The following are yearly summaries of St. Michaels exploits on the playing fields of Meath dating back to 1998.
By kind permission of Declan Lynch / Lynn Group Media / Royal County Yearbook.
SCORING DIFFERENCE HAUNTS ST. MICHAELS
After reaching the knockout stages of the Intermediate Football Championship in 2013 and 2015, St Michael’s went tantalisingly close to making it through to the closing phase again, finishing joint third in their group but missing out on qualification
With Ciaran Conlan taking over from Martin O’Connell in the manager’s hot seat, the Carlanstown – Kilbeg side picked up six points from their section after three wins. Donaghmore / Ashbourne topped the group with eight points, ahead of Dunderry (seven) and Curraha and St Michael’s (six each) but Curraha advanced.
The men in red and black began their latest IFC bid with a 1-10 to 1-6 victory over Drumbaragh in a Saturday evening tussle at Pairc Tailteann with a strong start which yielded a 1-2 to 0-0 advantage putting them in a good position. Full-forward Jamie Farrelly made his mark in the early stages of that opener, notching a point followed by a punched goal.
It was 1-4 to 0-3 at the interval before Drumbaragh rallied to get back on level terms, 1-5 each. But with Ciaran Lynch, who finished up with seven points, including three from play, showing the way, St Michael’s surged clear in the closing stages.
St Michael’s actually scored more in their second round outing against Curraha at Rathkenny but their 2-8 was not nearly enough as the 2015 junior champions registered an impressive 4-12. Curraha had their opponents’ final tally on the board at the break when leading by 2-8 to 1-5.
Jamie Farrelly netted the goal for Conlon’s charges from a penalty kick. Ciaran Lynch maintained his impressive first round form with a contribution of 1-5 with the goal in the final quarter raising his side’s hopes. But boosted by 2-3 from Meath senior James McEntee, Curraha pulled clear to win by 10 points, a losing margin that would haunt their opponents at the end of the campaign.
When the championships resumed in August St Michael’s got back on the winning path with a 2-16 to 2-13 success over Kilmainham in a Saturday evening clash at Pairc Tailteann. The Carlanstown – Kilbeg side took to the pitch in a set of borrowed jerseys from Wolfe Tones to avoid a clash of colours and they wore them with distinction.
Despite county forward Michael Newman scoring 1-12 for Kilmainham, St Michael’s put in a fine team effort to revive their title hopes. In a high scoring encounter, they led by 1-13 to 1-10 at the break after trailing by five points. Ciaran Lynch hit a penalty kick wide but a goal from Shane McDonnell proved to be a crucial score.
The second half was a see-saw affair with both sides holding the initiative. Newman fired past Shane McCormack to level matters soon after the restart but Davy Lynch availed of a defensive blunder to net the second goal for St Michael’s. Although Kilmainham edged back in front, points from Oran Meehan, Ciaran Lynch and McDonnell were contributory factors in the win.
Seven days later St Michael’s were in the winners’ enclosure again with a 2-12 to 0-11 victory over Donaghmore/ Ashbourne at Seneschalstown. Both goals were netted in the first half with JB O’Reilly and Ray Reilly raising the green flag. The margin remained at seven points at the final whistle.
That wins left St Michael’s sitting pretty at the top of Group C but they dropped to fourth place following their 0-11 to 2-9 loss to Dunderry in the fifth round encounter at Cortown. The side in red and black had to play 40 minutes with 14 men after referee Richard Morris showed David Lynch a straight red card. The Blackhall Gaels clubman issued the three colours of cards including a black to each side.
Playing without the injured duo of Ciaran Lynch and Felim O’Reilly, the north county side conceded the first four scores but showed battling spirit to recover for a 0-7 to 0-6 interval advantage. Ronan Lynch slotted over three frees in the second half to bring his evening’s total to five, four frees, but the concession of two goals meant the end of the road.
In the Division 2 League St Michael’s finished strongly with four wins and a draw from their last five outings to move safely away from the relegation zone. Before that they had tasted defeat in six of their first eight games from which just three points were picked up.
Following an opening draw with Moynalvey, there were losses to Drumbaragh, St Ultan’s, Ratoath and Rathkenny. The first of five victories was gained on the first day of May when Walterstown were overcame at Carlanstown before defeats to Ballinabrackey and Nobber. At that stage the drop to Division 3 looked a strong possibility but then came the impressive unbeaten run.
That began with an away win over Meath Hill and was followed by a home success against Trim. A trip to Ballinlough yielded a further brace of points before the programme of games was completed by home draw with Blackhall Gaels and a concluding victory in Castletown.
St Michael’s finished as one of four teams in joint seventh place with 12 points. They were a bit short of the promoted pair of Rathkenny (19) and Blackhall (18) but safely above the relegation area. There was just one outing in the Corn na Boinne (Intermediate Cup) with Castletown defeating them by 1-10 to 0-9 in a first round clash at Dunganny in February.
There was a creditable run by the second string of St Michael’s, managed by Thomas McQuaid, in the Junior C FC with the last four being reached before eventual champions Na Fianna proved too strong. In the group men the men in red and black won four of their five games to finish second to Ratoath.
Victories were recorded over Summerhill, Oldcastle, Castletown and Blackhall Gaels before losing by 2-8 to 1-17 to Ratoath. That was followed by a 2-13 to 1-8 win over Syddan at Meath Hill with Kevin Cassidy and Shane McDonnell netting goals in the second half after their side led by 0-7 to 1-2 at the break.
However, St Michael’s were no match for Na Fianna in their semi-final outing in Athboy as the south county side won by 2-19 to 1-8 after being ahead by 0-9 to 0-2 at the halfway stage. James Farrell grabbed the losers’ goal near the end.
St Michael’s chairman Pete Cassidy said that the main aim at the start of the year was to reach the quarter-finals of the Intermediate Championship and while not wishing to make excuses, he felt that playing the last group game against Dunderry without Ciaran Lynch and Felim O’Reilly and having only 14 men on the pitch for more than half the game was a difficult task for them.
“We had a good number of young players on the intermediate team this year and a new manager in Ciaran Conlan, who is an uncle of boxer Michael. He is a Dublin-native who is married to a woman from Staholmog and has been living in the area for a while
“We got off to a very bad start in the league, losing four games in succession, and that was mainly because the players weren’t fit enough yet. After drawing with Moynalvey, the first win did not come until the sixth round, on the first of May against Walterstown in Carlanstown.
“After getting a narrow win over Drumbaragh in the first round of the Intermediate Championship, there was a 10-point defeat to Curraha in Rathkenny. After the long break, we had wins over Kilmainham and Donaghmore / Ashbourne to put us well in contention. However, things went against us for the Dunderry game and as well as losing players, there was the concession of two goals which put us out.
“After going on a losing streak in the League four wins and a draw in the last five enabled the team push up the table and stay in Division 2. Jamie Reilly was the captain this year and one of our key men while Ciaran Lynch and J.B. O’Reilly were the moist experienced players,” said Cassidy, reflecting on the first team’s season.
“We had a good squad of players this year although Sam Briody was missed, having emigrated. The run by the junior C team to the semi-final stage of that championship was encouraging and some of them were promoted to the intermediate team,” he added.
Another boost for the St Michael’s club was joining with Nobber to win the MFC Division 4 title with a 3-11 to 2-9 final victory over Kilbride at Pairc Tailteann, the game being the curtain-raiser to the replayed IFC decider.
The winners had a strong sprinkling of St Michael’s lads on the panel, including Alex Farrell, Harry Dunne, Ciaran O’Reilly, Caolan McConnell, Shane McCormack, Ben Reilly, Cian Sheridan, Patrick Tobin, Shane McDonnell, Ewan Moran, Scott Doyle, Ruairi O’Driscoll and Conor Moran.
Pete Cassidy said that manager Ciaran Conlan will have his players better prepared for the start of the 2017 season with an earlier start to training. “The hopes would be that we can go a step or two further and the prospects of winning the IFC should be better with St Colmcille’s gone up,” he concluded.
SOLID SEASON FOR ST. MICHAELS
After failing to reach the business end of the Intermediate Football Championship in 2014 St. Michaels put that particular record straight this year, but disappointment followed at the quarter-final hurdle when the craft and accuracy of the St Colmcilles forwards guided them to a comprehensive victory.
There was massive disappointment for all concerned when St. Michaels suffered a sickening defeat at the hands of Clann na nGael in a championship semi-final which went to extra-time in 2013. Not getting out of their group represented something of a surprise last year and there was obviously a determination to do better this time.
Martin O’Connell, the greatest player in the club’s history, took over the coaching duties this year, with Ambrose Cassidy and Thomas McQuaid acting as selectors, and St. Michaels made a good start to their competitive year with back to back victories in Division 2 of the All-County A League, against Ratoath 2-11 to 0-9 and Oldcastle 0-16 to 1-4. A defeat followed against Rathkenny 2-7 to 1-11, but it was back to winning ways when St Ultan’s were overcome by 0-13 to 1-9 in the fourth round.
It was then on to the championship and a group campaign which saw them come face to face with last year’s junior champions Cortown, Clann na nGael, Kilmainham, Nobber and the second string team representing Donaghmore/Ashbourne. And it was against a rapidly improving Nobber side that they got off to a losing start at Drumconrath.
Nobber were looking good when they held a 0-10 to 0-4 interval lead. St. Michaels lost Kevin Cassidy to a second yellow card, but aided by a Ronan Lynch goal they reduced the deficit to the minimum. However, Nobber found the net soon after and pushed on to win by 1-14 to 1-9. Lynch top scored for the losers with 1-3.
It meant that the pressure was already on to take something from the second round meeting with Kilmainham at Moynalty where Michael’s were denied victory when Mickey Newman slotted over an injury time free to force a draw. Peter O’Connell had a late chance to snatch the win, but was wide from a free.
Two Newman goals helped Kilmainham to lead by 2-5 to 0-10 at the break and the exchanges remained tight in the second half. David Lynch’s point gave Michael’s the lead late on, but Newman had the last say on the scoreboards as it finished 0-15 to 2-9. Ciaran Lynch was leading marksman for the Carlanstown/Kilbeg combination with five points and David Lynch and Oran Meehan both scored three.
St Michael’s again didn’t have far to travel for their third round clash with Cortown at Moynalty and they recorded their first win of the group campaign when coming out on top by 0-12 to 1-6. Brian Smith’s goal late in the opening half helped the losers to a 1-4 to 0-5 advantage at the change of ends, but Michael’s improved considerably in the second period and edged ahead in the closing stages. Ciaran Lynch led the scoring with six points.
With the championship going into hibernation, attention turned to the league and when Michael’s had completed their Division 2 campaign they found themselves in a mid-table position on 14 points from 13 games.
This year’s championship proved to be a major struggle for Clann na nGael and Michaels made it back to back group wins when defeating the Athboy/An Gaeltacht combination by 0-14 to 1-8 in the fourth round at Kells. The winners held a 0-7 to 0-2 lead at the break but, helped by a Caoimhin O’Griofa goal, Clann na nGael rallied.
Michaels were able to weather the storm, however, with Ciaran Lynch’s haul of seven points over the hour proving hugely important.
They would surely have expected to defeat Donaghmore/Ashbourne’s second team in the final round at Paddy O’Brien Park in Navan, but ended up having to settle for a hard earned draw 0-13 to 2-7. It took St. Michaels 16 minutes to open their scoring account and goals from Kevin Fenton and Cathal Field boosted Donaghmore/Ashbourne to a 2-3 to 0-5 lead at the interval.
Michaels were guilty of seven first half wides, with Ciaran Lynch (two), David Lynch, Jamie Farrelly and Oran Meehan scoring their points. The scores were tied 0-10 to 2-4 by the three-quarter stage after Ciaran Lynch, David Lynch, Peter O’Connell, Farrelly and Ronan Lynch had added points and with Farrelly impressing at midfield Michaels hit the front three times during the last quarter thanks to scores from Ciaran Lynch (two) and JB O’Reilly.
Donaghmore/Ashbourne demonstrated commendable character by hitting back after each of those points, but missed two subsequent opportunities to go ahead.
The draw was sufficient to earn third place in the group for St. Michaels on six points, behind Nobber on nine and Kilmainham on eight. Below them on five points were Donaghmore/Ashbourne, followed by Cortown on two and Clann na nGael who were pointless.
St Colmcille’s proved far too accurate in the quarter-final at Duleek, winning by 0-19 to 0-9. County player Graham Reilly was a star performer for the winners as he embellished a magnificent display with10 points. St Michael’s started promisingly as JB O’Reilly and Peter O’Connell both pointed, but the winners soon took over and led by 0-10 to 0-4 at the interval.
They never looked likely to be caught in the second half and were 10 clear at the end. Ciaran Lynch top scored for Michael’s with four points and O’Connell (two), O’Reilly, David Lynch and Jamie Farrelly also contributed.
St Michael’s enjoyed two victories in the Corn na Boinne competition, against Kilmainham 1-5 to 0-6 and Syddan 0-16 to 2-8, but they bowed out at the semi-final stage when Castletown defeated them by 0-15 to 0-10.
Ciaran Lynch was the St Michael’s intermediate captain last year and was joint captain with Felim O’Reilly this year. He has had spells in London and Australia and has done well to come back from a broken leg sustained while in Australia in April, 2013. He reflected on a championship campaign which was blighted by injuries this year, but is looking to the future with a degree of optimism.
“Our group campaign in this year’s championship never really caught fire,” Ciaran said. “I don’t mean to make excuses, but we had a lot of injuries. The bigger clubs can handle that, but it’s different with the smaller clubs. It’s hard to cope. Felim and myself were ruled out in the early stages and we had other players missing at various stages, like Ronan Cassidy, JB O’Reilly and Philip Rogers. It means you are lacking consistency in team selection. There’s a lot of chopping and changing.
“We seem to play better against the stronger teams for some reason. For example, we beat Gaeil Colmcille and Walterstown in the league this year. The better teams seem to bring out the best in us. As I said, all the injuries hindered us this year, but we still got out of the group.”
St Michael’s reached the knockout stages of the championship after finishing third in their section on six points, but they then faced a very much in form St Colmcille’s team in a quarter-final and that’s where their interest in the championship ended. The sea-siders scored points with tremendous consistency and were all of 10 clear at the end.
“St Colmcille’s beat us well in the quarter-final,” Ciaran added. “They were very good. We had no excuses. From one to 15 they were impressive. They were physically strong and very fit. They scored 19 points. That will win nearly every game. It was a very impressive tally of points. When Graham Reilly is in the sort of form he was in that night he’s the best player in the county. He was really good. He scored 10 points.”
There is undoubtedly plenty of talent in the St Michaels club as the dedicated work being carried out in the under-age ranks reaps its rewards and it’s very likely that they could challenge for the intermediate title if they weren’t so seriously hindered by injuries.
“It was disappointing to lose that quarter-final,” Ciaran said. “But looking to the future I think if we could field a full-strength team on a consistent basis we would be there or thereabouts in the Intermediate Championship. We have a lot of good young talent in the club, players like Christopher Drew and Matthew Halpin. They give us plenty of hope as we look to the future.”
The club gave valuable playing time to a second string team which competed in the Junior C Championship and they recorded one group win over Oldcastle 1-11 to 0-10, while suffering defeats at the hands of Dunboyne 2-8 to 2-11, Simonstown 0-8 to 0-11 and Syddan 0-6 to 1-10. A walk over was given to Rathkenny in the last round.
St Michael’s fared well in the B League Division 3 without reaching the final. They finished in third position on 12 points from nine games, behind Ratoath on 14 and Trim on 13.
FINAL HEARTBREAK FOR LADIES
St. Michaels lost the 2015 Ladies’ IFC final to Dee Rangers, but they made an enormous contribution to a well-contested game at Paddy O’Brien Park, Navan, before going under by 1-11 to 3-11.
When these teams met in the opening round Dee Rangers – winners of the Meath and Leinster junior titles last year – cruised to a 5-16 to 2-8 victory, but the final was much closer. Michael’s, who had beaten Royal Gaels at the penultimate hurdle, pushed them all the way and can be proud of their efforts.
The impressive Megan O’Brien scored an early point, but a superb goal from Becky Goodwin in the 11th minute boosted Dee Rangers. Three points from influential captain Sinéad McCormack had Michaels level and when Sharon Lynch O’Callaghan finished a great move with a goal, hopes of glory rose.
McCormack (two), Marion Farrelly and Aisleen Harte scored further first half points and it was level 1-8 to 2-5 at the break, with Goodwin also scoring the second Dee Rangers’ goal. Michaels lost Mary Clinton to the sin bin late in the first half, but McCormack pointed them into the lead early in the second half.
However, their only other scores were points scored by McCormack and Seona Lynch as Dee Rangers did enough to win, with Goodwin completing her hat-trick of goals.
The final team was:
Lorraine Curtis; Marita Rogers, Mary Clinton, Elaine Coyne; Áine Sheridan, Hayley Doyle, Seona Lynch; Sinéad McCormack, Megan O’Brien; Alicia Curtis, Marion Farrelly, Ellen Cassidy; Sharon Lynch-Callaghan, Patricia Owens, Aisleen Harte.
Mary Carpenter for Rogers, Ella Reilly for Curtis, Erin McGrane for O’Brien, Gillian Brogan for Lynch-Callaghan.
INJURIES DERAIL MICHAEL’S HOPES
St. Michaels came within a whisker of a county final twelve months ago but injuries to key men derailed their 2014 hopes.
The club lost an Intermediate Football Championship semi-final to Clann na nGael after extra time in 2013. It was really a game they should have won and coming away from Pairc Tailteann there was a definite sense that they had let a golden opportunity slip out of their grasp.
There was also disappointment the previous year when they were edged out by Ballinabrackey in a quarter-final but with the sort of consistency demonstrated in more recent campaigns there appeared to be every possibility that they would again mount a challenge for a knockout place in 2014. It didn’t work out that way and in the end one group victory proved sufficient to guide them clear of the relegation fight.
Tom Halpin was again the St Michael’s manager this year, with Derek Flood training the panel and Martin O’Connell and Thomas McQuaid acting as selectors. They lost their three All-County A League Division 2 games ahead of the championship to Ratoath (5-5 to 3-17), Blackhall Gaels (0-11 to 2-9) and Rathkenny (0-6 to 0-11) but the hope was that they would warm to the challenges of the main event.
They were drawn in group A of the Intermediate Championship, a section which also included Longwood, Dunderry, Kilmainham, Ballinabrackey and Castletown, and it was against leading contenders Castletown that they opened with a 1-9 to 0-17 defeat at Kilmainhamwood.
Boosted by a Peter O’Connell goal St Michael’s led by 1-7 to 0-8 at the interval and they then pushed three points clear as Castletown endured a scoreless spell lasting 12 minutes. It was looking promising for the Carlanstown / Kilbeg combination at that stage but they kicked five damaging wides and paid a heavy price as Castletown rallied for victory.
