North Meath Gaels 1-14 Bru na Boinne 2-7
Exactly two weeks before Christmas Day on a fine Spring like December Night the U17 Footballers of North Meath Gaels and Bru na Boinne lined up for the U-17 Division 4 Final.
A good crowd had gathered for the game at this very important age group, was it the fact that "I'm a Celebrity get me out of Here" was concluded a few days before hand or that at the moment the usual Soaps on the TV are a little tiresome of late or did they gather for some better entertainment as recent clashes between the two sides gave entertainment of the best quality.
Football too is a bit like Farming should not be ran by looking at the calender but when weather is Dry and Fine everyone is in good Humour and Quality comes true and everyone's form gets that little boost.
The Nobber sod was in top notch form and after a discussion between the managers the decision was made to play 15 aside, a good decision as this meant 4 extra lads that that put in the effort for the team had now their day not so much in "The Sun" but in the Lights on this mild December night ! Indeed a brave decision by North Meath as they had the bare 15 players but the sporting side that sometimes is lacking was shown in the assurance that should a player be injured that the Slane/St Marys side would keep even numbers and with draw a player. Numbers are low in North Meath and the Clubs realise that on days like these everyone needs to be involved where possible as how else can we encourage players to keep with it. A few young lads would have woke up this morning with a pep in the step very important in the times we have.
North Meath seem to start well in most games and this was no difference as while playing into the fresh breeze by the 7th minute the impressive Daniel Byrne had 3 points from play which prompted a realignment of the Bru rearguard. Paugde McGowan and James Mooney where having a battle Royale and McGowan impressive in the and in the 1st half in particular, pointed on the 8th minute to open the Bru account. Both sides played a two man full forward lines and this left things a little cluttered around the middle but each attack seemed to befit from the space inside.
Byrne knocked over a free on 11 minutes but then Bru began to settle with Daniel Carolan looking a threat they managed 1-2 with McGowan the goal Getter to take the lead. Two further points left it 1-4 to 0-4. Colm McEvoy was in fine form at this stage and Cathal Dunne out from his No.15 spot was also having and impact. Points late on from Ryan Owens and Cathal Bennett reeled Bru in somewhat but a fine opportunist goal from their Corner forward gave the Boynesiders a 4 point lead (2-4 to 0-6) which could have been more as a promising attack resulted in a fierce Daniel Ford shot cannoning off the crossbar and away to safety as the half time whistle sounded.
The Sporting aspect had been shown when North Meath's Martin Shields received a blood injury Bru na Boinne with drew a player until Shields was fit to resume.
The famous Dan Breen was called into action as the North Meath management where engrossed in the half time talk and Breen worked tirelessly on Shields and Cathal Bennet to ensure the could continue and both did with Bennet in particular reemerging with a heavy bandage for the 2nd half.
It seemed to curtail him little as he now was at Full Forward and he set Paul Carolan up for the 1st score of the 2nd half. McGowan replied. Points from Byrne on 38 minutes from play and a 43rd minute free narrowed the gap and when Conor Kiernan set up by a fine foot pass from the steady Graham Boylan made a great break out on the left and cut through and Kiernan made no mistake to blast to the net and North Meath had the lead for the first time since the 14th minute. Byrne again from a free and play extended that lead to 3 points.
An aspect of the game was the fine goal keeping on both sides from Dominic Yorke and Daniel Berrill and most impressive was the kick outs from both players that regularly went beyond midfield. Bru na Boinne had benefited in the 1st half from this but the breaking ball seemed to go North Meath's way in the 2nd half with half backs and half forwards beavering away from what breaks came their way.
Conor Marry and Daniel Carolan had a fine tussle through out and Marry was indeed the Man of the Match with his expert handling and positioning and refusal to panic when under pressure. Up front 15 year old Byrne was a real live wire and as the game went on Paul Carolan through conceding at least a foot to his opponent was a real threat. In these last 15 minutes when the game was anyone's Ryan Owens at midfield for North Meath really stood up and his fielding was a joy to behold as James Mooney was also prominent with Brenadan Crosby now playing as a third midfielder getting through good work.
Eanna Mooney hit probably the best point of the game to narrow the gap to 2 points and Bru with 54 minutes gone had a scoreable free to edge them closer but it tailed wide and this gave North Meath some impetus. Paul Carolan fired over 2 points in quick succession but on the 60th minute McGowan pointed to leave just a goal in the game.
Chances where created and through brilliant defending on both sides, shoots where missed or possession turned over and when Byrne was fouled Owens was advised to kill the ball. He didn't but Carolan and Byrne recycled the ball to Robert McEntaggert who belied his young age by popping over what was an insurance point.
