Confey press on to decider
SKERRIES HARPS……………………….. 0-9
By Daire Walsh
James Gately and Eoin Fitzpatrick were the heroes for Confey on Sunday afternoon, as their second-half goals secured their place in the Leinster Intermediate Football Championship Final at the expense of Skerries Harps in a gripping encounter at Parnell Park. Both sides had their spells of dominance during the game, but the men from Leixlip ultimately had that little bit extra in the tank to get them over the line in the end.
With Dublin’s All-Ireland winning Captain Bryan Cullen in their starting line-up, Skerries Harps would have been in a confident mood heading into this clash, but Confey have been performing consistently well all through the year, and have dealt admirably with the loss through injury of county star Hugh Lynch.
Ronan Quinn and his management team made a few positional switches in time for the throw-in, which included moving Gately to the edge of the square from his wing-forward post, in a direct swap with Karl Smith.
It did take Confey a while to adjust to these alterations, but they would open the scoring after five minutes when Captain Joey Kehoe kicked over from close-in after Skerries net minder Shane Davis had brilliantly turned away his initial effort on goal.
Skerries did equalise through a terrific point with the outside of the boot from Barry Davey, but Confey were moving extremely well at this juncture, and found themselves three points to the good by the 12th minute thanks to points from half-back Donal McClean, Fitzpatrick and Gately.
Skerries had shown great battling qualities to come back and defeat Cuala in the Dublin Intermediate final though and, with centre-forward Cullen to the fore, they hit back with four unanswered points through midfielder Donnacha Reilly (2), Cullen himself and Harry Dawson.
Confey had drifted out of the game for a while after the end of the first quarter, but they managed to compose themselves again, as an influential point by midfielder Paul Divilly (who was beginning to drift further forward into the Skerries 45 as the half went on) off his left-peg from all of 35 metres helped to level up matters.
Skerries would have the final say in the opening period however, as a successful long distance free by Dawson gave the North County Dublin men a narrow 0-6 to 0-5 interval lead.
Confey had struggled to gain primary possession around the middle-third of the pitch in the final moments of the half, but they showed plenty of glimpses in the opening 15 minutes to suggest that they could yet progress to their first Leinster decider at this level since 2006.
They certainly started the second period in good spirits, as centre-forward Robbie McMahon kicked over in the opening minute after the re-start following a sublime pass by Fitzpatrick, although Keith O’Sullivan had to be at his very best to tip away a Paul Cashman shot at goal three minutes later.
However, the opening ten minutes of the second half were largely dominated by the North Kildare men, and only for a couple of missed opportunities during this period, they would headed into the final 20 minutes of the game with a few points to spare over their Metropolitan counterparts.
One of the key moments of the game soon arrived 41 minutes in though, as Fitzpatrick rounded his man brilliantly before passing inside to Gately, who finished simply to the Skerries net from close-in past the helpless Davis.
This was a major confidence booster for Confey, and they looked at this stage like they were all set to push on for victory. They took their foot off the gas a little bit around this period once again however, as three points from Dawson, two from frees and one from play out on the right-hand side, meant that parity had been restored (1-6 to 0-9) with seven minutes of action remaining.
Yet, when it truly mattered, Confey showed the required mettle, as two points from play by the outstanding Gately, one off either foot, gave the Creighton Park outfit some much-needed breathing space heading into the game’s final moments. The result was then put beyond all doubt on 59 minutes when Fitzpatrick finished brilliantly into the top left-hand corner of the net for his side’s second goal of the contest.
This sent the travelling Confey faithful into raptures on a day when Gately and Fitzpatrick were ably assisted in their endeavours by the likes of Kehoe and Paul Divilly, as well as defensive lynchpins like McClean, Conor Jennings and Frank Ryder.
They will now move on to the Leinster Final, where they will face stern opposition from an Eire Og Greystones side who overcame St. Brigid’s of Offaly in the competition’s other semi-final.
CONFEY: Keith O’Sullivan; Conor Jennings, Frank Ryder, John O’Neill; Donal McLean (0-1), John Quigley, Philip Quigley; Paul Divilly (0-1), Colm Quinn; Joey Kehoe (0-1), Robbie McMahon (0-1), Karl Smith; Eoin Fitzpatrick (1-1), James Gately (1-3), Tomas McCann.
Subs: Kieran Divilly for Smith (43), Graham Caffery for McMahon (50), David Slattery for Fitzpatrick (63).
SKERRIES HARPS: Shane Davis; Eddie Reilly, Ross McGarry, Jack Smith; Rory Newsholme, Johnny Garrett, Liam Reddin; Donnacha Reilly (0-2), Mark Boylan; Conor O’Brien, Bryan Cullen (0-1), Barry Davey (0-1); Paul Cashman, Mark Kirwan, Harry Dawson (0-5, 3 frees).
Subs: Colin Daly for Kirwan (42), Tom Connolly for Cashman (62), Rob Walsh for Newsholme (62).
REFEREE: John Hickey (Carlow).