A meeting with Longwood at Kildalkey offered an opportunity to bounce back but a very poor scoring return resulted in another defeat as the ‘Wood won by 0-9 to 1-3. Once again, St Michael’s collapsed in the second half after being on level terms (1-2 to 0-5) at the interval, with the goal coming from J.B. O’Reilly.
They added only a point in the second half courtesy of David Lynch and Longwood pushed ahead in the third quarter to win by three. It meant there was huge importance attached to the third round meeting with Kilmainham at Moynalty and the response was positive as St Michael’s won by 1-15 to 0-13.
Ronan Lynch contributed eight points in wet conditions, while St Michael’s lost Sam Briody to a red card at the start of the second period. They had led by 0-9 to 0-6 at the break and a goal from substitute Jamie Farrelly killed off the challenge of a Kilmainham team which fielded without Michael Newman.
That proved to be St Michael’s only win of the championship and it was back to losing ways in the fourth round when Ballinabrackey defeated them by 0-10 to 0-7 at Trim. A tally of eight first half wides did the losers no favours but they still managed to hold a 0-4 to 0-2 lead at the change of ends. The Offaly border team won the second half by 0-8 to 0-3 and it was then a case of thinking about survival rather than qualification for Michael’s.
Dunderry took the group stages by storm and they maintained their winning ways when defeating St Michael’s by 1-14 to 0-12 at Kilmainham where Martin Garry scored an early goal and the winners led by 1-9 to 0-4 at half time. Michael’s cut the deficit to four points at one stage in the second period but they failed to get the goal they needed and were five adrift at the end.
The good news was that their one group win over Kilmainham had been enough to safeguard them against the relegation scrap. Dunderry topped the section with a maximum haul of 10 points and were accompanied into the quarter-finals by Castletown on eight and Ballinabrackey on six. Longwood finished with four points, St Michael’s had two and Kilmainham were bottom on zero.
The St Michael’s second string team did well to reach the knockout stages of the Junior C Championship but they were unable to clear the quarter-final obstacle as Syddan defeated them by 3-8 to 0-12 at Meath Hill.
Happily, there was an outright success in the All-County B FL Division 4 in which St Michael’s defeated Oldcastle by 3-12 to 1-10 in the final at Pairc Tailteann to become the first recipients of the Eddie Callan Memorial Cup.
A mix of youth and experience did the trick for Michael’s, with team captain Daithi Reilly, Tommy Moriarty, Christopher Drew, Matthew Halpin and Adam O’Brien particularly impressive. They led by 2-6 to 0-5 at the interval after Oran Meehan had scored both goals and when Darren O’Connell and Halpin pointed early in the second half their position looked even more promising.
Oldcastle replied with five third quarter points but a third goal from substitute Thomas O’Brien settled Michael’s again. Oldcastle hit back with a goal and a point but with Johnny Reilly rattling over four points the Carlanstown / Kilbeg outfit were comfortably ahead at the end.
The victorious team was:
Paddy Flood, John Stafford, Dáithí O’Reilly, Ollie Reilly, Christopher Drew, Philip Rogers, Adam O’Brien; Darren O’Connell 0-3, Matthew Halpin 0-1, Tommy Moriarty, Ronan Cassidy 0-1, Lee Morris, Gary Dolan 0-2, Johnny Reilly 0-5, Oran Meehan 2-0.
Thomas O’Brien 1-0 for Morris, Ben Tobin for Meehan, Eddie Carolan for Dolan, Mickey Dunne for O’Reilly.
How time flies. It’s hard to believe that all of 23 years have passed since Thomas McQuaid was a young and talented corner-back on the Terry Ferguson-captained Gaeil Colmcille team which defeated Walterstown in the 1991 Senior Championship final to bring the Keegan Cup back to the north Meath town for the first time since the late 1960s. This year he was a St Michael’s selector and looked back on a challenging campaign for the club’s intermediates as they struggled to cope with the loss of key players and failed to mount a real challenge for a place in the business end of the championship.
“The Intermediate Championship was a struggle but we were badly hit by injuries,” he said. “When you are a rural club the reality is that you need everybody. You can’t afford to be without players. We have very good young players coming along but it takes time for those players to develop.
“Missing the more experienced lads catches up on you. Jamie Farrelly went to America during the year. He’s only in his early 20s and is a very talented player. He would have been a big addition to us as the year went on.
“Felim O’Reilly and J.B. O’Reilly got injured coming up to the championship game against Ballinabrackey. They were very big losses to us. They are key players. We won one game in the group and lost four. We hoped to go further in the championship but missing important lads who have the strength and experience really hits you hard. We were relieved to avoid the relegation play-offs. That was vitally important.”
With the St Michael’s club carrying out great work in the under-age ranks there is certainly room for optimism as they look to next year and beyond. Thomas believes they have the necessary young talent coming up through the ranks to mount a challenge for honours.
“We know we can do better,” he added. “We are doing well at under-16 and minor level and our under-21 team reached their final last year. They were beaten by St Patrick’s in the A final. So that all suggests that things are looking promising for St Michael’s looking to the future. We had great numbers at training this year and there was great effort and great interest among the players. There are certainly great intentions to do well in the club. I remain optimistic.”
There was a significant success for St Michael’s when they achieved that B League Division 4 triumph as a mix of the young and not so young combined successfully to finish the campaign on a high with a deserved final victory over Oldcastle. It was a fitting reward for a lot of hard graft over many months.
“We won the Division 4 B League title this year,” Thomas said. “The lads put a lot of effort into it and it was nice to win it.”
St Michael’s have to go back to 1989 for their last outright success in the Intermediate Championship, though they did taste success at junior level in 2005 with a team which included one of the all time greats of Meath football Martin O’Connell. This year proved to be a struggle in the intermediate ranks but the signs are certainly positive for the future when the club will hope to reap rich rewards for all the dedicated work being done in the under-age ranks over many years.
EXTRA TIME AGONY FOR MICHAELS
All associated with the St Michael’s club must still be scratching their heads and wondering how their intermediate footballers failed to reach the 2013 championship final.
They had every chance of beating Clann na nGael at the penultimate hurdle but ended up shattered when the Athboy / An Gaeltacht combination pulled off an extraordinary victory after extra time.
The last few years have certainly been eventful for the players from the Carlanstown and Kilbeg amalgamation. They were edged out by neighbours Carnaross in a semi-final in 2010, survived the relegation shoot-out a year later and reached the quarter-finals last year where Ballinabrackey beat them narrowly. A nice consolation followed when they won the U21 B title.
Tom Halpin was again at the helm this term, with Thomas McQuaid, Pete Cassidy and Derek Flood acting as selectors, and St Michael’s didn’t make a particularly encouraging start to their competitive year when they lost their first three games in the All-County A League Division 2 to Gaeil Colmcille, Walterstown and St Colmcille’s.
Ahead of the championship they achieved their first victory when getting the better of Dunderry by a couple of points and it was then on to the main event where they were drawn in group A along with Clann na nGael, Carnaross, Syddan, Dunderry and St Ultan’s.
And it was the Bohermeen / Martry combination which provided the first round opposition at Carnaross where St Michael’s earned a deserved 0-13 to 1-3 victory. They conceded a goal of the ‘soft’ variety in the first half but still managed to be marginally ahead at the break, 0-6 to 1-2.
Michael’s were the dominant force in the second period when they added seven points and conceded only one. Ronan Lynch was their top marksman over the hour as he contributed five points, Jamie Farrelly scored three, J.B. O’Reilly and Kevin Cassidy got two each and David Lynch registered the other.
Clann na nGael certainly inflicted a fair bit of misery on St Michael’s this year, starting with a 0-10 to 0-8 win in the second round of the championship at Kells. With Ronan Lynch in impressive form Michael’s scored the first three points and he scored four in all in the opening half as they opened up a 0-5 to 0-4 lead at the change of ends.
Goalkeeper Paul McCormack had come to the rescue when he saved a first half penalty and he produced another great block in the second half when the pressure was on. Clann na nGael eventually hit the front and despite an overall tally of seven points from Lynch Michael’s were two adrift at the finish.
Hopes of reaching the knockout stages for the second successive year suffered another blow when Syddan inflicted a 2-11 to 0-11 defeat in the third round at Drumconrath but St Michael’s discovered the winning habit again after that as they won successive group matches against Dunderry and Carnaross to book their ticket to the quarter-finals.
Simonstown provided the setting for that game against Dunderry where Michael’s won a low scoring contest by 0-7 to 0-6. Substitute Peter O’Connell was an undoubted hero when he notched the winning point but for a spell it looked like the championship might produce its first scoreless draw.
Neither team managed to score in the opening 18 minutes but Dunderry managed to hit the target with sufficient regularity after that to edge into a 0-5 to 0-2 interval lead. The introduction of O’Connell provided a big boost for Michael’s and he scored the first point of the second half.
Midfielder J.B. O’Reilly also proved to be a major influence and when he pointed on 40 minutes the deficit was down to the minimum. Dunderry’s only score of the second half put them two clear but Michael’s registered the last three scores courtesy of Ronan Cassidy, Ronan Lynch and O’Connell to shade the verdict.
St Michael’s had things a lot more straight forward in the last round when a 1-12 to 0-6 victory over Carnaross at Meath Hill earned them a place in the quarter-finals. They wasted a lot of chances but still managed to hold a 0-6 to 0-2 lead at half-time thanks to points from Ronan Lynch (three), J.B. O’Reilly (two) and John Farrell.
Carnaross threatened a revival but points from Jamie Reilly, Philip Rogers, David Lynch, Jamie Farrelly, Ben Farrell and Ronan Cassidy and a Farrelly goal from a penalty near the end steered Michael’s towards a comprehensive win.
With the group action complete Clann na nGael were on top on seven points and went straight through to the semi-finals. Dunderry and St Michael’s were on six and could look forward to quarter-final action.
Michael’s made a great start to their last eight meeting with St Colmcille’s at Seneschalstown where Jamie Farrelly scored 1-2 in the opening five minutes. With Ronan Lynch (two), David Lynch and Kevin Cassidy adding points they were in front by 1-6 to 0-6 at the break.
It could have been a bigger advantage but Cassidy was wide with a goal chance late in the first half. Michael’s endured a 17 minute barren spell in the second period and with Jack Reynolds scoring a goal for St Colmcille’s from the penalty spot their hopes of making it to the semi-finals soared.
Aided by three points from Graham Reilly, the sea-siders led by 1-10 to 1-8 on 55 minutes but just when they needed something big, JB O’Reilly scored a well-taken goal for Michael’s. Substitute Peter O’Connell added a point, before Cathal Hilliard raised a white flag at the other end to conclude the scoring. It had been a close shave but the Carlanstown / Kilbeg combination had progressed a step further than last year thanks to their 2-9 to 1-11 victory.
What happened at Pairc Tailteann on the last Sunday of September may take the St Michael’s players some time to recover from. Clann na nGael led just once in the semi-final but crucially that was a couple of minutes into injury time at the end of extra time as they prevailed by 1-13 to 1-12.
All seemed to be going to plan when Michael’s led by 0-6 to 0-1 at the interval in normal time after Ronan Lynch (three), Kevin Cassidy, David Lynch and Jamie Farrelly had supplied the points. They pushed further clear early in the second period but battling Clann na nGael got back to level terms by the 53rd minute.
Ronan Lynch edged Michael’s back in front, the hugely influential Graham Geraghty equalised, Lynch pointed again to regain the lead but the amazing Geraghty popped up with another mighty score to level things up and force extra time (0-10 each).
When Ronan Lynch pointed and Farrelly fisted a goal to give Michael’s a four point cushion in the first additional period they looked home and hosed, especially as Clann na nGael were reduced to 14 players when Jamie Shaw was red carded. But the Athboy / An Gaeltacht combination refused to accept what appeared to be the inevitable.
Geraghty revived them with a superb goal at the start of the second period but Michael’s were still clinging on approaching the end. That was when substitute Aaron Ennis really made his mark as he slotted over the last two points to secure a sensational victory. To say that the losers were shattered would be putting it very mildly.
“Losing the semi-final the way we did was a bit of a shock but I suppose when you get older you learn to accept things like that,” said selector Pete Cassidy. “When you lose by only a point it tends to pose a lot of questions. Graham Geraghty was the difference. He is an amazing man. The players were very disappointed. I also felt sorry for our manager Tom Halpin. He puts a huge amount of work into it. He has been a pleasure to work with.”
St Michael’s had a mixed group campaign which included successive defeats but they did enough to reach the knockout stages.
“We won our first game against St Ultan’s but we then lost to Clann na nGael and Syddan. We had beaten those teams last year. I suppose we were a surprise element last year but that was gone this year. The younger lads probably thought we would beat them again.
“We beat Dunderry in a tight game after that. We had beaten them last year as well. We felt fairly confident going into that game because we were going well in training. Our backs were to the wall and we responded well.
“I put the win over St Colmcille’s down to Tom (Halpin). We used a sweeper system to look after Graham Reilly. It worked well. He scored only three points.
“When we were four points up in extra time in the semi-final I thought it was won. We had lost our centre-back Philip Rogers earlier. He was carrying a hamstring injury from the St Colmcille’s game. That was a factor. We had to reshuffle. It was unsettling. But, as I said, Graham Geraghty was the difference.”
It was a sickening sort of defeat but Pete remains optimistic.
“Ciaran Lynch and Robert Briody were big losses this year,” he added. “But we are lucky that we have good talent coming through in the older age groups.”
MINORS DEMONSTRATE RICH POTENTIAL
The St Michael’s minors completed a memorable campaign with a 2-12 to 1-8 victory over Na Fianna in the League Division 3 final at Pairc Tailteann. Centre-forward Peter O’Connell was a key performer for the winners who made a very productive start when aided by the wind. Ronan Lynch scored six points (three frees) and with Jordan Moran also on target they built a solid foundation. With O’Connell goaling they led by 1-7 to 0-2 at the break. Lee Morris was denied a second goal late in the first half when he was thwarted by Na Fianna ‘keeper Jonathan McCloskey.
Na Fianna rallied in the second period and aided by a Peter Slevin goal they cut the deficit to 1-7 to 1-8 but with O’Connell a big influence St Michael’s regained the upper hand and a goal from Moran guided them towards victory and the title. Moran went close to adding another goal near the end.
The St Michaels team and scorers was:
Aaron Kernan; Christopher Drew, Daniel Murphy; Adam O’Brien; Thomas O’Brien, Matthew Halpin, Ben Tobin; Jordan Moran 1-1, Jamie Reilly; Oran Meehan, Peter O’Connell 1-3, Stephen Dolan; Michael Dunne, Lee Morris, Ronan Lynch 0-7.
Ray Reilly for Meehan, Luke Kearney 0-1 for Dolan, Al Reilly for Tobin.
MICHAELS SHOW REAL IMPROVEMENT
St. Michaels Intermediate Football Championship campaign ended in disappointment when a thoroughly committed performance came up short in a quarter-final against Ballinabrackey, but it was a summer which suggested that they are heading in the right direction. By Paul Clarke.
After reaching the semi-finals in 2010 and losing to neighbours Carnaross, the Carlanstown / Kilbeg combination were badly hit by emigration and last year turned out to be a struggle as they ended up in the relegation scrap. But they survived quite comfortably thanks to victories over St Ultan’s and Cortown.
They were still without a number of key players this year and few people fancied them to mount a serious challenge in the championship, but when they defeated one of the more fancied teams for outright honours Dunderry in the opening round it gave them the early boost they needed and they went on to qualify for the knockout stages as runners-up in their section.
Tom Halpin was their coach this year, assisted by selectors Christy Regan, Tommy McQuaid and Petes Cassidy, and they were drawn in group B of the intermediate championship along with Dunderry, Syddan, Na Fianna and Clann na nGael.
That opener against Dunderry at Kilskyre looked extremely tricky, particularly as their opponents had won an earlier league meeting of the teams by six points, but St. Michaels played very well in the first half and worked extremely hard as a team to deservedly win by 1-9 to 0-10.
The highly talented Ciaran Lynch, who was planning to depart for Australia at that stage, was in tremendous form and scored five points in the opening period. He formed a strong midfield partnership with Felim O’Reilly and that gave St Michael’s a solid platform on which to build up a useful lead.
They might have scored a goal in the early stages when Ronan Cassidy blazed over the crossbar, but the goal did arrive when Kevin Cassidy found the net to leave them ahead by 1-5 to 0-2. By half-time the advantage stood at 1-7 to 0-3, but they were under pressure in the second period when Dunderry steadily wore down their lead.
St. Michaels managed only two points in the second half from David Lynch and substitute John Barry O’Reilly, who had returned from Australia a week earlier, but they had done so much of the hard work in the first period and they deserved to hold out. The danger signs were clear when substitute Darren Fay forced a brilliant save from Paul McCormack, but at the other end of the field Kevin Cassidy was twice denied by Dunderry goalkeeper David Jennings.
Another victory followed when Clann na nGael were beaten by 1-13 to 1-9 at Kilmainham and St. Michaels were looking good at the top of the group. Ciaran Lynch was again an inspirational figure, as was Ben Farrell, and St. Michaels played some superb football to open up a 0-8 to 0-1 advantage.
Clann na nGael got in for a goal and the lead was down to 0-8 to 1-2 at the interval. The Athboy/An Ghaeltacht combination reduced the deficit to the minimum in the second half, but St. Michaels pushed on again as a goal from David Lynch sealed another victory.
There was a very long gap to their third group match against Syddan at Pairc Tailteann where Daithi Regan came off the bench to score the goal in a comprehensive 1-18 to 0-12 win. St. Michaels led by 0-9 to 0-4 at the change of ends and added 1-9 in the second period, including 1-2 from Regan.
They were so much on top that they could afford the luxury of 11 wides on a day when David Lynch finished as their top marksman with six points, including two frees and a ’45. St. Michaels Sam Briody and Syddan substitute Sean Malone were sent off after 53 minutes.
When St. Michaels and Na Fianna met in a top of the table clash at Kildalkey in the last round of group matches the big prize for the winner was a passage straight through to the semi-finals. This was a high scoring encounter which the Enfield / Baconstown combination won by 3-14 to 1-15.
A tremendous goal by John Barry O’Reilly gave St. Michaels an early boost and they dominated much of the first half, but Shane Barrett hit back with a goal for Na Fianna who trailed by only 1-6 to 1-8 at the break. St. Michaels edged clear in the third quarter, but the south county side battled back and when Dean Barrett goaled they were in front.
St. Michaels stayed in touch, but a third goal in injury time from Dalton McDonagh sealed the win for John Lyons’ team.
