet of 2015.

Flop of the year: The failure of urban clubs to impact on the title race.

Wexford People

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