Injury time Harte 65 saves GortNovember 1, 2012 - 8:00am
St Thomas’ 0-9
CIARAN TIERNEY AT KENNY PARK
FOR the second year in a row these intense local rivals were forced to battle it out for a place in the county final in Monsoon-like conditions and, once again, it was champions Gort who were celebrating a dramatic late score in the driving wind and rain at Athenry on Sunday.
Aiden Harte’s composed 62nd minute ‘65’, sweetly struck in the appalling conditions, gave the champions a lifeline and ensured the sides would have to meet again after Gort had trailed their neighbours for almost 50 minutes of this disappointing semi-final.
At least this time St Thomas’ live to fight again – a late Richie Cummins goal killed off their hopes of a final appearance at the same stage and venue 12 months ago – although they will regret that they did not manage to kill off the Gort challenge after dominating much of the game.
It’s one of the problems of reaching the All-Ireland final that club players are then forced to slug it out in atrocious conditions in the dead of winter and full credit must go to both sides for battling bravely to the finish on a day that tested the endurance of the players and the 6,000 strong crowd to the maximum.
The small covered stand was packed to capacity half an hour before the throw-in and the game turned into something of a lottery for players whose hard work all year came down to an awful hour in which the conditions put paid to any hopes of a classic local derby.
St Thomas’, with Conor Cooney and Richie Murray in fine form, did most of the early running when they had the wind at their backs to lead by three points (0-6 to 0-3) at the break. They should have been further in front after hitting six wides – to Gort’s three – in that first half.
But a resolute Gort side refused to give up the fight, despite finding it difficult to eat into their slender lead, and their composure under pressure in the tense closing minutes showed the hallmark of county champions.
The title-holders will also feel they have more to improve on for the replay, given that they managed just one score from play over the hour – a well-taken Paul Killilea point six minutes after the re-start – and that they missed a host of chances when they finally took control in the second half.
St Thomas’ settled well and looked the livelier team in the earlier part of this game. Former county man Murray opened their account in the third minute and Cooney doubled on it, following a good move involving wing back Darragh Burke and Bernard Burke.
Gort relied hugely on the placed ball accuracy of full-forward Gerry Quinn, who fired over a free from half-way on seven minutes. He levelled the issue following a foul on veteran Ollie Fahy on 14 minutes and hit all three of their scores in the opening half.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.