This was a fine advert for Gaelic Football good scores, top class fielding, great defending, some great passages of play with both hand and foot and sporting to the last. All players contributed to its Class and Enjoyment. As good if not better than any game in June or July and maybe with the Christmas feeling coming on, an atmosphere that could it be bottled would be worth its weight the Gold that is rumoured to be found in the streams on the Meath/Cavan border.
What time pass could teenagers be occupied on a Wednesday night in Winter, play stations or x-boxes how are you.......redundant for a few hours at least.
Afterwards Donal Forde Meath Minor Secretary presented the Trophy to North Meath's Co-Captains, Ryan Owens, Colm McEvoy and Conor Kiernan.
Scores Daniel Byrne 0-8, Paul Carolan 0-3, Conor Kiernan 1-0, Ryan Owens, Cathal Bennett & Robert McEntaggert 0-1 each.
North Meath; Dominic Yorke; Graham Boylan, Conor Marry, Martin Shields; Matthew Carolan, Colm McEvoy, Brendan Crosby; Ryan Owens, James Mooney; Robert McEntaggert, Cathal Bennett, Conor Kiernan; Paul Carolan, Daniel Byrne and Cathal Dunne.
North Meath Gaels 3-8 Longwood 3-7
Right the Football might not have been out of the top drawer but the excitement and tension was well over the top as both sides battled as if there lives depended on the result.
Ian Malone while still suffering from injury opened the scoring with a neat point but Ryan Moore exploited a gaping hole in the North Meath defence and soccer styled the ball to the net past Dominic Yorke who had already had saved a certain goal chance with a fine save. Shane McCabe pointed a free to close the gap but Longwood playing the better football pushed on with Sean Coloe pointing and Moore proving accurate from frees. A good run from Malone set up Daniel Byrne and the 15 year old did not need to be asked twice and he found the net.
McCabe pointed from play and after a great run James Mooney put North Meath 1-4 to 1-3 ahead, Longwood with Nathal O'Neill playing well responded well and Moore proving accurate pointed 3 times. Tomas Conlon and Conor Keenan where having a battle royale at midfield and when Conlon fielded well and found Padraig Carolan whose deft flick found Byrne and he did really well to beat a few defenders and with a brilliant shot found the top corner of the Longwood net to give North Meath a one point half time lead 2-4 to 1-6.
Moore levelled early in the second half but points from play from Malone, Ryan Owens pushed North Meath two ahead and when a McCabe free came back off the woodwork Padraig Carolan reacted quickly to palm to the net and give North Meath a five point lead and looking good to push on with Conor O'Halloran and Conor Marry looking good in defence but when a quick North Meath free went astray and Longwood went on the attack and a high ball into the area was fisted clear but the Referee decided that a foul occurred and awarded a penalty that Moore made no mistake with. Within 2 minutes Longwood had the lead when Sean Coloe netted but that was be there last score as poor finishing and excellent defending kept them from adding to their score.
McCabe dropped a free short but Byrne reacted well to point and level the game. A late tackle on Malone after 49 minutes gave McCabe a 13 metre free to push North Meath one point ahead and despite chances on both sides that was to be the last score of the game as another 20 minutes was played as the second half lasted a full 42 minutes as injuries occurred on both sides.
Longwood piled on the pressure but some great defending from Eddie Cassidy and Conor Marry in particular along with Dominic Yorke in the North Meath goals ensured that Longwood could not manage to get that point they needed to send the game to extra time as the clock ticked slowly by.
So on the best day of the year so far North Meath repeated their narrow 1st round victory over Longwood way back on a wet February Sunday in a similar type game at the well presented dry May sod at the Bohermeen venue as all players did well with Dominic Yorke proving solid in goals with his kick outs top class throughout. Full backs Eddie Cassidy and Conor Marry both excelled with half backs Colm McEvoy and James Mooney getting forward at every opportunity. Centre Back Conor O'Halloran had a fine game while Ryan Owens kept a tight rein on Moore and limited him to 1-2 from play which was no mean achievement. Conlon his mid field partner had a great battle with Conor Keenan and came out best overall.
Daniel Byrne was in the end the North Meath winner with 2-1 as Malone and McCabe chipped in 3 points each as Conor Kiernan had a fine game and Carolan used his strength to good effect.
North Meath Gaels; Dominic Yorke; Edward Cassidy, Conor Marry; Colm McEvoy, Conor O'Halloran, James Mooney (0-1); Tomas Conlon, Ryan Owens (0-1); Ian Malone (0-3), Shane McCabe (0-3), Conor Kiernan; Padraig Carolan (1-0), Daniel Byrne (2-1). Subs; Martin Meegan, Brendan Crosby and Martin Shields.