St. Brigid’s come through from the cold.
AIB All-Ireland Club SFC semi-final
ST BRIGID’S 1-11
Content credit; GAA.ie
Kevin Egan at FBD Semple Stadium
Sublime attacking class in the first half and steely defensive resolve in the final quarter was enough for St. Brigid’s to overcome a dismal third quarter and a resolute Castlehaven side at FBD Semple Stadium this afternoon, ensuring that the South Roscommon club became the first team to book the place in the AIB All-Ireland senior club football final in a fortnight’s time.
For the first 30 minutes of this contest the Connacht champions picked up right where they left off in the provincial final, moving the ball slickly and kicking some outstanding scores. Bobby Nugent, Brian Derwin and Ben O’Carroll were all on target with some wonderful points, as they kept every single effort on target and delighted the 3,352 crowd with some sumptuous interplay.
Castlehave looked strong at midfield where Mark Collins and Andrew Whelton dominated the battle for contested kickout and generally offered a powerful physical presence, while up front, Michael Hurley was lively, shaking off any pre-match injury concerns, and Cathal Maguire was direct and effective at centre forward.
However most of the analysis in advance of this tie focused on the importance of the battle between the two county stars, Brian Hurley and Brian Stack – and after an incredible 2023 campaign where he bested more or less every direct opponent, Stack had his hands full with Hurley today, conceding three points from play and also two converted frees.
Yet in the first half, the West Cork side simply couldn’t get enough ball into the hands of their attackers, and they could only watch as Roscommon U-20 star Bobby Nugent kicked three points, with Ben O’Carroll adding two, as well as setting up a close range goal for Brian Derwin.
1-7 to 0-4 after 26 minutes was a fair reflection of the contest up to that point, but points from Brian Hurley and Maguire before half-time gave Castlehaven something to hold onto, and they carried on in the same vein after half-time.
That St. Brigid’s allowed the Cork champions back into things couldn’t be disputed. Paul McGrath did brilliantly to intercept a handpass just 25 metres out from the Castlehaven goal and with the defence wrong-footed, he had the ball with colleagues either side and just one defender to beat. A rushed shot sailed wide, and when that was followed up with a string of poorly-executed shots from Ben O’Carroll, Brian Derwin and Conor Hand, Castlehaven were able to eat into the lead.
It’s not that they scored at any great rate and Rory Maguire’s shot that hammered into the crossbar and rebounded to safety will haunt them over the coming weeks and months, but their complete control of the middle ensured the chances continued to flow and they got back to within two points twice, responding well when Robbie Dolan kicked St. Brigid’s first score in 21 minutes of play from a tight angle.
Substitute John Cunningham made a huge contribution, as he has done all year for St. Brigid’s, lofting a monster point over the bar to settle their nerves, while Robbie Dolan also came up trumps in the closing minutes, securing an interception at one end of the field and then breaking down to be fouled for a penalty at the other, allowing Ben O’Carroll to chip the ball over the bar and confirm St. Brigid’s return to Croke Park for the first time since their memorable one-point win over Ballymun Kickhams in 2013.
Scorers for St. Brigid’s: Bobby Nugent 0-3 (0-1f), Brian Derwin 1-1, Ben O’Carroll 0-3 (0-1 pen), Ciarán Sugrue 0-1, Robbie Dolan 0-1, John Cunningham 0-1.
Scorers for Castlehaven: Brian Hurley 0-7 (0-3f, 0-1 45), Cathal Maguire 0-2, Michael Hurley 0-1.
St Brigid’s: Cormac Sheehy; Pearse Frost, Brian Stack, Robbie Dolan; Ruaidhrí Fallon, Alan Daly, Ronan Stack; Eddie Nolan, Shane Cunnane; Bobby Nugent, Paul McGrath, Conor Hand; Ben O’Carroll, Brian Derwin, Ciarán Sugrue.
Subs: John Cunningham for Derwin (44), Mark Daly for Cunnane (53), Conor Gleeson for Nugent (60+3).
Castlehaven: Darragh Cahalane; Thomas O’Mahony, Ronan Walsh, Johnny O’Regan; Damien Cahalane, Rory Maguire, Ciarán O’Sullivan; Mark Collins, Andrew Whelton; Seán Browne, Cathal Maguire, Conor Cahalane; Michael Hurley, Brian Hurley, Jack Cahalane.
Subs: Conor O’Driscoll for Browne (half-time), Jamie O’Driscoll for O’Sullivan (57), Michael Maguire for C Cahalane (60)
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).