Late, late drama as Killoe snatch draw in stoppage time

Just when it appeared as if Killoe had kicked away their chance of capturing the coveted Connolly Cup for the first time since 1995, defender Darragh Bennett surged forward to win a free in the second minute of stoppage time that was subsequently brought forward for dissent and Sean McCormack was left with the simple task of slotting the ball over the bar right in front of the posts for the equalising point as the County Senior Football Championship finished in a draw.

Just when it appeared as if Killoe had kicked away their chance of capturing the coveted Connolly Cup for the first time since 1995, defender Darragh Bennett surged forward to win a free in the second minute of stoppage time that was subsequently brought forward for dissent and Sean McCormack was left with the simple task of slotting the ball over the bar right in front of the posts for the equalising point as the County Senior Football Championship finished in a draw.

The drama did not end there as Slashers won possession from the kick-out and when the ball reached Stephen Phillips in a promising attack with about 30 seconds of the three minutes of additional time left on the clock there was a decent chance for the title holders to engineer a last gasp winning point.

But in a remarkable twist Derek Fahy promptly blew the final whistle, much to the anger of the furious Slashers supporters, and the referee thus ensured a major financial boost for the county board with the replay scheduled for Sunday next.

Fahy received a lot of criticism for his general handling of the drawn encounter and his performance has been the subject of much discussion since Sunday last.

The 2012 senior title decider at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park was the first draw in the final since the clash of Clonguish and Dromard in 2009 and while the enthusiastic young Killoe side unquestionably deserved a second chance they almost pressed the self destruct button in shooting a total of ten wides during the course of the game as compared to five for Slashers.

The spectacle was spoiled by the wet and windy conditions which contributed to a disappointing encounter which developed into a very scrappy affair and this was a poor performance by the experienced Slashers side chasing a three-in-a-row of county titles.

The sharper Killoe side showed the greater hunger with a high intensity in their determined attempt to win the county senior title that the club last captured 17 years ago and should have emerged victorious after holding the upper hand for most of the second half.

But Young Emmets were guilty of kicking a total of six costly wides in having much the better of the exchanges on the changeover and Slashers were fortunate to survive when they were reeling on the ropes. But Killoe lacked the killer instinct to deliver a decisive knock-out blow and the benefit of the extra game should stand, in particular, to the reigning champions in their quest for further glory.

Slashers last competitive fixture was four weeks ago in the semi-final clash against Clonguish and they looked rusty as a result. Having said that, Denis Connerton is well aware that his charges will have to improve considerably if they are to succeed at the second attempt while there could be bad news for Killoe manager Tommy McCormack with key defender Shane Dowd rated extremely doubtful to feature in the replay.

Dowd was forced to retire with an apparent hamstring injury eight minutes into the second half and his possible absence would be a big blow for Killoe who may well be left to rue all those missed chances in the drawn game.

The respective rock solid defences were very much in command on Sunday last and scores were very scarce indeed with Killoe depending heavily on Sean McCormack who accounted for six of his sides seven points.

McCormack fired over three scores (two frees) in the first half, and his strike from play in the 27th minute was a glorious long range kick, while Ronan McGoldrick was also on target as he fisted the ball over the bar in a strong finish to the first half for Killoe.

When the influential Paul Kelly burst his way through to land a well struck point in the 24th minute Slashers were leading by 0-4 to 0-1 and looking in a good position with their other scores coming from Martin Nevin, Mark Smith (a well struck effort) and Colin Smith (free).

Nevin got the opening point after just 30 seconds of the county final, watched by the official attendance of 3,663, and it was Slashers who brought the first half scoring to a close when Stephen Phillips weaved his way through to fire the ball over the bar.

While the title holders faded badly in the second half, Martin Nevin had a goal chance when he shot narrowly wide with five minutes gone on the changeover in what was a lucky escape for Killoe.

But Young Emmets were clearly the better team in the second half and just 30 seconds were gone on the clock when Sean McCormack fired over a wonderful point. Killoe eventually took the lead for the first time when McCormack converted a free in the 43rd minute but Slashers dug deep at this critical stage and Colin Smith was on target from play to level matters in the 49th minute.

Moments later Slashers were awarded a close range free but the umpires had already signalled that the ball had gone wide in this attack and thus the chance was lost. But soon after Stephen Phillips then stepped up to fire the title holders back in front with a fine strike in the 53rd minute and that was the way it remained until the late, late drama.

Killoe appeared to have blown their chance of a replay when Eugene Clarke kicked a poorly taken free straight into the arms of the Slashers keeper Colm Farrell in the 59th minute but another free materialised for Young Emmets in stoppage time and Sean McCormack made no mistake to leave the sides all square in the finish.

KILLOE YOUNG EMMETS: Cillian Burns; Darragh Bennett, Padraig McCormack, Daniel Keogh; Shane Dowd, Joe McCormack, Michael Quinn; Paddy Thompson, Simon Kiernan; Eugene Clarke, Sean McCormack (0-6, four frees), Denis McGoldrick; Daniel Mimnagh, Mark Hughes, Ronan McGoldrick (0-1).

Subs:- Ronan Keogh for S Dowd (injured, 38 mins); John Kiernan for R McGoldrick (55 mins); Paddy Hughes for D Mimnagh (62 mins);

LONGFORD SLASHERS: Colm Farrell; Peter Brady, Barry Gilleran, Gareth Ghee; Conor Clarke, Dermot Brady, Trevor Clendenning; Michael Brady, Niall Mulligan; Martin Nevin (0-1), Colin Smith (0-2, one free), David Sheridan; Mark Smith (0-1), Paul Kelly (0-1), Stephen Phillips (0-2).

Subs:- Ruairi Barrins for T Clendenning (46 mins); Martin Tarmey for M Smith (50 mins); Brian Farrell for M Nevin (59 mins).

Referee: Derek Fahy (Ballymore).

Who will win the county final replay?

PREDICTION:

Longford Slashers