The defeat meant St. Michaels had to be content with a quarter-final place, but they would have settled for that before they headed out on their championship journey. It proved to be a step too far, but they did demonstrate great energy and commitment against Ballinabrackey at Cortown on the last Saturday of September.
Felim O’Reilly gave them the lead with an early point, but Ballinabrackey were boosted by a goal from Danny Quinn and pushed ahead by 1-3 to 0-1. A mix-up with a short kick-out from ‘keeper John Curry presented St. Michaels with an ideal opportunity to get a goal of their own and John Farrell made no mistake.
Regan and Ciaran Lynch scored a brace of points each in a period of dominance and St Michaels recovered sufficiently to hit the front at 1-5 to 1-4. Ballinabrackey finished the first half best to lead by 1-7 to 1-5 at the interval and the second period turned into a shootout between Lynch and Damien Carroll.
No other players scored and Lynch won the head to head with Carroll by 0-6 to 0-5 as he scored some brilliant points from frees, but it was Ballinabrackey who made a decisive dash towards victory when they pushed ahead by 1-12 to 1-7 early in the last quarter. However, they didn’t score again and St Michael’s rallied to such an extent that they brought the deficit down to the minimum. With almost four minutes of injury time being played they had hope, but the clock eventually ran out on them and Ballinabrackey were ahead by 1-12 to 1-11 at the end.
Coach Tom Halpin was obviously disappointed with that defeat, but he had to be pleased with the campaign as a whole, especially in the absence of players.
“We were missing quite a lot of players, but others came back,” he said. “Ciaran Lynch went to Australia after the first couple of championship games, but he came back for the Syddan match. He’s a fine footballer, a lovely striker of the ball. John Barry O’Reilly came back for the first championship game against Dunderry and then got injured. He’s another important player for us, a big ball winner.
“We got off to a tricky start in the league and had to play some strong teams, including Seneschalstown who had Joe Sheridan playing when we met them. Our form in the league wasn’t great, but we got six or seven weeks of good training under our belts and there was great spirit in the camp going into the championship.
“We played well in the first championship game against Dunderry. We made a very good start and got a goal which gave us a big lift going in at half-time. They came back at us, but we held on.
“We made a very good start against Clann na nGael as well and opened up a good lead. They came back at us, but we hung on in the end. It was a great experience for the lads to get into Pairc Tailteann for the Syddan game. In fairness to Syddan they were missing a few players. They had run Na Fianna and Dunderry quite close. We won comfortably in the end. We were happy with the win.
“Again, we got off to a good start against Na Fianna. We were doing very well around midfield. We looked like having a good sized lead at half-time, but we gave away a goal close to the interval which was a blow. Na Fianna played very well in the second half. They have a lot of quality players. When they can bring in somebody like Dean Barrett it shows how strong they are.
“Ballinabrackey were very hard to break down in the quarter-final. We would like to have played it wider against them. They have some very good players and a strong half-back line. I thought Damien Carroll was very impressive. His pass for their goal was brilliant.”
Losing knockout games is always disappointing, but St Michael’s can still look back on a year of progress.
“You’re always happy when you’re competitive in the championship and we were competitive this year,” Tom added. “We know we’re not too far away, but it’s a work in progress. I just hope we don’t lose too many more players. I had three great men with me this year in Tommy McQuaid, Petes Cassidy and Christy Regan. There is good spirit in the club and we have good young players coming through which is important.”
Michael’s comeback claimed U-17 Division 3 title.
Rathkenny raced into a 2-4 to 0-1 lead after 18 minutes of play and a St. Michaels recovery appeared unlikely but in a five minute spell they had popped over three unanswered points from Ronan Lynch, Jamie Reilly and Gary Dolan. Ronan Lynch had opened the scoring with a pointed free in the sixth minute and an all important Oran Meehan goal in the 29th minute painted an all together different picture of the match at the interval and reduced the deficit to just four points with Rathkenny holding on to a 2-5 to 1-4 lead.
A point apiece from Ronan Lynch and Peter O’Connell in the opening three minutes of the second half had the deficit back to just two points, both sides kept trading points during the third quarter and Rathkenny held a 2-9 to 1-9 lead on 45 minutes. The direct running of Ronan Lynch, Gary Dolan, Peter O’Connell, Luke Moran and Oran Meehan was beginning to cause havoc for the Rathkenny rear guard and with the impressive Jamie Reilly, Jordan Moran, Matthew Halpin and Michael Dunne winning lots of possession further out the St. Michaels lads established a whole new momentum and launched attack after attack on the Rathkenny goals. An excellent point from substitute Ryan Kane followed by points from Ronan Lynch and Peter O’Connell levelled the match on 54 minutes at 1-13 to 2-10.
The remaining minutes was heart-stopping stuff as Rathkenny edged in front again on 58 minutes but it was the ruthless way the St. Michaels lads smothered their opposition into submission and hit the turbo charge button to finish off the game in style as their defence line of Christopher Drew, Daniel Murphy Thomas O’Brien and Aaron Kernan quenched any attack their opponents threw at them and an excellent individual effort from Jamie Reilly levelled the match for the second time with just a minute of normal time remaining. Rathkenny had their chances to go back in front but their efforts were taken under pressure from the St. Michaels defence and were off target and it was the top scorer on the night Ronan Lynch who sent over the winning score in the first minute of added time to complete what was an excellent recovery in a brilliant game of football. The final score was 1-15 to 2-11.
Others to impress for St. Michaels were Lee Morris, Ben Tobin and John & Adam O’Brien.
Aaron Kernan, Daniel Murphy, Lee Morris, Christopher Drew, John O’Brien, Matthew Halpin, Michael Dunne, Jamie Reilly 0-2, Jordan Moran, Peter O’Connell 0-3, Ronan Lynch 0-8,Gary Dolan 0-1, Oran Meehan 1-0, Luke Moran, Ben Tobin.
Thomas O’Brien for Lee Morris, Ryan Kane 0-1 for John O’Brien, Adam O’Brien for Ben Tobin.
St. Michaels came into the U21FC B final knowing they faced a serious challenge, however they defied all the odds when they deservedly collected the trophy with a 0-14 to 1-10 win over Dunderry.
St. Michaels playing into the road end goal in the first half were off the mark first with a point from David Lynch in the first minute, his brother Ronan’s converted free a minute later put them two up. Dunderry’s first attack on three minutes yielded a point and a well placed shot just managed to get past the advancing Dean Moran in the St. Michaels goal to put Dunderry 1-1 to 0-2 up after only eight minutes on the clock, by the thirteenth minute they had stretched that lead to 1-4 to 0-2. A pointed free from Ronan Lynch a minute later was soon cancelled out by another Dunderry point but a brilliant point on the run from Gary Dolan on twenty minutes was the tonic and inspiration the St. Michaels lads required as they took the game by the scruff of the neck as Jamie Farrelly, David Lynch and Jordan Moran’s exceptional play and work rate around the middle of the field paid dividends and Dunderry seemed not to be able to cope with St. Michaels powerful running game and three further points from Jamie Farrelly, Gary Dolan and Kevin Cassidy while holding Dunderry to just a single point in the remaining ten minutes meant the winners only trailed by just two points at the interval 0-7 to 1-6.
Dunderry stretched the lead on the restart but a point apiece from David and Ronan Lynch reduced the deficit to just the minimum on forty one minutes and it was that man David Lynch who popped over a beautiful point on 42 minutes to level the match for the first time. The sdies swapped scores before a David Lynch point put St. Michaels back in the lead, Dunderry however tagged on two points in as many minutes to go in but they proved to be Dunderry’s last score of this final. David Lynch registered his fifth match point to level the scores for the fourth time on 51 minutes. With four minutes still on the clock up popped Jamie Farrelly to score the winning point as St Michaels captured their second U-21 championship in four years.
Dean Moran, Jamie Reilly, John Stafford, Gary Dolan 0-2, Patrick Clarke, Ollie Reilly, Sam Briody, David Lynch 0-5, Jordan Moran, Jamie Farrelly 0-2, Michael Murphy, Kevin Cassidy 0-1, Ronan Lynch 0-4.
Subs: Brian Allen, Daniel Murphy.
UNDERAGE SUCCESS LIFTS ST. MICHAELS
In a year when their emigration-hit intermediate team failed to live up to expectations, St. Michael’s looked to their underage sides for inspiration and they certainly didn’t disappoint with minor and under 16 league honours coming their way.
Intermediate semi-finalists in 2010 and quarter-finalists in 2009 and 2008, St. Michael’s failed to reach the same heights this year when a run of poor results saw their championship interests ended at an early stage.
Like many rural clubs in Meath, St. Michael’s have been badly hit by emigration and this was reflected in their performances, which were disappointing to say the least. But amid the doom and gloom, the Kilbeg/Carlanstown club could take encouragement from their efforts at underage level, which yielded minor and under 16 league titles as well as an under 14 league final appearance.
There was great excitement when Blackfort Gaels, who are a combination of St. Michael’s and Kilmainhamwood, overcame Moynalty by 3-11 to 2-7 to lift the Division 5 minor league crown at Pairc Tailteann in May. The success was made all the sweeter by the fact that Blackfort had lost the delayed 2010 under 17 league final to the same opposition just four months earlier.
St. Michael’s fielded on their own in the under 16 and under 14 grades, and both teams gave excellent accounts of themselves by reaching league finals. But while the under 16s were victorious over Moynalty in their Division 5 final, there was disappointment for the under 14s who were forced to give second best to a powerful Skryne outfit in their Division 2 decider.
“We’ve put a lot of work into the underage and it’s nice to see it paying off,” a contented St. Michael’s chairman and PRO Pascal Reilly who said : “From under 8 upwards, the work is being put in. It was great to get our hands on two trophies this year – it helped to softened the blow of our failure to reach the knockout stages of the intermediate championship. The underage players are the future of our club and I can only hope that we can keep them involved.”
St. Michael’s provided the nucleus of the Blackfort Gaels team that claimed minor league honours at Moynalty’s expense. The losers started strongly and scored the first three points before Michael Murphy eventually opened Blackfort’s account in the 14th minute. Further points from Murphy and Jamie Farrelly tied up the match after 20 minutes before Ross O’Shea put the combination side ahead with a goal in the 23rd minute.
Points from Farrelly and Peter O’Connell extended their lead before Moynalty came back to life in the closing stages of the half by scoring 1-1 to leave just the minimum in it, 1-5 to 1-4, at the break.
Straight from the restart, however, Ross O’Shea netted to put Blackfort back in the driving seat and when Murphy, Farrelly and O’Shea all tagged on points, there were suddenly six between the sides. Moynalty rallied to reduce the gap to just two points with nine minutes to go, but they failed to score again as O’Shea completed his hat-trick and Ronan Lynch added a late point to seal an impressive win for Blackfort.
Moynalty were also St. Michaels victims in the U-16 Division 5 league decider at Pairc Tailteann. The red and blacks laid the foundations for an emphatic 5-14 to 0-4 win in the first half when they stormed into a 4-7 to 0-4 lead after playing with the aid of a strong breeze.
The sides were level on 0-2 apiece after five minutes, but St. Michael’s took complete control thereafter with the outstanding Gary Dolan registering 3-2 in the first half alone. Peter O’Connell scored 1-1 from midfield while Ronan Lynch, Matthew Halpin and Oran Meehan were also on target.
Despite having the wind to their backs in the second half, a deflated Moynalty side could only muster one point for the entire half as goalkeeper Aaron Kernan and defenders Daniel Murphy, John O’Brien, Luke Moran and Matthew Halpin kept their attack at bay. St. Michael’s added further gloss to the scoreline when Oran Meehan bagged their fifth goal three minutes from time.
Sadly, there was to be no hat-trick of underage league titles with Skryne proving too strong for St. Michael’s in the Division 2 final at Cortown. The Kilbeg/Carlanstown youngsters had played some brilliant football in this highly-competitive division, but found Skryne’s challenge a bridge too far as they succumbed to a 0-5 to 2-10 defeat.
Shane McDonnell was the only St. Michael’s player to raise a white flag in the first half and it took some great saves from Joey Curran to keep the deficit down to five points, 0-6 to 0-1, at half-time. A Skryne goal immediately after the restart put the result beyond doubt, but St. Michael’s battled to the end regardless with Ben Tobin, Michael Dunne, Matthew Halpin and Christopher Drew among those who ran themselves into the ground.
While St. Michaels made a big impact at underage level in 2011, they will not hold fond memories of an intermediate championship campaign that was as good as over after the third round. Successive defeats to Carnaross, Dunderry and Syddan in Group B made for what was arguably their most disappointing campaign since they won the junior championship after a 23-year lapse in 2005.
Of course, St. Michael’s weren’t helped by the departures of the O’Reilly brothers, John Barry and Felim, as well as Ciaran McCormack to Australia, and Peter Clinton to New Zealand. In addition, Derek Flood missed the whole season through injury, while Ciaran Lynch – who captained St. Michael’s to an U21 championship two years ago – commuted from London for championship games.
“Emigration took a heavy toll on us this year,” the St. Michael’s chairman explained.
“I’ve been involved with the club since the 1980s and can’t remember it being as bad. We suffered another setback when our manager Christy Regan was involved in an accident and Tommy Moriarty had to take over the reins at short notice. In fairness to Tommy, the lads knew him well from his playing days and would have a lot of respect for him. And Christy was still able to have a say along with our other selectors Mark Meehan, Pat O’Connell and Ambrose Cassidy.”
The tone for the year was set when St. Michael’s lost their opening championship game to neighbours Carnaross at Kells. In what was a repeat of last year’s semi-final, a brilliant individual display from John L McGee – who finished with a personal tally of 1-10 – proved decisive as Carnaross emerged victorious on a 1-15 to 1-10 scoreline.
Goals from Steven Coogan and Damien Clarke saw St. Michaels lose their next fixture to Dunderry by 0-9 to 2-9, and their championship interests were ended with a round still to play when they succumbed to Syddan by 0-8 to 1-10 in Drumconrath.
“We leaked a lot of goals and that was probably our downfall,” Pascal ruefully reflected.
“Carnaross got an early goal against us, Dunderry got two against us and we also conceded against Syddan. Even though we lost to Syddan by five points, we still could have won that game. We dominated possession in the second half, but couldn’t make it count and that was certainly one that got away from us.”
The Blackfort Gaels team that defeated Moynalty in the Division 5 league final was: Pauric Carolan; Sam Briody, Daniel Murphy; Stephen O’Brien, Jamie Reilly, Gary Dolan; Paul McCormack, Ronan Lynch; Thomas McGrath 0-1, Jamie Farrelly 0-3, Peter O’Connell 0-1; Michael Murphy 0-4, Ross O’Shea 3-1.
Subs: Jordan Moran for Peter O’Connell, Brian Allen for Ronan Lynch, Darren Owens for Ross O’Shea.
St. Michaels under 16 Division 5 league winning team was: Aaron Kernan; Daniel Murphy, John O’Brien; Luke Moran, Matthew Halpin (0-1), Christopher Drew; Jamie Reilly, Jordan Moran, (0-2); Gary Dolan (3-3), Peter O’Connell (1-2), Adam O’Brien; Ronan Lynch (0-5), Oran Meehan (1-1).
Subs: Thomas O’Brien for Adam O’Brien, Michael Dunne for Christopher Drew, Lee Morris for Ronan Lynch.
The St. Michaels under 14 team that finished runners-up to Skryne in the Division 2 final was: Joey Curran; Alan Reilly, Michael Dunne, Adam O’Brien; Stephen Dolan, Christopher Drew, Ben Tobin; Thomas O’Brien 0-1, Matthew Halpin 0-1; Craig McGivern, Dylan Moran, Ray Reilly; Conor Smith, Shane McCormack 0-1, Shane McDonnell 0-2.
Subs: Caolan McConnell for Conor Smith, Michael Fitzsimons for Craig McGivern.
ONE STEP FURTHER FOR ST. MICHAELS
Although progressing one step further in the Meath IFC than in the previous two years, there was disappointment again for St Michael’s when bowing out at the semi-final stage with a narrow defeat to local rivals Carnaross.
The Carlanstown/Kilbeg side had former Dunshaughlin and Blackball Gaels boss Gordon Ward as their new manager with Tony Kearney, who guided Wolfe Tones to SFC glory in 2006, as one of his selectors along with club stalwart Tom Halpin.
With the number of participants in the Eddie Finnegan & Sons IFC down to 15, there were three groups of five with St Michael’s in Group B along with Na Fianna, Syddan, Castletown and Longwood. They were idle in the opening round and began their campaign on the Sunday evening of May 2nd.
Na Fianna provided the opposition in Athboy and the south county side, managed by Graham Geraghty, prevailed on a 1-16 to 1-13 scoreline to reverse a championship result between the teams in 2009. St Michael’s were behind by the minimum margin (0-8 to 0-9) at the break and fell six points in arrears in the second half.
Ciaran Lynch with 1-6 and Daithí Regan with five points shared all bar two points of the losers’ total and the goal from Lynch brought them back into contention and with John Barry O’Reilly showing up well at centrefield, they got on equal terms eight minutes from the end of the hour.
However, St Michael’s were unable to push on and claim the win as two points from Daniel Queeney in added time ensured that the spoils went to the Enfield/Baconstown
St Michael’s gained their first brace of points with a slender 0-11 to 0-10 win over Syddan in a Friday evening clash at Drumconrath. After being in arrears in the early stages, they recovered to lead by four points after 20 minutes and were ahead by 0-7 to 0-5 at the break.
In a scrappy encounter the best chance of a St Michael’s goal fell to Felim O’Reilly but his attempt was kept out by the opposing ‘keeper. It took a late point from a free, slotted over by Ciaran Lynch for his fifth score, to clinch the win.
Former county forward Daithi Regan helped himself to a fine total of 2-6 as St Michael’s chalked up a second victory when outscoring Castletown by 2-14 to 1-11 in a Saturday evening outing at Rathkenny in which all the goals were netted in the second period.
The side in red and black were 0-6 to 0-4 to the good at the halfway stage and two minutes after the restart Kevin Cassidy was brought down in the penalty area and Regan raised the green flag from the resultant kick.
Although Castletown quickly replied with a goal of their own, Regan doubled his side’s lead with five minutes to go when firing his second goal following an assist from John Barry O’Reilly. Daithí O’Reilly, Sean Gaffney and Ciaran Lynch, who sent over five points, were others to impress in that success.
St Michael’s were only in third place in their group after that win but the situation changed with the emphatic 1-16 to 0-6 success over previously unbeaten Longwood in Athboy to clinch the top spot. Longwood finished second and Na Fianna missed out on qualification.
