Irish World Senior Football Championship Rnd 3
Round Towers 2-19
By Colin Brennan
At Tir Chonaill Park, Greenford
In need of a 17-point win to enter the semi-finals after St. Kiernans’ victory over North London Shamrocks, the group leaders, Round Towers dismantled Cuchulainns in Greenford to advance in spectacular fashion.
Before this fixture’s throw-in, the scoring differential between St. Kiernans and Round Towers seemed intractable.
A masterclass in free-taking saw the game’s standout player, Paul O’Donoghue, a fleet-footed playmaker and team fulcrum, help himself to a colossal tally of 1-11. This tells a short story of Towers’ dominance.
Cuchulainns, who won the intermediate championship in 2017, are now resigned to a relegation play-off scrap. Parnells await them.
Cuchulainns ill-discipline – and the subsequent sharp-shooting of O’Donoghue – led to Towers storming to a five point lead after 14 minutes; each point, except one sumptuous long-distance punt, came courtesy of a Towers’ free.
The east Londoners – who had put four goals past North London Shamrocks in a defiant display last week – almost dragged themselves back into the game.
Midfielder Camillus Donnelly made a darting run after being found with a pinpoint Karl Rogers’ kick-out, and his resulting thunderbolt shot failed to go either below or above a stubborn crossbar.
It was corner-forward Shane McWeeney’s turn next to spurn a goal chance for Cuchulainns: goalkeeper Billy Manley saving after a feeble shot disappointed.
Conservative in defence – dropping back two sweepers for most of the game – Cuchulainns struggled with the physicality of Towers and to limit the influence of the domineering Thomas Hanley and the tireless Kenny Rigney.
Cuchulainns’ goal chances were merely happenstance as it turned out.
The scoreline after the first 30, which read 0-11 to 0-3, in mathematical terms, deemed the 17 points required to progress in the championship improbable.
But Round Towers did show signs of a capacity for full-throttle – Cuchulainns were, for the most, starved of possession and territory – and their eagerness to run up the scoreline could be seen in their short, intense half-time huddle that lasted just seven minutes.
Visibly invigorated, Towers drew their sword immediately, scoring a goal within five minutes. A Thomas Hill palm got the final touch after a direct ball into Cuchulainns’ square squirted loose.
In the 41st minute, Towers led by 14, meaning, for the first time, that they were within reach of a monumental win.
Against the run of play, a Shane McWeeney free off-the-ground reduced the deficit to 13 points once again. This, however, was to be the last time that Cuchulainns felt like meaningful competitors.
Flash of panic
Tactically patient throughout, Towers’ championship was injected with life after a goalkeeping lapse from Karl Rogers.
After gathering what seemed like an innocuous pass, he was dispossessed outside of the square in a momentary flash of panic, leaving the net gaping for marksman O’Donoghue to side-foot the ball home Messi-style.
Undeterred by the revelation from the sidelines that they had managed to surpass the scoring threshold required to scrape ahead of St. Kiernans in the group, they followed the second goal up with a languid pointed free from Alan Dunne to open up a 19-point lead.
Round Towers were now toying with their opposite numbers and proceedings entered the processionary stages: fist-passing the ball determinedly around their own back-line with the swagger of a side who knew they had pulled off a minor miracle.
Round Towers: Billy Manley; Phelim Farrelly, Bearach Doherty, Michael Murtagh; Colin Dunne, Pat Daly, Brian Breslin; Liam Ferrick, Paul O’Donoghue (1-11, 8f); Thomas Hill (1-0), Ronan Boyle, Alan Dunne (0-4, 3f); Sean Hickey (0-4), Thomas Hanley, Kenny Rigney. Subs: Sean Dwyer for Murtagh, Conor Daly for Hanley, John McKeever for Ferrick.
Cuchulainns: Karl Rogers; Cillian Reilly. Gary Walsh, Kieran O’Sullivan; Ciaran Boyle, Conor Harrington, Conor Donnellan; Camillus Donnelly, Cianan Byrne (0-1); Brendan Breen (0-1), Darren McManus, Micheal Meenagh; Anthony Tighe, Fiachra McArdle (0-1), Shane McWeeney (0-2, 1f). Subs: Cathal Noonan for Reilly, Reilly for Tighe, Tighe for Meenagh.
Referee: Beano Collins.