FROM minute one Sean McDermotts put the squeeze on and rarely relented, the defending league holders seeing off the challenge of St. Brendans at a stormy Pairc na hÉireann on Sunday, May 23.
Played in atrocious weather conditions (at least for those watching) with a powerful cross-wind looming large over the afternoon's play, both teams took to the main pitch seeking to take the points in what could be the key fixture in this season’s Senior Football League. From the very start McDermotts took control, making the most of the wind in their favour for the opening half hour to race into a commanding six-point lead.
Scores from Jack Chapman, Joe Owes and Joel Powney (free) preceded a brace of points from Jack Hallahan who was excellent for McDermotts at wing-forward.
Brendans struggled to get out of their own half in the opening quarter, such was the pressure being imposed from the McDermotts press and when they did wrestle hold of possession it wasn’t long before that pressure forced turnovers from which McDermotts profited.
It must be said, scoring twenty points during sixty minutes of football in those conditions was no mean feat, with a host of players sharing the scoring on Sunday afternoon.
Michael McGettrick finally started the ball rolling for Brendans with a close range free but back came McDermotts with a Powney free and a Conal Dowling point from a mark.
The speed of the McDermotts attack, breaking from midfield turnovers, was proving too much and they continued their scoring run through Chris Hayden and two more Powney scores (one free).
Even when Hayden was dismissed for ten minutes after picking up a black card shortly before the interval, McDermotts managed to outscore Brendans despite Oisin Coffey fizzing over the point of the game after some excellent build up play through the heart of the Brendans team.
The half-time gap was nine points, a serious challenge for Brendans to face down as they took the advantage of the wind at the change of ends.
It became an eleven-point lead shortly into the second-half after two more McDermotts points from open play, Diarmuid Russell hitting back for Brendans with a crisp score coming in from the left.
Conor Bambrick had a great chance to bag the opening goal of the game only for some tremendous last-ditch defending on the line to deny him, the Donegal forward going close once again when goalkeeper Sean Doyle produced a fine block to deny him.
Nonetheless, another Powney free and a score from a narrow angle by Dowling kept the score board ticking.
Brendans then struck with their opening goal, the ball coming back off the post and into the arms of McGettrick who cut back to force the ball past Macauley Felgate.
It was almost two moments later when Russell burst through only to be denied by some last ditch defending while at the other end Bambrick was unfortunate to see a close-range effort sneak wide of the far post.
However, Brendans are quickly attaining the characteristic of being strong finishers as they loaded their forward line off the bench.
Two points from Declan Hayden (one free) sandwiched a Noel McDaid point and moments after Sean Doyle looped over his opening score of the game the midfielder latched onto a through ball to sweetly find the back of the net from fifteen metres out – from nowhere, this became a three-point game. McDermotts tempered the storm with scores from Chris Hayden and Powney (free) but Brendans continued to ask questions in those closing minutes with Declan Hayden sending over two more points (one free) to keep the margin at three.
These two meet again in the championship later this summer but if round one went to St. Brendans in the Fr. Forde Cup then round two firmly belonged to Sean McDermotts.
Sean McDermotts: M Felgate; D O’Brien, L Gilbride, K O’Brien; D Staunton (0-1), M Mannion, J Chapman (0-1); N Gilbride, A Willis; J Hallahan (0-2), C Hayden (0-3), J Owens (0-1); T Montieth (0-1), C Dowling (0-2), J Powney (0-9, 6f). Subs: C Bambrick (for Owens 15).
St. Brendans: L Doyle; P McGettrick, A Cataldo, M Hartnett; D Russell (0-1), O Coffey (0-1), D Doherty; S Doyle (1-1), P McSorley; M McAleer, F Monaghan, A Freeman; S Mills, M McGettrick (1-3, 3f), F Cullen. Subs: D Hayden (0-4, 2f, for Cullen 30), N McDaid (0-1, for Freeman 44).
Referee: M McLoughlin
SEAN McDERMOTTS 0-20 (20)
ST BRENDANS 2-11 (17)