The Carlanstown/Kilbeg side assumed control soon after the start and John Barry O’Reilly’s well-taken goal on 25 minutes boosted them to a 1-10 to 0-4 interval advantage. O’Reilly also scored three points in the first half and white flag efforts from Daithi Regan and Ciaran Lynch as well as Peter Clinton and Ronan and Kevin Cassidy helped to push them comfortably clear.
Regan and Lynch added a brace of points each in the second period and Philip Rogers and Ben Farrell completed the winning total. A black mark against the emphatic victory was the late dismissal of Michael’s full-back James Farrell who was shown a straight red card and missed the next IFC outing.
St Michael’s were through to the semi-finals and awaited the winners of the Carnaross versus Gaeil Colmcille quarter-final tie. Carnaross surprised their rivals from Kells in that game and the favourites fell again when St Michael’s were outpointed by 0-9 to 0-7 in the second of the last four ties on the first Saturday of September.
The losers were left to regret not taking a couple of goal chances at the end of the close contest at Pairc Tailteann as Daithí Regan and Kevin Cassidy failed to find the net, being thwarted by opposing ‘keeper Cillian Comaskey.
The sides were on level terms (0-4 each) at the break after the St Michael’s scores in the first half were made up of converted frees by Cian Lynch (two) and Daithí Regan and a 45 from Derek Flood. The lack of points from play was another factor against the losers as an effort by Lynch in the third quarter was their only such score.
Lynch finished up with a return of five points in a game in which the teams were on level terms six times before Carnaross made their break towards the winning post in the closing stages to leave an air of despondency hanging over Carlanstown once again.
Tony Kearney, who doubled as a St Michael’s selector and manager of the St. Fechin’s junior side in Louth in 2010, feels that the Carlanstown/Kilbeg outfit did not perform to their capabilities in the IFC.
“We had an easy enough run through to the semi-final stage after losing the opening game to Na Fianna. We expected to win that opener, especially as we had beaten them in the championship last year.
“After that we struggled to get the better of Syddan and the wins over Castletown and Longwood were more clear-cut. The intermediate championship often throws up dark horses and this year Carnaross filled that role.
“Even though they did very well to put out Gaeil Colmcille, we were confident enough of beating them. They are strong down the middle and our plan was to use the wings as much as possible. However, the plan was not adhered to as much as we hoped.
“Credit has to be given to Carnaross for the way they played and Ollie Murphy was outstanding. We had plenty of possession but gave away the ball too much and missed two good chances of goals at the end.
“A lot of time and work was put into the preparations, we expected a big performance in the semi-final but it just didn’t happen,” Kearney ruefully reflected. The Carlanstown National School principal had a number of the St Michael’s players as pupils in years past and he also taught Carnaross players Ollie Murphy and Steen Carpenter.
St Michael’s forward Ciaran Lynch came home from his work base in London for games during the season and Kearney spoke highly of the contribution of St. Michael’s former county forward.
“Daithi Regan has given exceptional service to the club over the years,” Kearney added.
And what does Tony think of prospects for 2011? “It will be difficult but you have to hope for the best. But with the recession and shortage of work, it’s hard to know who will be available then,” he said.
Tony Kearney, Gordon Ward and Tom Halpin also formed the management team for the club’s second string who got to the semi-finals of the Junior C FC where they were beaten by Donaghmore/Ashbourne’s third side.
Kildare native Ward, who lives in the Carlanstown area, and Halpin were also playing members of the junior C team although both are well into the veteran stage. After winning all their group games, against Duleek/Bellewstown, Na Fianna, Moylagh and Nobber, they got the better of Walterstown by 4-9 to 1-9 in a quarter-final clash at Walterstown.
However, St Michael’s were well beaten (0-11 to 1-1) in the semi-final at Seneschalstown. “We only got two scores, both in the early stages, a goal from Ronan Farrell and a point from Sean Cassidy,” said Kearney.
While the St Michael’s men again fell short in their bid to lift the IFC title, the club’s female counterparts tasted outright glory in the Intermediate Championship with a 4-13 to 3-8 final victory over Duleek/Bellewstown in the final played in Kells.
The girls from the Carlanstown/Kilbeg area got away to a flying start with three early points from Laura McCabe, Sinéad McCormack and Aisleen Regan. Although the opposition replied to go into the lead, goals from Alisha Curtis, Aisleen Regan and Áine Fagan boosted them to an interval lead of 3-4 to 1-2.
Duleek/Bellewstown hit St Michael’s with a short scoring burst which yielded 2-3 in the early stages of the second half. But with experienced players like Sinéad McCormack, Fiona Nevin, Mary Smith, Mary Clinton and Áine Fagan showing up well, St Michael’s regained the initiative to run out comfortable winners.
St Michael’s team and scorers in the final: Edwina Olwill; Therese O’Brien, Mary Clinton, Fiona Drew; Katie Reilly, Mary Smith, Rachel Lynch; Sinéad McCormack (0-3), Áine Fagan (1-0); Leanne Lynch (0-1), Megan O’Brien (0-2), Fiona Nevin; Laura McCabe (0-1), Aisleen Regan (1-4), Alisha Curtis (2-1). Subs: Marita Rogers for Reilly, Elaine Dolan for Lynch, Gillian Bennett (0-1) for McCabe, Niamh McCormack for T O’Brien, Rebecca O’Brien for S McCormack.
QUARTER-FINAL ENDING FOR 2nd SUCCESSIVE YEAR
After running eventual winners St Ultan’s to two points in a 2008 IFC quarter-final clash, St Michael’s looked a good bet to progress further this year. However, that was not to be as they fell at the same hurdle when losing to Kilmainhamwood. By Noel Coogan.
The team again managed by former Meath goalkeeper Donal Smyth suffered two defeats, to Gaeil Colmcille and Dunderry, in the six-team Group A and trailed by five points at half-time and full-time against the ‘Wood in their final championship outing of the decade at Carnaross.
St Michaels seemed to lack consistency as they had a promising winning run in the earlier stages of the Division 2 A League and were at the top of the table before being overtaken by Skryne and Trim, who qualified for the final.
Former Meath senior forward Daithi Regan and Ciaran Lynch were the main scorers for the Carlanstown/Kilbeg side in 2009 and they were prominent in helping to gain three wins and a draw in the league before the championship action started.
The early season wins were gained at the expense of fellow intermediate outfits Cortown, Ballinlough and Syddan while a 3-9 to 2-12 draw was achieved against St Ultan’s with Regan helping himself to 1-5 and Lynch scoring 1-3 including a late levelling goal.
Four of the six teams in the St Michael’s group were from the north of the county and the opener on a wet and windy evening at Moynalty pitted them against Carnaross, a game which the men in red and black won comfortably on a 2-9 to 0-6 scoreline.
With Ciaran Lynch putting over four points, Michael’s were ahead by 0-5 to 0-2 at the break in a game in which referee Dick Morris showed nine yellow cards, five to the Carlanstown/Kilbeg side.
The two goals were netted in the third quarter with John Barry O’Reilly and Daithi Regan applying the finishing touches. Both of those finished up with 1-2 and Lynch got the other five points. Donal Smyth expressed satisfaction with the winning start but his charges lost in their next two IFC outings.
On the May Bank Holiday Monday Carnaross hosted an interesting local derby and at the end of the Kells contingent were celebrating after Gaeil Colmcille’s 1-11 to 0-11 victory.
In what was described as “a tough, at times rugged, hard-hitting contest,” Benny Reddy’s men struck the last four points to go to the top of the table on their own. The Mick’s conceded the goal, which was punched to the net by Gary Arkins, after 17 minutes and it was 1-7 to 0-8 at the halfway stage.
St Michael’s resumed strongly with three points to edge ahead. However, they were unable to respond to their opponents’ late surge and a goal attempt by Brendan Ryan whizzed just outside an upright.
Ryan did find the net in the fourth round outing against Dunderry at Bohermeen’s Newman Park but it was Dunderry who had the smiles on their faces at the end of a close contest as they gained a 0-16 to 2-9 victory.
The minimum margin also separated the sides at the break when the board read 0-8 to 1-4. Goals from Ryan and Ciaran Lynch helped Michael’s lead by three points with 10 minutes. But, as in their previous outing, they faded in the run to the line with Dunderry finishing the better.
St Michael’s got back to winning ways when outscoring bottom of the table Drumconrath by 1-12 to 1-10 at Meath Hill despite having to play the entire second half without the dismissed John Barry O’Reilly.
Brendan Farrell netted the winners’ goal and they held out in a nervous finish to take both points and set up a do or die clash with Na Fianna in the last round of the group stages.
Despite being forced to field without the injured Ciaran Lynch and John Barry O’Reilly (suspended), St Michael’s made it through to the last eight with a 2-13 to 2-9 victory over the south county opposition in Athboy.
They overcame a slow start in which the Enfield side went into a 1-1 to 0-0 advantage. Na Fianna were still ahead at the break, by 2-5 to 1-5, and they led by 2-9 to 2-6 with 43 minutes gone.
But Na Fianna did not score again as St Michael’s reeled off seven successive points to advance in third place behind Dunderry and Gaeil Colmcille. Daithí Regan made a big contribution with a return of 1-9 as well as sending in the delivery from which Kevin Cassidy punched in their second goal.
St Michael’s suffered their second IFC defeat this year at Carnaross when Kilmainhamwood scored a 1-10 to 0-8 success in the quarter-final tussle, having led by 1-6 to 0-4 at the interval.
In a disappointing showing, the losers only managed two scores from open play, put over by Ciaran Lynch and John Barry O’Reilly. Daithí Regan’s scoring was restricted to one converted free and Lynch kicked over five frees.
Regan had a chance of a goal late in the first half but his attempt was comfortably kept out by the ‘Wood’s net minder Michael Clarke. Three points was as close as Michael’s got in the second half.
They were behind by 0-7 to 1-7 when O’Reilly pointed on 52 minutes. Although Kilmainhamwood had to soak up a bit of pressure in the second period, they responded to the opposition’s second score from play by raising the white flag twice.
Lynch’s sixth point was all the Carlanstown/Kilbeg side could muster in reply and the introduction of the permitted five substitutes failed to have the desired effect as the winners’ top scorer, Stephen Kiernan, had the last say with the last score, put over in injury-time.
St Michaels defender Derek Flood had a busy year, playing with the Meath senior and junior teams as well as assisting his club. “If someone told me at the start of the year that I would start in four National League games, I would not have believed them.
“I played against Fermanagh, Armagh, Monaghan and Wexford. It was a great experience and a great honour to represent the county. I put in a lot of effort but I was dropped off the panel after the game against Dublin.
“While it was disappointing to be left off the squad, I wasn’t the first player to be dropped off a county panel. I just accepted it and got back to concentrating entirely on club football.” he said.
“We had Donal Smyth as manager for his second year and he put in a lot of good work. We did well in Division 2 of the A League, we were the only team to beat to Skryne, who went on to win it out. Trim, who got to the final were the only team to beat us while St Ultan’s, Carnaross and Rathkenny drew with us.
“We won the Division 3 League last year and it was a good achievement to go close to gaining promotion to the top flight. Playing against senior sides in the league should help us improve our standard. However, two defeats in the group stages of the championship made matters difficult for us.
“When you finish in third place in the group, it means that you meet one of the better teams at the quarter-final stage. But I suppose you have to be prepared to beat the best if you want to win a championship.
“Last year we lost our first two championship games although we recovered well from that bad start to run eventual winners St Ultan’s to two points in a quarter-final game. We thought we’d get a step or two further this year but our lack of consistency meant that we again lost two group games.
“There were a lot of expectations about us after going so close last year and there was no lack of effort in training. It was good to get off to a winning start with the win over Carnaross but then we lost to Gaeil Colmcille and Dunderry.
“However, we recovered well and we scored well in the wins over Drumconrath and Na Fianna, over whom we had better score difference to clinch third place. However, we didn’t play well in the game against Kilmainhamwood.
“Daithi Regan and Ciaran Lynch returned after injury after missing the Na Fianna game. Maybe they weren’t 100 per cent fit for the quarter-final but there’s no point in making excuses.
“Kilmainhamwood were much better than us on the day. We only scored eight points with just two of them coming from play. You won’t win many games with a total of eight points.
“Despite not getting any further in the championship than last year, I still think we made progress. We’ll just have to look ahead to 2010 and maybe put in even more work.
“There are a good number of possible winners in the intermediate championship each year, it’s a hard one to predict correctly. Come next April we will be determined to give it a good crack again and hopefully we can do better,” concluded Flood.
St. Michaels girls add U-13 title
St. Michaels added the U-13 title to their U-14 and U-16 titles with a hard fought U-13 Division 3 Championship Final win (4-3 to 2-6) over neighbours Gaeil Colmcille in a closely contested and entertaining match in Carlanstown.
The visitors were first to score, a point after just 3 minutes however it was end to end stuff for the next 20 minutes with neither side able to register a score until Alicia Curtis managed to break the deadlock with a well taken goal which was followed a minute later by a goal for Gaeil Colmcille. St. Michaels went back up the field where Edwina Olwill tapped in another goal. The Kells side added two further points while Claire O’Connell added a point to leave St. Michaels ahead 2-1 to 1-3 at the interval.
St. Michaels were first out of the blocks in the second half and had notched up 1-2, a goal from Susanne Reilly and points from Dara Slater and Claire O’Connell before Gaeil Colmcille opened their second half account with a goal on 17 minutes. The visitors piled on the pressure for the remainder of the match adding 3 more points, however with Anna McQuaid, Patricia Owens and Alana Kernan putting in excellent performances at the back St. Michaels held out and Haley Doyle finished the scoring with a goal in the dying minutes to cap a brilliant year for the young ladies of St. Michaels.
St. Michaels – Alana Kernan, Patricia Owens, Danielle Moran, Claire Reilly, Lauren Doyle, Anna McQuaid, Claire O’Connell 0-2, Edwina Olwill 1-0, Susanne Reilly 1-0, Sally Keoghan, Dara Slater 0-1, Alicia Curtis 1-0, Haley Doyle 1-0.
BRILLIANT END TO YEAR
When St Michaels lost their first two group games in the 2008 Intermediate Football Championship it looked odds on that they would end up in a battle for survival in the grade just three years after winning the junior title, but instead they picked things up to earn a quarter-final place and also claim the Division 3 FL title.
But in a remarkable transformation they turned things around in dramatic fashion by making a brilliant recovery to beat Nobber in the third round and they then got the better of St Colmcille’s and Oldcastle to earn a quarter-final place. Losing to St Ultan’s at the last eight stage was undoubtedly a big disappointment, but given the manner in which the Bohermeen/Martry combination went on to clinch the title, St Michael’s certainly have grounds for optimism as they set their sights on the 2009 campaign.
Their coach was former Navan O’Mahonys and Meath goalkeeper Donal Smyth, the man who also refereed this year’s drawn SHC final, and the selectors were Jim O’Reilly, Sean Gaffney and Pat O’Connell. They were drawn in group A of the championship along with Na Fianna, Nobber, Cortown, Oldcastle and St Colmcille’s.
Having failed to reach the knockout stages in the previous two years, St Michael’s prospects of doing so in 2008 didn’t exactly look good when they lost their opening round game against Cortown at Kilberry.
Cortown, who were to go on and lose the final to parish rivals St Ultan’s, scored with consistency in the first half and led by 0-10 to 1-5 at the interval after Ciaran Lynch had notched the Michael’s goal. Former Meath player Daithí Regan became a greater influence in the second period, but Cortown still managed to extend their advantage to six points at the three-quarter stage.
St Michael’s reduced the deficit to two points, but that was as near as they managed to get and the defeat on a 1-11 to 0-16 score line meant the pressure was on when they travelled to Athboy to meet Na Fianna in the second round.
Two goals in the first half appeared to put the Baconstown/Enfield combination in the driving seat, but Michaels scored the last four points of the period to trail by the minimum (0-8 to 2-3) at the break. Na Fianna tagged on three points after the resumption and those scores guided them in the direction of the winning post as it finished 2-10 to 0-10.
A fight against relegation back to the junior ranks looked very much on the cards when St Michael’s fell well behind late in their third round match against Nobber at Kilmainhamwood where they trailed by 0-3 to 0-6 at the interval. Nobber pushed well clear and looked certain to win when they led by eight points with as many minutes to play.
But in one of the best comebacks of the year on the Meath club football front, Michael’s refused to accept what appeared to be the inevitable and boosted by goals from Ben Farrell and substitute Tom Halpin they stormed past the Nobber men to win by 2-8 to 0-12.
That amazing victory marked a turning point in St Michaels championship campaign and they followed it with a superb performance in the fourth round when they easily beat St Colmcille’s by 2-13 to 0-8 at Slane to knock the threat of relegation on the head and give themselves a chance of playing knockout football.
A goal from Regan helped them to lead by 1-7 to 0-4 at the break and with Ciaran Lynch, Regan, Derek Flood, Brendan Ryan, Johnny Reilly and Philip Rogers particularly effective they pushed clear to be 11 points to the good at the end.
After a lengthy break in the championship action, the big question was would St Michael’s be able to maintain the momentum when the competition resumed. Their last group assignment was against relegation-threatened Oldcastle at Marty and the minimum requirement was a victory which would give them a chance of progressing from the section.
St Michael’s led by 1-7 to 1-3 at the change of ends and went on to win by 1-10 to 2-3. With other results going their way they had completed a remarkable recovery and scraped through to the knockout stages. Cortown headed the group on seven points and Na Fianna, St Michael’s and Nobber were all on six.
When the calculators were activated the results revealed that Na Fianna had a points difference of plus 13 and would qualify as group runners-up. Michael’s, who were on plus nine, filled the third qualifying place and the unlucky team was Nobber who were on minus one. The importance of what happened at Kilmainhamwood earlier in the championship was very clear to both sides at that stage.
St Michael’s ran champions to be St Ultan’s very close in the quarter-final which was played at Pairc Tailteann on a wet Friday night. They really put it up to an accomplished Ultan’s side which is likely to make a favourable impression in the senior ranks, but lost out by 0-12 to 1-11.
Michael’s never led and trailed by 0-4 to 1-6 at the interval after Johnny Reilly, Robert Briody, Ciaran Lynch and a ’45’ from full-back Derek Flood accounted for their first half points. It was clearly going to take a much improved showing in the second period if they were to revive their fortunes and they responded superbly.
St Ultan’s extended their advantage to 1-7 to 0-4 early in the second half, but St Michael’s battled back courageously and had cut the deficit to the minimum by the 43rd minute after impressive centre forward Lynch had pointed four times, Dáithí Regan added another two and Flood sent over his second ’45’.
They were looking good at that stage as they put St Ultan’s under a lot of pressure, but the champions to be responded with a brace of points to be three ahead going into the final quarter. Regan slotted over two frees to cut the gap to the minimum again, but Ultan’s replied with a couple of points once again to leave a goal between the teams.
