by Brían Mangan
An Spidéal 0-13
It wasn’t pretty at times but Spiddal eventually got the better of Belmullet in Tuam Stadium in the Connacht Intermediate Football Semi Final today after an exciting extra time battle.
The first half was in truth poor, with Spiddal completely dominating the first 10 minutes but unable to make their superiority show on the scoreboard, 5 wides were kicked by them before centre forward Antaine Ó’Laoi finally landed a free. This seemed to spark Belmullet into life, who responded with three fast points on the trot through Gerry Barrett and the dangerous Jonathon Donoghue. Poor Belmullet tackling continued to give Spiddal good opportunities from placed balls but they were still unable to capitalise, goalie Maghnus Breathnach in particular leaving his shooting boots at home, missing 3 kickable ones from long range. It was a frustrating spell for the netminder, every time he set out on one of his now trademark bursts upfield he seemed to be bodychecked, which went unnoticed by the officials. It could’ve been worse for Spiddal had Michael Keane converted a golden opportunity to raise a green flag, but he flashed his effort wide in the 25th minute. Keane went some way to amend for this error when he landed a nice long range free on the stroke of his half time to give his team a three point advantage heading into the half time break.
With both teams set up defensively it was hard for the forward lines to create decent chances, but out of nowhere Belmullet caught fire with three beautiful points in quick succession from James Kelly, Cathal barrett and Eamon McAndrew. It looked like this would be enough, but Spiddal showed their grit and started eating slowly into their lead, Finnian Ó Laoi landing one with each foot to cut the gap to two, before Belmullet midfielder Shane Nallen was shown a second yellow for a high tackle, handing all the momentum to the Galway men. Antaine O Laoi kept his nerve to slot two late scores to force the extra time, the final one coming in the 34th minute curtousy of an overlap created by the “fly-goalie” Breathnach, who had a fine second half.
The Galway men carried the momentum over into an often bad tempered extra time, Finnian and Antaine Ó Laoi coverting their frees to give them a three point advantage with half time approaching before Eoin O’Donoghue landed a crucial long range score to give his team hope. Maghnus Breathnach found his range at the perfect moment to convert a monster free before Aodáin Ó Curraoin added the insurance point, to the delight of the Spiddal supporters. Gerry Barrett was dismissed in the final moments as streetwise Spiddal saw the game out to advance to the Connacht Final against Fuerty or Shamrock Gaels next weekend, to be played at a Galway venue yet to be confirmed.
An Spidéal: M Breathnach (0-1f), E Ó Droighneáin, E Ó Conláin, L Ó Ceallaigh, C Ó Laoi, M Ó Curraoin, S Ó Droighneáin, D Mac an Rí, P E Ó Curraoin, S Ó Curraoin, Antaine Ó Laoi (0-6, 0-4fs), Finnian Ó Laoi (0-5, 0-4fs), B Ó Conghaile, Cormac Ó Laoi, C Ó Caoimh SUBS: L Ó Conghaile, A Ó Curraoin (0-1), T Ó Fatharta
Belmullet: S Kilker, E O Donoghue (0-1), Chris Barrett, C Connor, C Barrett, M Boylan, Colin Barrett, Cathal Barrett (0-1), S Nallen, J Kelly (0-1), G Barrett (0-1), C Conway, J Donoghue (0-3, 0-2fs), E McAndrew (0-1), M Keane (0-1f) SUBS: E Healy, P Ruddy, D Reilly, M Barrett, M Keane (back on), D Murray