Dillon’s late goal sees Stars win thriller

Kingscourt 1-14

Cavan Gaels 2-10

A late Joe Dillon goal six minutes into injury time allowed Kingscourt to snatch an unlikely victory against an out of luck Cavan Gaels side in a helter skelter yet thrilling contest in Dolan Park, Virginia on Saturday evening last.

In what was a riveting game and full of incident, where Paul Graham and Peter Corrigan were red carded as early as the 10th minute, Cavan Gaels produced the better football over the 60-plus minutes and were deservedly in the lead at 2-10 to 0-14 as the game neared its conclusion. However, when Brendan Sweeney sounded the final whistle, the Gaels could scarcely believe the outcome after they witnessed a long-range Kevin Curtis pass finding its way into the Kingscourt full forward line in the last play of the game, with Dillon having the simplest of tasks to flicking the ball to the empty net after Patrick Murphy initially saved from Sean Burke.

Despite missing the services of talisman, Gearoid McKiernan, and key men, Luke and Barry Fortune, Jason O'Reilly’s men showed honest and hard-working endeavor throughout with Paul O'Connor leading the way up front. Moreover, the Gaels' defence were effective in marshalling the attacking threats of Jordan Morris, Dillon and Barry Reilly across the hour, so the manner of this defeat will have stung the town team, but they must dust themselves off ahead of a crucial clash against Killygarry next weekend.

The sending off of Corrigan seemed to upset the rhythm of the Kingscourt attack as his link play between defence and attack was crucial, but the Stars did keep in touch throughout thanks to Barry Reilly’s placed kicks, especially in the second half. Kingscourt will take huge confidence from a game in which they were second best, yet still found a way to win.

The neutrals in the large attendance were served up a delicious contest featuring off the ball incidents, melees, red cards, controversy and excitement complimented with excellent goal keeping, intriguing 50/50 battles, missed goal chances and undeniable drama.

Alan Clarke and Paul O Connor (free) traded scores in the opening minute before Barry Reilly pushed Kingscourt in front with a free in the 4th minute, but the Gaels should have rattled the Kingscourt net when Evan Fortune flicked over the bar with the goal at his mercy after excellent work from Andy Graham.

Then came the game's first talking point. A Jordan Morris pass went astray in the Kingscourt defence in the 9th minute after pressure from the Gaels attack and the lively Keenan Donohoe pounced to square to the onrushing Jack Tully who stroked calmly home to put the Gaels in front at 1-2 to 0-2. However, during this attack, Corrigan and Graham were involved in an off the ball scuffle and when linesman Conor Dourneen brought the incident to the attention of referee Brendan Sweeney, the Ballymachugh man showed red carded both players.

That moment seemed to calm the fiery nature of the game thus far as the game threatened to get out of hand with one-on-one scuffles breaking out over the field.

When the game resumed, Tully pointed from a mark after an excellent pass from Emmanuel Shehu, but soon after, Padraig Faulkner should have raised the green flag when he was somehow stopped by an excellent save from both Patrick Murphy and Levi Murphy with Ciaran Roe pointing the resulting rebound to leave the scores at 1-3 to 0-3. Morris showed excellent speed to fist over Kingscourt’s fourth point, but the impressive Emmanuel Shehu got onto the end of a flowing move to point over an excellent score and O'Connor's free had the Gaels in front at 1-5 to 0-4 by the 25th minute. Goal chances presented itself at either end in the closing stages of the first half with Tully been denied by James Farrelly and Dillon forcing an excellent save from Murphy, but points from Odhran Cunningham and Dillon left the scores at 1-5 to 0-6 at the interval.

Within twenty seconds of the second half, Shane Duffy pointed brilliantly after a move was worked up from the throw-in. However soon after calamity ensued in the Kingscourt defence when Paul O'Connor intercepted a short free between Patrick Farrelly and James Farrelly to blast to the empty net to put the Gaels 2-5 to 0-7 in front. Three Barry Reilly frees in quick succession hauled Kingscourt within one by the 42nd minute, but three O'Connor frees sandwiching a good Morris score pushed the Gaels three in front by the 50th minute. The Stars were playing in fits and starts and often deployed the tactic of letting the ball in early into their full forward line but to little effect as full back John Fortune dealt with the aerial threats efficiently. Nonetheless, another fine individual score from Cunningham and a Morris ’45 narrowed the gap to one again at 2-8 to 0-13 as Kingscourt hung in, however, Declan Meehan was introduced into the fray in the closing stages and his two quick fire points seemingly had the Gaels in control as the game neared its finish.

Given the nature of a breathless sixty plus minutes of football thus far, there was one final twist and after Kevin Curtis pointed to put two between them, there was time for one last play. Faulkner did extremely well to win possession from a Curtis pass in the full forward line after the Gaels failed to clear their lines, the ball found its way to Burke only to be denied by Murphy, but Dillon was on hand to palm the rebound to the empty net. Unsavory scenes soon followed, but when the dust settled and given the manner of the game’s climax, this was a significant win for Kingscourt and sickening defeat for the Gaels.

Kingscourt: James Farrelly, Cathal McKeown, Padraig Faulkner, Patrick Farrelly, Barry Tully, Paddy Meade, Odhran Cunningham (0-2), Peter Corrigan, Sean Burke, Ciaran Roe (0-1), Barry Reilly (0-4, 4f), Shane Duffy (0-1), Jordan Morris (0-3, 1’45), Alan Clarke (0-1), Joe Dillon (1-1)

Subs: Shane Gray for Ciaran Roe; Cian Shekleton for Shane Duffy; Kevin Curtis (0-1) for Barry Reilly.

Cavan Geals: Patrick Murphy, Levi Murphy, John Fortune, Favour Shehu, Niall Gurhy, Niall Murray, Emmanuel Shehu (0-1), Evaan Fortune (0-1), Paul Graham, Luke Molloy, Padraig Sexton, Andy Graham, Paul O Connor (1-5, 5f), Keenan Donohoe, Jack Tully (1-1, 1m)

Subs: Darragh Sexton for Keenan Donohoe; Declan Meehan (0-2) for Andy Graham.