Regan completed St Michael’s scoring with a pointed free and went for a goal from a placed ball deep into injury time. However, as the excitement reached fever pitch his effort was blocked and St Ultan’s were through to the last four.
The St Michael’s team in the quarter-final was – Darren O’Connell, Matthew Reilly, Derek Flood (0-2), Dáithí Reilly, Sean Gaffney, Philip Rogers, Peter Clinton, Brendan Ryan, Felim O’Reilly, Robbie Briody (0-1), Ciaran Lynch (0-6), Tommy Moriarty; Johnny Reilly (0-1), Tom Halpin, Dáithí Regan (0-2). Subs – J.B. O’Reilly for Briody, Ben Farrell for Halpin, Michael Rogers for Gaffney.
St. Michael’s had a number of games in hand in their Division 3 FL campaign and their good form from the championship carried over as they confidently put together a string of performances which saw them clinch a top two finish at the expense of Nobber.
A final meeting with Ballinlough on the first Sunday of November was the reward for Donal Smyth’s men and a Johnny Reilly’s 35th minute goal proved to be the decisive score as they claimed a minimum margin win over their fellow north Meath men at Athboy.
Reilly fisted a Dáithí Regan delivery to the Ballinlough net to leave it 1-7 to 1-4 and the Carlanstown/Kilbeg side were never subsequently reeled but had to withstand considerable pressure in the latter stages that included nearly four minutes of stoppage time.
Dáithí Regan closed St Michael’s account in the 48th minute with a pointed free that left the board reading 1-10 to 1-5. Despite playing against the fall of ground on a fine afternoon, Ballinlough posted four points in the latter stages but were unable to make up the deficit.
Donal Smyth’s men nearly got in for a couple of scores on the break in the latter stages that would have soothed the nerves of the St Michael’s contingent.
Having won the lost a toss of the coin, St Michael’s were forced to change to their predominantly black alternative strip and having found themselves 0-0 to 0-2 in arrears early on.
St Michael’s were back on level terms by the 12th minute before Ballinlough kicked on with Peader Byrne placing Derek Muldoon for a goal six minutes later.
Ballinlough led by four points on two occasions in the third quarter but St Michael’s finished with a flourish with team captain Peter Clinton sending over an excellent effort from play before former county man Dáithí Regan landed a free to leave it 0-5 to 1-4 at the break.
Within three minutes of the restart a pointed from Ciaran Lynch and Ben Farrell’s white flag from play levelled matters for the second and final time.
Then came Reilly’s goal which ultimately proved decisive as St Michael’s gained some consolation for their narrow IFC quarter-final exit at the hands of eventual winners St Ultan’s by claiming the Jack Cummins Cup.
The St Michael’s side on duty in the final was: Darren O’Connell; Tommy Moriarty, Derek Flood, Dáithí Reilly, Michael Rogers, Philip Rogers, Sean Gaffney, Felim O’Reilly, Brendan Ryan, Ronan Farrell, Ciaran Lynch (0-3, 1 free), Johnny Reilly (1-0), Ben Farrell (0-1), Peter Clinton (0-1), Dáithí Regan (0-5). Subs – J. B. O’Reilly for Farrell, Matthew Reilly for Gaffney, T. Halpin for J. Reilly, Ciaran McCormack for F. O’Reilly.
St Michaels second string played in the Junior C Championship, but failed to reach the knockout stages. They did score one very big victory in the group stages when defeating Skryne’s third string by 2-20 to 0-9, but there were also defeats against St Ultan’s (2-9 to 2-14), Navan O’Mahonys (0-14 to 2-13) and Dunboyne (1-7 to 4-14).
Ladies making rapid progress
The St Michael’s ladies team made another big leap up the ladder of progression in 2008 when they won the Intermediate Championship a year after they had claimed the junior title in highly impressive fashion.
Last year they scored a comprehensive victory over Wolfe Tones in the final to win the JFC and there is every indication that they will once again be a power at senior level in the future after this year’s intermediate triumph which was achieved with a 2-8 to 0-8 victory over Na Fianna in the decider at Simonstown.
The game was a poignant occasion for the St Michael’s club after the death of Rosemary Regan – whose daughter Aisleen played a starring role in the success – a week before the match.
The corner-forward was instrumental in setting up her side’s first goal when she dispossessed the Na Fianna ‘keeper and passed to Fiona Nevin who netted. That score left St Michael’s ahead by 1-1 to 0-0 after eight minutes.
The Enfield/Baconstown combination replied with a point, but a superb score from Helen Coldrick restored Michael’s four-point advantage. The influential Gillian Bennett stretched the lead and Aisleen Regan gave her team a huge boost when she scored their second goal after being set up by Megan O’Brien.
That helped St Michael’s to hold a 2-3 to 0-3 lead at the break, but Na Fianna, who were playing in their third successive IFC final, improved after the change of ends. However, impressive defending by Sinéad McCormack, Theresa O’Brien – mother of Megan – and Mary Smith meant they added only two points as they dominated the third quarter.
With their advantage cut to four points, St Michael’s regained their composure and with Bennett scoring two points and Megan O’Brien, Leanne Lynch and Coldrick also splitting the uprights they were comfortable winners in the end.
St Michael’s were managed by Peter Murtagh from Mullagh and the selectors were Christy Regan and Eugene Yore.
The St Michael’s team in the final was – Laura Yore, Therése O’Brien, Rose Gilsenan, Sinéad McCormack, Lisa Lynch, Elaine Lynch, Mary Smith, Lisa Keenan, Mary Clinton, Megan O’Brien (0-1), Helen Coldrick (0-2), Fiona Nevin (1-0); Leanne Lynch (0-1), Gillian Bennett (0-4), Aisleen Regan (1-0). Subs – A Gargan for Coldrick, C Stafford for Leanne Lynch.
LADIES LEAD THE WAY
There were plenty of red and black flags around Carlanstown and Kilbeg in the autumn of 2005 when the St. Michael’s men won the Junior Football Championship and there was a fair amount of colour this year too as the club’s ladies scored a thoroughly merited victory in their JFC.
St. Michael’s were a major force in the ladies’ game in the past and on the evidence of their runaway final victory over a gallant Wolfe Tones team at Simonstown in early September, they could well be set to steadily climb back up to the top once more. This was a tremendous success because it was their first year back competing in ladies’ football.
They were coached by Mullagh man Peter Murtagh, who clearly had them in tip top shape, and the selectors were Gerry Kealy and Christy Regan who also played a big role in the triumph.
Two figures stand out from the final statistics – a fantastic winning tally of 3-21 and a phenomenal personal contribution of 1-13 from Gillian Bennett, the former county star who had won a Senior Championship medal with Seneschalstown last year. Gillian, who had played with St. Michael’s previously, has amassed some wonderful scoring tallies down the years and this was another to go with the collection.
Wolfe Tones have to be given great credit for the way they battled until the very end, despite the gravity of the situation they found themselves in against a strong and very well-prepared St. Michael’s team which had 21 points to spare at the final whistle (3-21 to 2-3).
While Bennett stood out with that amazing scoring salvo, this was very much a team effort from a very fit St. Michael’s side, though they were in for an early setback. Bennett and Aisling Regan had given them a good start with early points, but Wolfe Tones were soon in front as a collision in the winners’ defence allowed Aisling Whelan in for a goal.
However, with Bennett proving to be an awesome influence St. Michael’s soon took a firm grip on the final. The brilliant centre half-forward slotted over three points in quick succession and the Carlanstown/Kilbeg combination were well on their way to the title when she set up Fiona Nevin for a superb goal in the 12th minute.
That left them ahead by 1-5 to 1-0 and by the time the whistle sounded for the interval the advantage had increased to 2-11 to 1-2 after Bennett had continued to tag on the points and also scored a cracking goal after being put through by Elaine Lynch.
It didn’t get any better for Wolfe Tones on the restart when Megan O’Brien scored St. Michael’s third goal, but the losers battled away and got some reward when county goalkeeper Irene Munnelly, who lined out at midfield, scored a magnificent long-range goal. But with Bennett continuing to hit the target with regularity as the game drew to a close it was simply a matter of how much St. Michael’s would win by.
When referee Tom Lorton sounded the final whistle there were scenes of jubilation and then captain Aisling Regan received the cup from Ladies’ County Board chairman David Dempsey. Party time had arrived and rightly so after the great effort that went into winning the title.
The St. Michael’s team in the final was – Donna Lynch, Marita Rogers, Rose Gilsenan, Sinéad McCormack; Lisa Lynch, Mary Clinton, Mary Smith, Lisa Keenan (0-3), Elaine Lynch, Megan O’Brien (1-0), Gillian Bennett (1-13), Fiona Nevin (1-1); Leanne Lynch (0-1), Helen Finnegan (0-1), Aisleen Regan (0-1). Subs – Mandy Carr (0-1) for Finnegan, Sharon Mooney for Leanne Lynch, C. Stafford for Nevin, Therése O’Brien for Rogers, A. Gargan for Smith.
MEN FAIL TO SPARKLE
St. Michaels still haven’t managed to taste knockout football since they returned to the Intermediate Championship, though they must have entertained realistic hopes this year when they went into their last group match against St. Ultan’s occupying third place in their section and with everything to play for.
However, the Carlanstown/Kilbeg combination performed poorly in that particular game as St. Ultan’s beat them decisively to jump from bottom of the five-team section up to third and maintain their interest in the competition.
It hasn’t exactly happened for St. Michaels in the intermediate grade since they won the Junior Championship in 2005, though of most importance has been the fact that they have consolidated their position in the middle grade which is vital with the future in mind. Last year they finished sixth in their group when the divisions were run off on the marathon eight-team format after they had won twice and lost five times for a points total of four.
Of course, they did manage to get their hands on some silverware in the shape of the A League Div. 4 trophy after a final victory over St. Mary’s and that gave them the opportunity to play their league football against better quality opposition in 2007. It was good to see that they more than held their own in the higher section, finishing well up the order. Again, consolidation was important there.
Kells based Garda John Mulvany was their coach this year and the selectors were Gerry Hennessy, Jimmy Farrelly and John Moran. They were drawn in Group C of the Intermediate Championship, a section that looked quite demanding, as it included the previous year’s impressive Junior Championship winners St. Ultan’s, the 2006 SFC relegated side Cortown, Carnaross and Donaghmore/Ashbourne.
From a look at that line-up it was clear that St. Michael’s would have their work cut out to make it through to the business end of the title race, which was their primary goal.
They didn’t manage it, which was a disappointment, though it has to be appreciated that they were badly hit by injuries to key players like Peter Clinton, who had a spell on the county senior panel during Eamonn Barry’s year at the helm, John Farrell and Derek Flood. Having to plan without players of that quality puts serious demands on your resources.
First up when the championship action commenced in mid-April were Carnaross at Rathkenny and St. Michael’s got off to a satisfactory start when a good second half performance enabled them to emerge with a share of the spoils as it ended on 1-10 each.
Daithí Regan’s goal enabled St. Michael’s to stay in touch in the first half, but they still trailed by 1-3 to 1-7 at the break and clearly had it all to do. However, they upped the tempo in the second period when they were the dominant team and did well to hold a strong Carnaross attack to just three additional points.
Ciaran Lynch was in superb form as St. Michael’s set about trying to salvage something from the game and they gradually worked their way into the deficit, before Regan slotted over a late point to secure a draw.
Cortown’s decade in the top flight had come to an end the previous autumn when Kilmainhamwood defeated them in the relegation play-off and they provided the second round opposition at Kells shortly after they had made the desired start to life back in the intermediate grade with a win over parish rivals St. Ultan’s.
Lynch was again very much to the fore as St. Michael’s gave their qualification push a major boost with a minimum margin (2-8 to 1-10) win. John Barry O’Reilly and Lynch scored the vital goals and the winners led by 1-3 to 0-4 at the break.
Unfortunately, that was as good as it got for St. Michael’s who failed to build on a progressive start to the championship and they were decisively beaten by Donaghmore/Ashbourne (1-8 to 2-12) when the sides clashed in the third round of group matches at Walterstown.
Despite that setback they were still in the running for a qualification position as they prepared for that crunch final round assignment against St. Ultan’s at Kells on the second Saturday of September. By that stage Carnaross topped the division on five points, having completed their group programme, Donaghmore/Ashbourne had four, St. Michael’s had three and Cortown and St. Ultan’s both had two, so it was certainly all to play for.
However, St. Michaels never quite managed to get moving with sufficient fluency against St. Ultan’s, struggled for scores and were beaten by 0-4 to 1-6 after trailing by 0-2 to 1-3 at the interval. A paltry tally of only two points in each half was never going to be enough to prolong their interest in the championship, while a positive side of their performance was the good showing of the defence.
When all was said and done in Group C, Donaghmore/Ashbourne finished on top of the pile with six points from their four outings and qualified for the last eight along with runners-up Carnaross who had five. St. Ultan’s had moved up to the preliminary quarter-final position on four points, ahead of St. Michael’s on three and Cortown on two.
A campaign that had started promisingly when they secured three points out of four in their opening two matches fizzled out rather tamely for St. Michael’s and they can only hope that 2008 brings something better. A clean bill of health on the injury front would help.
Carlanstown NS take Boys 2007 Division 4 spoils
Carlanstown proved too strong for Baconstown in this Boys Division 4 Cumann na mBunscol decider as they ran out 5-14 to 2-4 winners on a wet November’s day in Pairc Tailteann.
Joshua Devine opened the scoring with a point for Baconstown. But subsequently the Baconstown defence found the Carlanstown trio of Peter O’Connell, Oran Meehan and Ronan Lynch too difficult to handle, with Lynch scoring 2-3, Meehan 1-1 and Raymond Reilly also found the net for a good goal. Mark Slevin, Joshua Devine and Paul Kennedy pointed for Baconstown before the break to leave Carlanstown in front 4-4 to 0-4.
Baconstown did not relent in the second period but they simply had no answer to the Carlanstown trio who had 1-5 from Ronan Lynch, 0-1 from Oran Meehan and 0-3 from Peter O’Connell.
Joshua Devine and Oisín Dixon came back with two consolation goals for Baconstown but substitute Michael had the last say with a point for Carlanstown, leaving them deserving winners.
Best for Carlanstown; Lee Morris, Peter O’Connell, Oran Meehan, Ronan Lynch, and Jordan Moran. While Baconstown had good displays from Mark O’Sullivan, Paul Kennedy, Joshua Devine and Ben Caldwell.
Carlanstown – P. Maguire, Lee Morris, O. McKevitt, Christopher Drew, Jordan Moran, R. O’Brien, Peter O’Connell (Capt 0-3), Michelle Reilly, Luke Moran, Oran Meehan (1-2), Ray Reilly (1-0), Robert Sheridan, Ronan Lynch (3-8). Subs – M. Fitzsimons (0-1) for L. Moran, Cillian Greene for L. Morris, M. Downey for R. Reilly.
The main aim for any club which moves up a grade is to maintain that status for the following year. St Michael’s, Junior A champions in 2005, achieved that goal with considerable ease and had fortune been with them on occasion, the Carlanstown outfit could well have been involved in the business end of the intermediate championship.
Success in the junior championship last year came at a price for St Michael’s as they were relegated to Division 4 in the league. So priority number two was to regain their place in the third tier.
The league format saw 12 teams in Division 4 and all apart from the ’Mickeys’ were junior clubs, and although all will provided a stern test during the year, it was important for St Michael’s to be playing their league football amongst teams that are in the same grade in the championship.
The retirement of former Meath great Martin O’Connell brought an end to memorable era in the club’s history and it was fitting that the ’Millennium Man’ would end his career as a winner.
With such a young squad at their disposal, survival in the intermediate championship was of the utmost importance for the club as a return to the junior ranks could have been a major setback for them.
The campaign began with a tough match against one of the championship favourites, St Colmcilles. The East Meath side are an experienced side in the intermediate grade and considered potential championship winners on an annual basis.
This game would be a test of St Michaels resolve and one that their management team of Kit Henry and his selectors Christy Regan and Tommy Moriarty would learn a lot from.
Leading at half time, it looked as if the Carlanstown outfit would get their campaign off to the perfect start, however a second half lapse of concentration let Colmcille’s off the hook and they lost out by two points, leaving Henry and his selectors to wonder what might have been.
On a positive note, the fact that the black and reds could compete with one of the top sides in the grade was an encouraging sign, although it was to be a case of so near yet so far for the majority of the championship.
The draw for the group stages of the IFC did St Michael’s no favours at all as their second outing was against another of the top sides in the grade, Oldcastle, who were senior until four years ago.
St Michael’s were dealt a blow early on when influential midfielder John Barry O’Reilly was sent off in the first half. Nonetheless, the numerical disadvantage did nothing to dampen their spirits and they battled bravely, but once again fell short by two points at the final whistle.
Two defeats in as many matches could be detrimental to many teams, but St Michael’s have shown in the past that they have a strong resolve and they bounced right back against Slane.
From the outset this was a match that Henry’s charges had to win. Slane were also struggling for points and even though it was only the third round of the championship, it was evident that the losers of this clash would be sucked into a relegation battle.
As expected the match itself was a tense affair with both sides looking nervous from the start. St Michael’s ability to take their scores gave them the edge as the game entered the final quarter and so the first points of the year were picked up following a three point win.
This win eased the pressure somewhat, although there was still a mountain of work to be done in order to make sure survival in the intermediate grade was secured.
Rathkenny, who proved to be one of the surprise packets of the campaign were next on the list and the confidence that was gained following the win over Slane was evident as the Carlanstown outfit held a healthy four point lead at the interval.
However, as so often had been the case throughout the year, St Michael’s failed to hold on their lead and were pegged back by Rathkenny, who recorded an unlikely one-point win.
A frustrating result left the Carlanstown outfit needing to pick up at least another win from their three remaining matches against Ratoath, Syddan and Nobber.
The 2004 junior champions were first up as South Meath met North Meath. Both sides were in a similar situation and were desperate to pick up more points as they languished at the wrong end of the table.
In a close fought match, St Michaels showed their determination and grit once again to win by two points and this gave them a cushion going into the remaining matches, although other results need to go their way in order to ensure survival.
A three point defeat to Syddan was followed by arguably the club’s best performance of the year, although it did end in their heaviest defeat in the campaign.
Near neighbours Nobber were the opponents and on the day, Meath star Brian Farrell turned on the style. Henry’s charges kicked some outstanding points and normally 0-14 would be a good enough score to win a match, but the concession of three goals did not help their cause as they lost by 3-11 to 0-14.
With Slane and Ratoath finishing below them in the table, it was a case of job done for St Michael’s and they can look forward to the 2007 campaign with an air of optimism.
Back boned by such players as county star Dáithí Regan, John Barry O’Reilly, Ciaran Lynch, Peter Clinton and Johnny Reilly, the Kells border side could well make the breakthrough in the very near future and restore the club to their rightful place at senior level, where they sat proudly for many years.
Despite having a relatively small area to choose from, the club keep producing talented sides at all levels and this is down to the hard work of too many to mention.
The year was not just about championship survival and once that was secured, the side could concentrate on gaining promotion in the league back to Division Three.
With eleven games to play in the league campaign, matches started early in the year and were then fitted in between championship outings. As expected, St Michael’s topped the table from a very early stage and remained there right until the end.
After ten games, the red and blacks could not be caught having won eight games, drawn one and lost one to Meath Hill to leave them top of the table on seventeen points.
In second place was a St Mary’s side who were also promoted to Division three, but with a final at stake both sides were determined to finish the year with some silverware.
Played in ideal conditions in September, both sides produced an enthralling encounter and at the end of the sixty minutes, the teams could not be separated. St Michael’s cause was not helped by the second half dismissal of Ciaran Lynch, but the returned to the full compliment of 15 for extra time.
They then got off to the perfect start as Dáithí Regan scored his second goal of the match and St Mary’s seem to lose heart after this. The eventual winners superior fitness began to tell and they were worthy of their 2-11 to 1-10 victory.
So, all goals achieved for the club and with their standards set higher next year, no one can write off St Michael’s even if Martin O’Connell has retired!
Let’s stay together
Having won the 2005 JFC, St Michael’s did reasonably well to cement their intermediate status in ’06 (capturing the Division Four title into the bargain). As the Carlanstown men prepare another onslaught on the IFC, team stalwart Dáithí O’Reilly (Player of the Year in 2005) believes they are capable of making an impression in 2007, particularly if the current crop of players stick together.
After the high of the previous year, 2006 was an awkward year for the Mickeys. They were determined to make a mark in the intermediate championship but playing in Division Four was always going to work against them. The Red & Blacks had no difficulty booking an immediate return to the third tier but failed to progress to the business end of the IFC, winning only two of their group games.
However, crucially, those two victories were sufficient to safeguard St Michael’s intermediate status and outright Division Four success meant first-team silverware for a second successive season. Thus, the Carlanstown men can go into the new year with plenty of optimism.
Key defender Dáithí O’Reilly, who was outstanding as the ’05 JFC was culled, is certainly keeping the faith: “I would like to see us keep the current crop of players together. If we do that, then we can improve on the form we showed in 2006. If we have our full squad available, with no injuries, then we are a match for any team in the intermediate championship.”
St Michaels were hampered by injury throughout ’06. They opened their IFC campaign with successive defeats to St Colmcille’s and Oldcastle but bounced back with a victory over Slane. They led would-be champions Rathkenny by four points at half time in their next outing but ended up losing by the minimum. A vital win over Ratoath preceded defeats against Syddan and Nobber. Though they had failed to progress to the knockout stage, the Mickeys had done enough to stay up.
Meanwhile, in Division Four, they duly sealed the title with eight wins and one draw from their first ten outings, thereby regaining their place in Division Three. Dáithí notes: “At the start of the year our target was to qualify for the knockout stage of the intermediate championship and to get out of Division Four. We hadn’t placed enough emphasis on the league the previous year and that cost us our place in Division Three, so we had to put that right first of all.
“We were caught putting too much focus on the championship and I suppose the celebrations didn’t help either. It was a big setback getting relegated because Division Four football isn’t much help when you’re playing in the intermediate championship.
“We carried a couple of injuries to key players into the year and we weren’t really firing on all cylinders. We’d also had a long year in 2005 and that didn’t help either. Our season stretched into the middle of November when we played Grange in a Leinster club semi-final and maybe we weren’t as fresh as we might have been going into the new season.”
How did the players adapt to the new surroundings? Though Daithí himself had played both intermediate and senior football before, this was a whole new experience for some of the younger lads on the team… “We had been down junior for five years and we definitely felt the pace of intermediate football when we went back up. Personally, I think intermediate football got faster while we were down and it is also probably slightly more physical.
“But we weren’t out of our depth in any way. Apart from the Nobber match, any game we lost was only by a couple of points, so we’re not too far off the mark at all. If we get the injuries cleared up and approach it right, we can make an impression. Rathkenny only beat us by a point and we played badly on the night, so that shows that we were still there or thereabouts…”
Though the most important objective of intermediate survival was achieved, was it a big disappointment not to reach the business end of the IFC? “There’s a lot expected of us, both from within the club and from our supporters. We were expected to qualify and I’m sure we could have done it if we’d made a bigger effort. It’s a steep learning curve for the younger players, the bulk of whom had only ever played junior football, so the year up will do them no harm. We should also have a few more new players on the team next year as our minors have reached the championship final and some of those lads will be coming through as well.”
Dáithí isn’t a huge fan of some of the football being played in the county at present and would prefer to see a return to the catch-and-kick style that was more popular – and more exciting to watch – when the Royal County were at their peak. “I think clubs are trying to keep up with county teams and that’s not practical,” he says. “Club teams are trying to use the same tactics that county teams use and it just doesn’t work. You need intercounty levels of fitness to play that running/possession game and club players simply can’t adapt to it.
“It’s not pretty to look at either. I’d much prefer to see catch and kick – the kind of football that was played in Meath in the early ’90s. That was more effective and it was better to look at as well. Club football in the county is poor at the moment and I think we all need to look at ways of trying to improve it.”
The last time St Michael’s won the junior championship it took them seven years to complete the transition to senior. Dáithí is adamant that the process won’t take as long this time around: “We’re intending to keep all our players and to show a marked improvement in 2007. We’ll go out to try and win the Division Three league and we’ll also be aiming to make bigger strides in the intermediate championship. It took us seven years after winning the junior in 1982 to win the IFC in 1989 and we certainly won’t be leaving it as long this time! There’s no better time than the present to start pushing for senior.”
Dáithí O’Reilly has been on the St Michaels first team since 1994 (when he was 17). During that time he has collected two ’A’ league medals, two ’B’ leagues, a minor and a junior championship. He concludes: “It’s nice to win the leagues but when you win a championship you’d like to go out and win another one. That’s what we’re aspiring towards now.”
ST. MICHAELS LAND THE BIG PRIZE
Of all the triumphant scenes that followed county finals during 2005, one surely stands out more than any other. St. Michael’s had beaten Navan O’Mahonys to win the Junior Football Championship for the first time since 1982 and everybody appeared to want to congratulate one of the greatest Meath players of all time.
Martin O’Connell, a man who had won all that could be won at inter-county level, had captured his second JFC medal at the age of 42 and was carried towards the Pairc Tailteann stand by jubilant supporters with a smile on his face as broad as the main street in Carlanstown !
O’Connell had been there 23 years earlier when the Carlanstown/Kilbeg combination got the better of Seneschalstown to claim the junior title and at a time when the vast majority of players would have been content with a seat in the crowd watching the younger generation leading the club’s bid for glory, he was there in the thick of the action again.
In the near quarter of a century that separated those two championship successes O’Connell developed into one of the outstanding inter-county footballers of his era and was a key defensive figure in the All-Ireland successes of 1987, 88 and 96.
He is the only Meath man to play on three All-Ireland-winning teams and is the only man from the county to hold six Leinster SFC medals. Such was his impact in an inter-county career that spanned from his NFL debut against Cavan at Kingscourt in October, 1983 to 1997 that he was named on the Team of the Millennium – the only Meath player so honoured.
He won All-Star awards in 1988, 1990, 1991 and 1996 and was named Texaco Footballer of the Year in the latter year. During his lengthy stint on the Meath team he played in every position, including in goal for a spell at a ground-opening game against Clare in Kilbride.
It would take a book all of its own to catalogue Martin O’Connell’s numerous achievements, which also include an IFC win with St. Michaels when they defeated Dunderry in 1989, yet he has remained a wonderfully modest man and as popular a footballer as has ever been produced by the Royal County.
And despite all the glorious triumphs like Leinster and All-Ireland Championships, National Leagues, All-Star awards and various other accolades, that beaming smile on his face after this year’s Junior Championship success suggested that this triumph with his club meant just as much – if not more – to him.
Some members of the St. Michael’s team weren’t born when O’Connell helped the club to that 1982 success and what a wonderful honour and privilege it must have been for those youngsters to share a playing field with this greatest of footballers.
“At training Martin will do anything he is asked to do and he is fit to do it,” said St. Michael’s coach Dudley Farrell as he paid tribute to O’Connell. “He wanted to do everything this year. He has such a great competitive edge.
“He would always want to stay on after training to kick more ball. You would be telling him to go home. He came to me at training before the junior final and said he would play anywhere necessary to try and win it.
“I started him at full-forward, later moved him out to centre forward and switched him to midfield for the last 10 minutes. He caught three balls for us which was vital. Winning it meant so much to him.”
But, as O Connell himself would be quick to point out, the junior triumph was about a panel effort and it was a solid team performance that helped to get the better of Navan O’Mahony’s second string in the final on the first Sunday of October.
St. Michael’s were expected to be one of the front-runners in the battle for the Matthew Ginnity Cup and were drawn in group C, a section that also included another of the big fancies for the title, St. Ultan’s, Bective, Ballinabrackey, Drumbaragh, St. Vincent’s and the second string sides from Dunderry and Dunshaughlin.
But when the Carlanstown/Kilbeg team managed only draws in their opening two matches there were those who questioned whether they would, after all, manage to make the impact their undoubted talent suggested they would.
Bective held them to a draw (0-10 each) in the opening round back in April and when another share of the spoils followed against Ballinabrackey (St. Michael’s 0-11, Ballinabrackey 1-8) they had dropped two championship points which might well have impacted on their qualification prospects later in the summer.
Their first win came in the third round against St. Vincent’s (1-15 to 0-7) and, in the absence of ace attacker Dáithí Regan, who had sustained a serious back injury while playing for Meath in the Leinster Championship defeat to Dublin, they scored a runaway 22-point (4-14 to 0-4) win over Dunshaughlin.
The scores flowed again next time out when they beat Dunderry by 1-17 to 1-6 and that success left them unbeaten and on eight points from five outings as they awaited a crunch assignment against a St. Ultan’s side which was the fancy of many to achieve outright success.
A 2-7 to 0-7 victory really made people sit up and appreciate that St. Michaels were capable of going all the way and they completed their group campaign with a 0-15 to 0-13 win over a Drumbaragh team that was later to exit the title race in a quarter-final against Kilmainham.
St. Michael’s had achieved their first big goal and reached the quarter-finals where they came face to face with Dunsany, the beaten finalists in both 2002 and 2004, and another of the more fancied teams for the junior title.
Regan had worked hard to get himself back into action, covering many miles on his bicycle, and how glad his team-mates were to see him return for that meeting with Dunsany as he converted a difficult 40-metres free to earn them a draw at Walterstown.
Michael’s led by 0-8 to 1-3 at the interval, but Dunsany rocked them with two further goals after the change of ends to push seven points clear by the three-quarter stage. However, a John Farrell goal gave Michael’s a significant boost, as did the brilliance of young midfielder John Barry O’Reilly who set up attack after attack.
They were still two points behind with five minutes remaining, but Derek Flood slotted over a 45 and Regan had the last say with the equaliser. It finished St. Michael s 1-15, Dunsany 3-9 and the Carlanstown/Kilbeg combination were relieved to get a second chance.
They made the most of it, winning the replay by 0-15 to 0-12 at the same venue. O’Reilly was again magnificent as they built up a slender 0-6 to 0-5 interval advantage and, while Dunsany managed to stay in touch, Michael’s finished with a flourish to book their semi-final ticket.
Kilmainham had done well to reach the last four, but they were rocked by three St. Michael’s goals in the first 11 minutes at Kells – from Regan and Johnny Reilly (two) – which effectively ended the game as a contest. The lead stood at 3-2 to 1-0 at the break and there was no way back for Kilmainham who went under by 1-6 to 3-7. Unfortunately for the experienced Tom Halpin he was to miss the final after being sent off in the first half.
A superb first half display against the wind made all the difference for Michael’s in a highly entertaining final against O’Mahonys. John Barry O’Reilly and John Farrell went through plenty of impressive work at midfield, Regan was highly influential and the ageless O’Connell was a huge help to the cause, especially when the going got tough in the second half.
Regan and Farrell got the Michael’s goals as they opened up a 2-8 to 1-5 interval advantage and the lead stretched to 2-10 to 1-5 within eight minutes of the restart after Ciaran Lynch and Regan had pointed.
Michael’s looked home and hosed, but they endured a 13-minute spell without a score as O’Mahonys, to their credit, battled away and gradually began to erode the eight-point deficit, bringing it back to three. But Regan got a crucial point which effectively secured the title and O’Mahonys were unable to get the goal they so badly needed. Michael’s were three points (2-11 to 1-11) to the good at the end.
It was a proud moment for St. Michaels captain Sean Gaffney when he received the Matthew Ginnity Cup and the big aim for the team now will be to bring senior football back to the club.
“In a lot of games three or four will play well, but in a championship final you need 10 or 12 playing well,” reflected coach Farrell. “They upped their game for the final and played very well. They really enjoyed winning it.”
And how are St. Michael s looking forward to their first year back in the Intermediate Championship?
“There will be 10 or 11 teams from north Meath in it,” Farrell added. “It will be very competitive. You would hope they wouldn’t be inclined to settle for winning the JFC. We have a lot of young lads. Seven of them are on the under-21 team.
“The Junior Championship is won, it’s history and it s time to move on from there.”
The St. Michaels team in the final was: G. Owens; M. Rogers, James Farrell, D. Reilly; S. Gaffney, D. Flood, P. Clinton; JB O’Reilly (0-1), John Farrell (1-0); J. Reilly, M. O’Connell, P. O’Reilly (0-1); B. Farrell (0-1), D. Regan (1-5), C. Lynch (0-2). Subs – B. Ryan for J. Reilly, M. O’Kane for P. O Reilly, B. O’Brien for Gaffney.
A STEP AWAY FROM THE FINAL
St. Michaels can look back on 2004 with a great deal of satisfaction, despite missing out on Junior ’A’ Football Championship honours, Ollie Cassidy reviewed the year.
Every self-respecting club in the county looks forward at the beginning of the year to winning their respective championship. Progressive north Meath side, St. Michael’s had similar aspirations.
Unlike many clubs in the Junior ’A’ grade St. Michael’s hopes of winning the championship weren’t without foundation. In 2003 the lost out in a quarter-final to eventual winners and north rivals Wolfe Tones, who went on to win the All-Ireland Junior Club Championship.
“We were hopeful we would make it to at least the final. We lost out last year to Wolfe Tones in the quarter-final so we felt we had a good chance of going all the way this year,” Ollie who coached the club’s Under 16 team commented.
But St. Michael’s 2004 Junior ’A’ Championship challenge came to a disappointing conclusion when south Meath outfit Ratoath beat them in the semi-final at Walterstown on Sunday September 12.
St. Michael’s chances of making the junior decider were dealt two hammer blows in the space of 10 minutes in the first half. “Last year against Wolfe Tones we were missing two of our best forwards in Daithi Regan and James Lynch. Both players had to come off injured in this years’ semi-final.”
“We were all over them for first 20 minutes, playing against a gale force wind. Then we lost James with ankle ligament damage and Daithí with a hamstring injury. Daithí had the injury going into the game so we knew he knew we were taking a chance playing him,” he added.
To compound their problems the north Meath outfit were forced to field without highly rated midfielder / attacker John Barry O’Reilly because of a neck injury. “John Barry also missed the game with a serious neck injury. He could be out for quite some time, but we are looking forward to him playing for us again next year,” he noted.
Regan hobbled back into action with five minutes left on the clock, but was unable to turn the Ratoath tide, which saw them running out winners by the only goal of the game (1-8 to 0-8).
It was a heartbreaking end to a campaign that had started so brightly. “We fancied our chances of coming out of the group and that is the way it panned out. We topped the group even though we lost to Dunboyne and drew with Moylagh,” he recalled.
They got off to a winning start when they disposed of Kilmainham at Drumbaragh in Round 1. However they didn’t have it all their own way and it took a sparkling display from Daithí Regan, who notched nine points, and strong performances John and Andrew Rogers, Sean Gaffney and, John Farrell and Tommy Moriarty to see them across the finishing line.
“First round games are always very hard to win no matter who the opposition or their form from the previous year. Everybody is looking to get off to a winning start and Kilmainham were no different. If you lose the first game, you are on the back foot straight away. Generally first round games are very tight,” he recalled.
“We managed to beaten them by four points (1-12 to 2-5). Daithí scored nine points on the day and Andrew Rogers scored a goal and a point. Andrew’s goal lefts the sides level at the break (1-5 to 1-2). We upped our performance in the second half and pulled away from them,” he added.
Having opened their campaign with a win, St. Michaels entered their second game against Dunboyne brimful of confidence. “They never got going that day at all. Perhaps they were over confident. There was only a point in it at half time (0-5 to 0-6) but Dunboyne really piled on the pressure in the second half and deserved their victory,” Ollie elaborated.
St. Michaels and Moylagh finished level (0-10 to 1-7) when the sides met in Round 3 at Carnaross. At the interval it looked odds-on that the Carlanstown based outfit would prevail when they led (0-7 to 0-4). However, 14-man Moylagh launched a spirited recovery after the break and deserved a point.
It took a superb second half display to ensure that St. Michaels gathered full points in their next group match against St. Vincent’s, having trailed at the break (0-3 to 0-7). “St. Vincent’s were leading were leading until 15 minutes into the second half. We up the tempo and ran out winners by two points (1-10 to 0-11), he noted.
In Round 5 St. Michaels were pitted against old foes Meath Hill in Nobber. “That was a game we had to win. Meath Hill were unbeaten going into that game. It was one of our better performances of the year.”
St. Michael’s had two points to spare over their North Meath rivals (0-9 to 0-7). Kevin Lynch, Daithí Regan, and Peter Clinton were to the fore in a hard-fought victory which them on to seven points from five outings.
Meath and St. Michaels legend Martin O’Connell made a brief appearance in Round 6 when they scored their most comfortable victory of the campaign in routing St. Mary’s at Rathkenny.
St. Michaels led 0-9 to 0-0 at the break. While they took the foot of the gas in the second half they still cruised to a comprehensive 0-13 to 0-3 victory. Brendan Ryan, Sean Gaffney, Derek Flood, John Farrell, James Lynch, Felim O’Reilly and Daithi Regan all impressed on the day.
“We always had trouble beating St. Mary’s so it was a very satisfying victory. I would rate that as our best performance of the year. They were still in with a chance of qualification, they were up for this game,” he revealed.
St. Michaels cruised into the last eight of the Junior ’A’ Championship when they scored an emphatic victory over hapless Summerhill at Martry in their last group game.
Michael Rogers, Peter Clinton, John Farrell, James Lynch, Andrew Rogers and Ben Farrell excelled in this 2-14 to 0-3 romp, which did little to prepare St. Michael’s for the sterner tests that were yet to come.
“In fairness to Summerhill they had a lot of young lads out on the day. That game was a learning process for them and I am sure they will improve in the future,” Ollie graciously admitted.
Scores were at a premium in St. Michael’s quarter-final victory over Skryne at Rathkenny. Having played against a stiff breeze the north Meath men managed to go in level 2-0 to 1-3 at the break. James Lynch and Daithi Regan bagging the all-important first half scores.
Martin O’Connell was sprung from the bench in the second half in place of Andrew Rogers. It was an inspired substitution, which yield two late points to ensure victory. “He stuck by us in the past when the club was in the doldrums. He stuck with us through thick and thin. He came off the bench that day to win the game for us. He is a brilliant clubman and deserves great praise,” Ollie enthused.
The lion-heart St. Michael’s man made another substitute appearance in the semi-final against Ratoath when he replaced the injured James Lynch. But not even the mighty man’s inspirational presence could swing the outcome favour of St. Michaels.
The injury to Lynch, quickly followed by the retirement of Daithí Regan robbed the management team of Dudley Farrell, Christy Regan, Paul Curran and Tom Halpin of two of their potent threats in front of goal.
The Lynch injury also denied Farrell the chance of springing O’Connell as an impact substitute in the second half. It was a day when the Gods conspired against the North Meath men. But there time will come pretty soon, according to Ollie.
“This is a very young team. They won an under 21 league a couple of years ago and I am sure they have the ability to with the Junior ’A’ Championship. There is a good blend of youth and experience. You have the likes of Daithí O’Reilly and Daithí Regan who are the experienced members of the team. Then there is plenty of young talent like James Farrell, Sean Gaffney, Felim and John Barry O’Reilly.”
He continued: “Andrew Rogers is another up and coming young footballer. He is one of the most promising forwards in the club. So there is a great stream of talent coming through the ranks. I believe they have to make the breakthrough in the next year or so.”
He concluded: “Dudley and his selectors did a great job this year and can count themselves very unlucky that they didn’t make to the final at least. Next year could be their year.”
St. Michaels desperately want to move back up the football ladder, but their hopes of doing so in 2003 were dashed at the quarter-final stage in the Junior Championship when a highly talented Wolfe Tones side beat them by six points at Kells.
The absence of county player Daithí Regan was sorely felt against a team of Tones’ quality, even though they were without one of their key figures in ace attacker Alan Fox, and with Aidan McKeever helping himself to 2-3 the Kilberry outfit deservedly triumphed on a 2-10 to 1-7 score line.
Michaels, who were managed by Dan Breen from Kilmainhamwood, conceded two first-half goals, but they were still well in the hunt at the interval when they trailed by only three points (0-5 to 2-2). And when Andrew Rogers netted after the change of ends hopes of a successful recovery grew. But Tones had learned from previous campaigns. They never panicked as their position of supremacy was threatened and scored points with regularity to claim a semi-final ticket against Dunsany.
It was a disappointing end to the campaign for the Carlanstown Kilbeg side who were surely left to wonder just what might have been had the injured Regan been available for the entire campaign.
The superbly talented forward had shown that he could mix it with the best on the inter-county scene, but he suffered a broken wrist towards the end of the first-half of Meath’s All-Ireland Championship qualifier victory over Colm Coyle’s Monaghan at Clones in late June and what a huge loss he proved to be for both club and county.
Regan demonstrated his undoubted value to St. Michaels when they started their Junior Championship group campaign against Bective at Kells in mid-April. He scored an impressive eight points over the hour and with Daithí O’Reilly and John Farrell supplying the goals in the second half, Michaels opened on a winning note, scoring by 2-12 to 2-6.
The winning start was maintained when St. Marys were beaten by 1-9 to 1-6 in the second round at Rathkenny. Martin Gildea’s early goal helped Michael’s to a 1-5 to 1-2 half-time lead and with Regan again in brilliant form and scoring seven points overall another victory was achieved.
Regan emphasized his enormous importance to Meath’s cause ahead of their Leinster Championship meeting with Westmeath when he scored no fewer than 11 points in his club’s third round victory over Meath Hill at Castletown. Michael’s won comfortably by 0-14 to 1-5 and were certainly looking good for a place in the knock-out stages after taking maximum points from their first three championship outings.
However, Navan O’Mahonys’ second string, which went on to reach the semi-finals, brought the winning run to a halt in the fourth round at Castletown, winning by 2-5 to 1-5 as the loss of Regan was sorely felt. Even in the absence of the outstanding attacker, Michael’s managed to lead narrowly by 1-3 to 1-1 at the break after John Farrell had notched the goal, but O’Mahonys did enough in the second period to edge through.
Michael’s concluding group match was against St. Paul’s from Clonee and it resulted in a 0-13 to 1-6 victory on a day when that great veteran Martin O’Connell demonstrated that there’s plenty of football left in him yet as he scored seven points. St. Paul’s came battling back with commendable spirit after Michael’s had moved into a reasonably comfortable 0-8 to 0-3 half-time advantage, but with O’Connell playing extremely well and hitting the target with regularity, he guided his side to a three-point victory.
With the group stages out of the way it all meant that St. Michaels had finished joint top of the pile with O’Mahonys on eight points as both sides had won four of their matches and lost just one.
When you reach the knock-out stages of a championship in any grade you want to be in a position to have all your best players on the field. St. Michaels had the vast experience and talent of one of the county’s most outstanding players of all time in O’Connell, but crucially, Regan was still absent for the quarter-final meeting with Tones and that was a burden which was simply too great for Breen’s side to handle as they exited the championship race.
In the All-County A League Div. 3, St. Michaels finished just out of contention after completing their campaign on 13 points from 11 outings. They won six of their matches, drew one and lost the remaining four.
St. Michael’s committee member Amby Cassidy, who is also very much involved with the underage setup in the club, described the championship loss to Wolfe Tones as “a big disappointment” as they were left to wonder just what might have been had Regan been on the field, providing them with that scoring potential.
“Daithi was a really huge loss to us,” he said. “He’s such a highly talented footballer. A small club like ours can’t afford to be without its worst player, never mind its best. Daithí is so important to us.”
Martin O’Connell has been important to St. Michaels for many a long year and has seen it all during a wonderful career. He continued to be vitally important in 2003, even helping the club to a tournament success after their championship hopes had been dashed.
“Martin is still going strong,” Amby added. “He helped us to win the Meath Hill Tournament at the end of August when we beat intermediate club Drumconrath in the final. Martin played very well at full-back on that occasion.
“Winning that tournament meant a lot because it provided a big boost for us, especially coming so soon after the championship quarter-final defeat against the Tones. It certainly provided a lift.”
The big hope for St. Michael’s will be that they can make a serious assault on the Junior Championship over the next couple of years and start to make their way back up that ladder.
“Next year, with Dáithí back again and hopefully a full-strength team, we would have to be thinking in terms of reaching the knock-out stages of the championship and taking it from there,” Amby said. “We would have to be hopeful for the future because we have some very talented young players coming along.”
Among the leading prospects as the club looks ahead and hopes for a return to the good days at adult level are Brendan Ryan, Derek Flood, Peter Clinton and John Barry O’Reilly, who is a nephew of none other than Colm O’Rourke.
The St. Michaels second string also reached the quarter-finals of the Junior C Championship, but just like the first team they experienced disappointment in their quest for a place in the last four when they were edged out by Duleek on a 0-8 to 0-9 score line.
It was a heart-breaking defeat for the Carlanstown Kilbeg combination as Duleek snatched a dramatic last gasp victory with a late point from highly talented 16-year-old Chris Carney.
It was a disappointing way to exit the championship, but it was a big achievement for the club to have its second team reach the last eight and the fine showing in the B League Div. 3 was also highly commendable.
St. Michaels have their sights set very much on the future and are working hard to promote the game in the under-age ranks and that was reflected in the fact that they reached two finals at under-14 level, losing to Castletown in both.
“We reached two under-14 finals, the League Division 4 and Championship Division 3, but we were beaten by Castletown in both of them,” Amby Cassidy recalled. “It was a big achievement for a club with such a small pick and getting to those two finals has to give us hope for the future.
“There were some very talented young players in that team, including Philip Rogers who was on the Meath under-14 panel and who I describe as ’the next Mick Lyons’. He is a very strong player and very talented. Robert Briody and Mark Stafford are others who showed up very well and, overall, we would have to be optimistic as we look ahead.
“Our under-10s also had a very good year and won our own blitz, as well as the North-West blitz.”
Junior Championship success may have eluded St. Michael’s in 2003, but they will head into next year’s championship full of hope and have every reason to look to the future with renewed optimism.
St. Michaels turned in a superb display to claim the B League Div. 3 title with a 0-13 to 1-4 final victory over Duleek at Rathkenny.
The Carlanstown Kilbeg outfit were always in control and led by 0-5 to 0-2 at the interval as David O’Connell and Ben Farrell were in outstanding scoring form.
Duleek hit back with a goal after the change of ends, but Michael’s were able to hit the target with sufficient regularity to ensure victory and were six points to the good at the finish.
John Barry O’Reilly, Derek Flood and Farrell were in exceptional form for Michaels who fully deserved their triumph.
Farrell finished top scorer with four points, closely followed by O’Connell and O’Reilly with three each.
St. Michaels – Kenneth Regan, John Rogers, Kevin Lynch, John Farrell, Michael Rogers, John Flood, Derek Flood (0-2), J.B. O’Reilly (0-3), John Sheridan; Daithi Reilly (0-1), Bernard O’Brien, Andrew Rogers, Ben Farrell (0-4), David O’Connell (0-3), Johnny Reilly. Subs – Ronan Farrell for J. Reilly, Brendan Ryan for J. Flood, Shane O’Connell for B. Farrell, Paul Dowdall for M. Rogers.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER !
Free-scoring St. Michael’s attacker Daithí Regan was drafted onto the Meath Senior panel for the first time in 2002, making numerous appearances in the National League. Here he reviews his debut season with the ’Royals’ and runs the rule over St. Michael’s mixed fortunes in the Junior Championship.
Daithí Regan is a late arrival to the senior inter-county scene. Having represented Meath from under 14 right through to under 21 many supporters felt the St Michael’s sharpshooter had the ability to take the step up in class and progress onto the senior panel. However, the call never came.
Daithí never gave up the hope of representing Meath at senior level, although he admits he thought the chance had gone. When the opportunity finally came, he grabbed it with both hands. “I was very surprised when I got the call-up. Obviously I was delighted because I thought my chance had gone,” he recalls.
The 25-year-old continued: “I was playing senior football for St. Michael’s when I was 15. I have been a scoring forward on every team I have played so I was confident I could continue to do that with the Meath team.”
Daithí made noteworthy contributions in the League against Waterford, Wexford, Monaghan and Carlow and although he didn’t make an appearance in the Leinster Championship or the All-Ireland qualifiers he is hoping to nail down a regular place in 2003.
“I don’t know if I’ll be on the panel but I am very hungry to get back in there and give it another go. I want to train hard and hopefully I will be able to establish my place on the team,” he explains.
The step-up from club to inter-county training came as a shock to the system to the St. Michael’s man. “I have the height of respect for the lads that have been on the panel for the last five or six years. The training is very hard and very tiring. It is three nights a week plus a game at the weekend. But you have to give it that type of commitment if you want to win anything.”
Meath’s defeat to Donegal in the All-Ireland qualifiers sent shock waves throughout the country and many pundits were quick to pen Meath’s obituary. Daithí revealed that the Donegal defeat really rankled in the Royals’ dressing room. “That defeat really hurt us. We felt a few decisions didn’t go our way on the day. Donegal should have put Dublin away the first day and Dublin were unlucky to go under to Armagh.”
He continued: “I don’t think there is an awful lot between four or five teams and it is too soon to be writing off this Meath team.”
Graham Geraghty’s retirement from the inter-county scene will deal Meath’s 2003 prospects a serious blow, but Daithi is hoping the Seneschalstown sensation will have a change of heart. “We are all hoping that Graham will reconsider his decision. We are hoping that the break will do him good and that he will come back again next year fighting fit and raring to go.”
On the club scene Daithi was disappointed that St. Michaels didn’t progress from their group in the Junior Championship. “We have a very young team, but we felt we could go all the way this year, so when we didn’t get out of the group it was disappointing. Nevertheless it was a good experience for the younger lads (Daithí is now a veteran of the team at 25) and we can build on that next year.”
Pitted in the same group as Bellewstown, Moynalty, Moylagh, Wolfe Tones and Bective, the north Meath outfit were quietly confident of making the knock-out stages. “We felt we had the beating of Bellewstown, Moynalty and Bective and it turned out that way,” Daithí explained.
They got their campaign off to a great start beating Bellewstown 1-12 to 1-6 in Round One and Moynalty 2-10 to 0-10 in Round Two. “I felt we didn’t play particularly well in either of those games. However, a win is a win. The Moynalty victory was very sweet because it was a derby match. We were all up for that one because they relegated us two years ago.”
The single point defeat to Moylagh 1-9 to 0-11 in Round Three still sticks in Daithí’s throat. “We conceded a goal and a point in the last 10 minutes. We just couldn’t get the ball by the middle of the field to get the equaliser,” he recalled.
The meeting of St. Michael’s and Wolfe Tones in Round Four now took on a new significance following the Moylagh defeat. “We knew that a defeat would put us out of the Championship. It was my worst performance of the year. We played them in Drumbaragh on a Tuesday night. Meath beat Louth in Navan on the previous Saturday night and we had been training extremely hard before the Louth match. I just didn’t feel right on the night,” Daithí admitted.
That defeat meant that their final fixture against Bective had no bearing on the group and that Wolfe Tones and Moylagh would progress to the knock-out stages. For the record St. Michael’s scored a predicted victory.
While St. Michael’s failed to make the knock-out stages, Daithí believes the club made progress this year. “There are an awful lot of young lads on the team like John Farrell, Daithí Reilly, John Barry O’Reilly, Derek Flood, Christopher Flood, James Farrell and Eddie Carroll. They are only 17 or 18 and will have learned a lot.”
He continued: “Those lads only came on the scene last year (when they were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Meath Hill) and you can see the improvement in them this year. It takes a couple of years to make the step-up from underage level.”
Looking to the future, Daithi is confident that the team can build on its experiences over the past two years and win a Junior Championship in the near future. “We have to be looking to win the Junior Championship in the next few years. Hopefully we can win it next year. We have a lot of young talent coming through. Martin O’Connell has been retiring for the past four or five years. Hopefully he’ll stay around for another year or two to help us win it,” he concluded.
OUT ON A HIGH
In the times that are in it, clubs often find it difficult to secure some continuity as far as the top table is concerned. In most GAA clubs, it’s a case of musical chairs from one AGM to another. At the St. Michael’s club, however, they’ve had the same chairman for the last 13 years. Gabriel Curtis take a bow.
In an ever-changing world, it’s gratifying to see that, in the world of Gaelic games at least, some things remain unaltered. Like the number of club stalwarts that are on the scene, seemingly permanently residing at the coalface.
Gabriel Curtis is the outgoing chairman of St. Michael’s GAA club. Because of the club’s recently agreed rule whereby no person can hold office for more than three consecutive years, the bold Gabriel is stepping down in 2001. After being in the hot seat since 1989, it’ll take quite a bit of getting used to operating in the back-benches.
However, the man himself is happy to step down in the knowledge that the club will be in good hands and at a time when everything pertaining to the ’Michaels is positive and progressive.
“It’s nice to be signing off in the knowledge that the house is in good order and that there are good people on board who are ready and able to see that the club continues to move forward.”
Still on the way to the Elysian Fields, the gaels of Kilbeg parish are experiencing their share of teething problems. For instance, relegation from the intermediate ranks to junior grade in 2000 wasn’t exactly what the doctor ordered.
And then losing their place in division two in 2001 compounded the club’s travails. It all points up for the need for some soul-searching, one suspects at St. Michael’s. A lot of pundits, in fact, would have expected the Saints to have bounced back into intermediate ranks straight away.
“There’s no doubt but that our Junior A side had a very disappointing year. Relegation in the league was something we didn’t think was on the cards while most people at the club and elsewhere would have expected the team to have at least reached the semi-finals of the championship this year.
“I personally felt at the start of the year that the team was good enough to go the whole way but maybe the lads went into the quarter-final against Meath Hill just a bit too complacent.
“We had been made aware that Meath Hill hadn’t really been impressive in their previous championship games, that things hadn’t been going so well for them prior to meeting us.
“We respected them alright but on the day I think we weren’t as hungry as we should have been and we ultimately paid the price for that. We wished Meath Hill the best of luck afterwards but still felt it should have been us going into the semi-finals.
“I was very optimistic at the start of the year that things would work out well for us because our coach Jim Clifford was getting a good response from the players and he was bringing a fresh, novel approach to the team’s preparations.”
St. Michael’s untimely exit from the Junior A championship was ironic because 2001 marked the first time that both the club’s adult teams had been progressing in tandem in their respective championship campaigns. Unfortunately, the Saints’ Junior C team also lost out in the quarter-finals, in their case to St. Ultan’s.
Sadly, sorry disappointments for St. Michaels weren’t confined to adult fare and Gabriel regrets the fact that the club’s under 12 squad lost out in the Division three north decider to Oldcastle.
“It’s a measure of the kind of work that is being done by those over the juveniles in the club that we’re even reaching underage finals,” Gabriel reminds us.
Indeed, the club can boast one of the best young crop of footballers in the county right now in the shape of their all-conquering minor squad.
Formerly the kingpins at under 16 level, St. Michaels talented band of teenagers romped to the 2001 Minor Football League Division Three title after securing a convincing 5-10 to 0-7 win over Walterstown in the final.
“Our win in the minor league was definitely the highlight of the year for the club, particularly because not too many people would have anticipated the win.
“Even though St. Michael’s had beaten them by three points earlier in the league in the run-up to the final, everyone thought the final itself was going to be a closely contested affair. Certainly an 18 point win was largely unthinkable,” the Rathkenny born ’Michael’s clubman explains.
So were St. Michael’s really 18 points a better team on the day?
“I don’t think the winning margin flatters the lads at all. They never stopped running and harrying all day and some of their scores were straight out of the top drawer.
“The fact that all bar one point of our tally was scored from play must be some sort of a record. In any event, it reflected the sort of talent that’s within this minor panel.
“Walterstown were never allowed to get into their stride in the final. Our lads just didn’t let them settle, our backs in particular were fantastic. Overall though, it was a great team performance.”
Fulsome in his praise of all those involved in the underage at the club. Men like Jimmy Farrelly (underage chairman), Jim O’Reilly, Sean Gaffney, Ronan Curran, Patsy Dowdall and coach Graham Cooke come in for special praise from the outgoing chairman in that respect.
Gabriel genuinely believes that the current crop of under 18 footballers at the club offer the promise of more honours to come. Their emergence, he says, is the fruits of many years labour by a lot of people at underage level at St. Michaels.
“I know that those people who have been working so hard at underage level at the club will be the first to tell you that the club needs to continue to work hard and be patient and the talent will eventually come through to do us proud at adult level.
“We haven’t got any greater pick than any other clubs in Meath but to see upwards of 40 lads training at junior level is something to be proud about and if we can manage to motivate the lads even more and get them to believe in themselves that bit more, we can look forward with some optimism in the coming years,” the 46-year old former county minor defender insists. Not surprisingly Gabriel still enjoys togging out.
It comes as no surprise to learn that Gabriel fingers former Meath star Martin O’Connell as a tailor-made role model for all the aspiring footballers at St. Michael’s.
“Martin is a busy man, running his own business but he has always time for the club and his dedication and commitment to St. Michael’s is something to behold and something which other players could do well to imitate.
“It would be great if the young, up-and-coming players at the club adopted Martin’s attitude to football. Then again the rest of us at the club are busy trying to match the work rate and attitude of Martin’s father Paddy. If ever a man deserved his Sean Gael award, it was Paddy.”
Reflecting on his 13 year stint in the hot seat, Gabriel formerly chairman of his native Rathkenny club ( he is also an uncle of All-Ireland star Donal ) and a member of the red and black outfit which won the Junior Championship in 1984 , is quick to inform us that he thoroughly enjoyed his time as chairman.
“I enjoyed my stint and would like to express my appreciation to the various sponsors who were generous to the club over the years. Successes on the field may have been pretty rare but the rate of development achieved by the club in the expansion of their facilities proved a fair consolation.
An extension to their clubhouse over the course of four years complemented the club’s dressing-rooms, showers, toilets, referee’s room and function room (used in recent months to host a presentation to the club’s departing President Fr. John Byrne) facilities.
“Everything off the field is geared for success and I feel that we have enough good players to make a concerted effort to achieve honours at junior level in the coming seasons. We’re not that far away from winning a title and I believe we will crack it if the players decide to give it their best shot.”
U-16’s POINT DIRECTION TO BRIGHT FUTURE
31 December 2000
It was not all doom and gloom in St Michaels during 2000. Okay, so junior football in 2001 may not appeal to a club with such a proud tradition but the performances of their U16s in capturing the Division 4 crown suggests that more adult success may be just around the corner. Royal County talks to Juvenile chairman Jimmy Farrelly who was also a selector with the victorious team.
The officials, players and supporters of St Michaels won’t recall the year 2000 with much fondness in the years to come. The club’s adult players endured a disappointing year which concluded with relegation to the junior grade. In contrast, the club’s U16s could do no wrong as they annexed the Division 4 title at the expense of north Meath neighbours Kilmainhamwood.
The Castletown scoreboard read 1-12 to 0-11 at the end of an absorbing encounter.
Former St Michaels player, Jimmy Farrelly, who’s also the chairman of the club’s juvenile section, was a selector with the victorious team along with Patsy Dowdall, Michael Flood and Jim O’Reilly and, needless to say, was delighted with the team’s performances throughout the year.
“We were unbeaten throughout the course of the competition,” he revealed. “We knew we had some very talented footballers in the club at U16 level but our job was to make sure that we got the right blend and that the team played together as a unit. Thankfully, everything worked out as we had hoped it would.”
St Michaels qualified for the final against Kilmainhamwood thanks to a semi-final victory over Moynalvey and the Carlanstown/Kilbeg outfit had four points to spare over their north Meath opponents at the end of an exciting sixty minutes at Castletown.
Jimmy and his fellow selectors couldn’t have asked for a better start as their charges raced into a 1-5 to 0-0 lead, the goal arriving courtesy of Andrew Rogers ten minutes into the game. But, Kilmainhamwood, to their credit, fought back, and the half-time score read 1-5 to 0-4.
Michael’s resumed with points from Rogers and Peter Clinton while their opponents replied with a point before John Barry O’Reilly and Ben Farrell extended their team’s advantage.
There was some nervy moments near the end, however, for supporters of St Michaels as Kilmainhamwood rattled off six points on the trot to reduce the deficit to the minimum.
But points from Farrell (two) and O’Reilly steadied the boat and the Michael’s held on to secure a thoroughly deserved success.
Brendan Ryan, Derek Flood, O’Reilly, Clinton, Rogers and Farrell were the winner’s most impressive performers on the day.
“Like all local derbies it was a very tough game,” recalled Jimmy. “We were lucky in that we got a great start and Kilmainhamwood were playing catch-up for the rest of the game.
“They came at us very strongly in the second half though and it was a very tense and exciting finish. Whenever they got a score though we always looked capable of going back up the field and extending the lead. Thankfully, we finished the stronger.”
Jimmy continued: “There was a great turn-out at the final and Castletown had the pitch well prepared. Both sets of players provided their supporters with something to cheer about and it was a very good game of football.”
The St Michael’s U-12s narrowly missed out on similar success when losing their championship decider to Drumconrath/Meath Hill by the narrowest of margins. Ambrose, Oliver and Pete’s Cassidy and Bernard Lynch were all involved with that team.
Jimmy reveals that we’re bound to hear more about a number of these players.
The U-12’s and the U-16’s were the highlights of another disappointing year for the Carlanstown club. As recently as 1998, St Michaels were performing in the top flight of Royal County football but things haven’t gone right for them since and the junior grade now beckons since they suffered relegation from Intermediate this year.
It is for this reason, according to Jimmy, that a juvenile section was established within the club for the first time at the beginning of 2000. Incidentally, Ronan Curran is the fledgling committee’s secretary.
“It was decided at the start of the year that an extraordinary effort has to be invested into the underage within the club and it was for this reason that an underage committee was set up. We want to try and put a structure in place which will ensure we get the best out of all our young players.
“Getting relegated from Intermediate was a major disappointment for the club but, in one sense, it may not do any harm in the long run. I say that because when you’re losing consistently people tend to get fed up and disinterested.
“The junior championship won’t be easily won, no championship in Meath is easily won, but if we can string a few wins together people may get interested in the club again and that can only be good for the future.”
The junior and intermediate championship medalist adds that no finger of blame for the Michaels slide down the rankings can be pointed in the direction of the club’s executive committee.
“The boys at the top table are doing tremendous work. The majority of them have been there for a long time now but they still retain a great interest in the club.”
Luckily for St Michaels, there’s no sign of Jimmy Farrelly’s interest waning either.
The St Michaels U-16 team which was on final duty was as follows: J. Carpenter; Ben Carolan, Brendan Ryan, Paul Dowdall, Derek Flood, Anthony Lynch, J.B. O’Reilly (0-3), Peter Clinton (0-2), J Carolan, Andrew Rogers (1-1), Martin Flanagan, Ben Farrell (0-6), Christopher Monaghan.
Sub – Shane Prunty.
TOM PUTS HIS THUMB ON IT
St. Michaels return to the Intermediate grade this year didn’t have the happy ending that supporters of the Carlanstown club had hoped for. Shane O’Brien caught up with long serving defender Tom Halpin who offered his opinions as to why St. Michaels failed to make the knockout stages of the championship.
Taking Martin O’Connell out of the equation, Tom Halpin is St. Michaels’ most decorated footballer. The 29 year old is the holder of three Leinster U21 souvenirs, 1989-’91, and has also donned the green and gold jersey at minor and senior level (he played in the National League). In 1989 he received the Meath ’Young Player of the Year’ award.
That was a particularly memorable twelve months as St. Michael’s also captured the Intermediate championship at Dunderry’s expense.
“1989 was a great year as Meath also won their first Leinster U21 title in quite a long time.” he recalls. “The Intermediate was the big one, hopefully it won’t be too long before we’re celebrating another championship success again.”
St. Michael’s first year back in the Intermediate grade was a disappointing one. There were high hopes that, at the very least, they’d qualify for the knockout stages but defeats at the hands of Ballivor, Castletown, Syddan and St. Ultans put pay to their championship prospects. Tom says a combination of emigration and injuries conspired against them.
“We have a very small pool of players to pick from and we suffered badly with emigration and injuries, I don’t think there was a game this year in which we fielded our best fifteen. I know other clubs encounter the same problems but we’ve got such a small panel that we’re in big trouble when we lose two or three.
“In the last few years we’ve lost players like Nigel Regan – a former Meath minor and U21 – and Tom Moriarty to emigration. Players like that are not easily replaced in a small rural club like ours.
“A lot of hard work was put in on the training field at the start of the year, we won our first four games in the League and first two in the championship but things just went wrong for us after that.”
St. Michaels’ request to be regraded to Intermediate was granted by the Co. Board last year. The team’s full back believes the club were left with little option.
“Dropping down from the Senior grade was a difficult decision for the club to make but it had been on the cards for a few years up to that,” the affable Halpin revealed. “We hadn’t won a senior game for quite a while and were really struggling. There are a number of good young players coming up from the underage teams but it was felt that they needed another year or so.
“Hopefully, the Intermediate championship will prove to be a good starting ground for them. One thing I noticed this year is that it’s a very tough, physical competition, a lot similar to the senior in that respect. It’s not an easily won competition, as we found out in the eighties, so a lot of work and effort has to be put in if we’re to get back up senior.”
Results at juvenile level in recent times would appear to echo Tom’s claims that the underage conveyor belt has not grinded to a halt altogether.
“Some of the underage teams have won competitions and there’s a lot of work being put in with them and the local school teams. It would be great if a team came along where five or six of them proved to be good enough for the intermediate team, that could well be the making of the club.”
While there wasn’t much success to toast on the playing fields during the past twelve months, the selection of Martin O’Connell on An Post’s ’Team of the Millennium’ proved to be a worthy substitute. The Carlanstown man was chosen at left half back on the greatest gaelic football team ever!
“Martin thoroughly deserved to be picked and it was a great boost for the entire club. After all, there’s only fifteen clubs in the country that can say they’ve a player on the ’Team of the Millennium’.”
Tom continues: “I was delighted for him. The amount of effort he has put in with both the club and the county during his career is unbelievable. He rarely missed a league or championship match with Meath and his record speaks for itself. He’s a great example for young kids.”
Martin ( along with Christy Regan ) was in charge of St. Michaels during ’99, in Tom’s opinion, does the three times All-Ireland medalist have a future in team management? “I think so, he possesses all the attributes a successful manager requires and with his experience, I’d go as far as to say there’s not many better qualified. It would be a foolish person who wouldn’t listen to anything he has to say.”
The former Meath minor/U21 is married to Anne, a daughter of Meath ’49 All-Ireland star, the late Mattie McDonnell, and the couple have a two year old son, Matthew. In late November they were celebrating a new addition to the Halpin family with the arrival of daughter Laura. Tom first played competitive football with the black and reds in 1987, his medal collection includes the aforementioned Intermediate souvenir and two Div. 2 Leagues mementos.
“A few of the current team would have played on the Intermediate winning ’89 side, myself, Paul Curran, Michael and Martin O’Connell. It has been a longish haul since then. There’s no doubt about it, training does take more out of you as you approach the 30 mark. That’s another reason for hoping for a few younger lads to come through, us older lads can get a rest!”
Between playing and coaching the Kilbeg NS there was very little opportunity for Tom to get some rest in ’99. Along with Jim O’Reilly, he guided Kilbeg to their first ever National Schools final.
What does the year 2000 hold in store for St. Michaels GFC? “I think the material is there to win a championship, we just need to get the rub of the green. In the likes of David Regan we have some very good players, he notches up high scores on a regular basis. Hopefully, we’ll have better luck as regards emigration and injuries,” Tom concludes.
THE STUFF THAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF
31 December 1998
St. Michael’s has proven to be a home from home for Jim O’Reilly. Royal County chews the fat with a North Meath stalwart.
When stalwart Nobber clubman Jim O’Reilly decided to throw in his lot with neighbouring St Michael’s back in 1989, he reckoned he’d reached his ’best before’ date.
Deep inside him he honestly felt also that what was left in the ’oul tank wasn’t perhaps sufficient to fuel too many more campaigns on the field of play.
Not that O’Reilly, arguably one of the best club footballers in Meath over the course of the ’eighties, didn’t wish to contribute to the ’Michael’s cause, mind you.
Gaelic football, the amateur game that it is, wasn’t the be all and end all for the then 33 year old stopper anyway and the move was a purely rational one with no roots in anything other than simple logic.
The natural-born Kilbeg man had taken up residence, at the family’s former home place in Kilbeg in 1980 and the farm had begun to be quite a handful to manage.
In addition, his kids were starting to play with ’Michaels and he felt he owed the club a helping hand.
The wholehearted, honest clubman could also have been forgiven, at the time, for finding the 20 mile round trip to training sessions and home matches in Nobber that bit tiresome after nine constant years of hitting the road.
The fact that his home place in Kilbeg was a mere training spin away from the ’Michaels pitch was neither here nor there and was an irrelevance in his decision to join the Saints.
Parish jumping is a long shot away from being Jim O’Reilly’s number one sport.
Always and ever a GAA stalwart the young O’Reilly lived with his family in Kilbeg ’till he was nine years of age.
The move thereafter, along with his mother, father and his four brothers, to Nobber was ironic only because of what was later to transpire.
The farm which his father retained in Kilbeg, upon the family’s relocation to Nobber, is managed and owned these days by Jim and his wife Bernadette, a sister of former Meath star Colm O’Rourke.
Proud father of two boys and two girls, Jim busies himself looking after his burgeoning dairy farm.
On the the GAA front, meanwhile, he satisfies himself with helping out at underage level at St. Michaels.
Both occupations, it seems, measure up to veritable labours of love.
Latterly a senior selector with his adopted club ( along with Robbie O’Connell ), Jim says that while he enjoyed tremendous times with Nobber, he couldn’t have imagined that his stay with ’Michaels would prove so satisfying or rewarding… at least not so quickly.
“Certainly, winning the Intermediate Championship title with St. Michael’s shortly after joining them in 1989 ranks as probably the highlight of my football career.
“At that point in time I had given up hope of winning another medal and I could never have imagined that I could have been so lucky in my first year with the club but that’s the way it turned out,” Jim reflected.
A textbook full back whose resilience and stoical nature made him a team manager’s dream ticket, the extremely approachable dairy farmer departed the Nobber scene around the same time as famed county midfielder Gerry McEntee bid adieu to his native club.
“We had some good times at Nobber nonetheless but we ended up being just that bit short of what was required.
“Maybe we lacked that wee bit extra quality that we needed to transform us into a team capable of winning the senior championship and hence the two semi-final defeats in ’83 and ’86.
“It was hugely frustrating obviously for everyone involved in the club in those times and the two defeats in the semi-finals were body blows which Nobber found it very hard to overcome in the years after,” Jim explained.
The successor at fullback to long-time Nobber stalwart Michael Monaghan, the now 41 year old reflects back on what he confirms was a thoroughly enjoyable career at club level.
He’s unashamedly envious (understandably so) of the kudos earned by those of his peers who secured regular berths on successive Sean Boylan trained Royal County senior teams over the years.
Jim admits that, in hindsight, perhaps he ought to have given the ’oul football lark at inter-county level a bit more of a lash when he was at his prime.
“When I look back at my time playing football, I do tend to regret the fact that I didn’t put more effort into commanding a place on the county panel.
“In all honesty though, I hadn’t much of a gra for the county scene at that time and compared to my efforts with Nobber, playing for Meath didn’t mean nearly as much to me.
“I don’t know whether or not I would have been good enough to secure a regular place with the Meath seniors but I wasn’t prepared to put in the effort or give the county scene the commitment, so that was that.”
In fairness though, given the man’s intensely passionate commitment to both Nobber and St. Michael’s over the years, one can readily understand just how dispassionate and even cold the county scene may have appeared in contrast to the parochialism he was used to.
“I was pleased to beat the Dubs and win a Leinster Junior medal with Meath in 1990 but I never got the same buzz out of playing for the county that I got from being involved on the club scene,” Jim admitted.
As it was the club scene delivered three prized medals to the lion hearted defender.
An Intermediate Championship medal won with Nobber in 1980 was followed by Feis Cup honours two years later while the aforementioned ’89 triumph with ’Michaels put the tin hat on a wholly enjoyable innings for the affable clubman.
Those triumphs vied for the times that were in it with disappointments too but O’Reilly knows that the Forest Gump thesis on life is more than well reflected in the world of Gaelic games.
He remembers, for instance, Noel Curran, father of Dubs star Paul, giving him the run-around in the 1977 Intermediate Final.
Playing against the likes of Ken Rennicks in the ’80 decider against Bohermeen Harps was something else, he moots, while sharing a dressing room with proven footballers like P.J. O’Halloran was a distinct honour, he adds.
It might have mattered to the bold Jim back in the eighties that the likes of O’Mahonys and Walterstown played the part of spoilsports to perfection but, in hindsight, and now with the sort of calm, mellowed, measured recollection that only the passing of time brings, Jim says that the sport and craic that the game afforded him over the years was the best reward he could ever have earned.
That said, he lets it slip that his ambition and that of his Nobber team-mates was stoked and fuelled to the last by undying belief that they had the capacity to win the senior championship at some stage but that it wasn’t to be for Nobber.
Retired from the playing fields for the guts of four years now, Jim would earnestly like to see his sons John Barry (14) and Felim (10) and his daughters Brita and Áine attain the same sort of satisfaction from Gaelic games as he certainly did.
To that effect, he is happy, these days, to help out with the St. Michael’s underage troops.
Anyway he is keen to continue putting something back into the game he graced for so long. Selfless to the last, that’s Michaels club Jim O’Reilly.
Late double gives St Michaels girls minor crown
Injury time goals from Wendy Flood and sub Trina Doherty clinched victory and the ’97 minor football title for St Michaels ladies. They overcame a gallant Dunsany side by a scoreline of 4-6 to 3-8 in September last at Kilberry.
It all looked so different for the North Meath girls with time running out, losing by 3-8 to 2-4. But the Michaels knotched 2-2 in the remaining minutes to emerge victorious by a single point. Good performances for the winners came from Mary Costello, Lisa Keenan and Wendy Flood.
The winning St Michaels Team – Sylvia Carolan, Lisa Lynch, Carol Sheridan, Donna Lynch, Mandy Carr, Elaine Lynch, Deirdre Daly, Mary Costello, Sharon Lynch, Susan Carpenter, Lisa Keenan, Ailish Fitzsimons, Sharon Mooney, Wendy Flood, A. Carolan. Sub: Nicola Carolan for Mooney