O’Connell The Hero and St. James’ Grasp County Title in Style

October 24th, 2017 | by stjamesgaa
O’Connell The Hero and St. James’ Grasp County Title in Style
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O’Connell The Hero and St. James’ Grasp County Title in Style

St. James’ 1-10 Corofin 1-09

St. James’ defeated Corofin in the Junior A county final on Sunday and Ronan O’Connell gave a performance that will be talked about for a long time to come.

On a day when scores were hard-earned, O’Connell was responsible for the majority of the city side’s scores. The young St. James’ man scored 1-07 and helped his team to claw back a seven point deficit in the second half.

These two teams met in a tough league encounter during the summer that finished in a draw. Corofin came into this final having defeated Monivea-Abbey in the North Board Junior A final while St. James’ were buoyed by their recent victories over Barna and Mountbellew-Moylough in the West Board Junior A final and the Division 5 league final, respectively. So Sunday’s match up had all the makings of a tight game.

While St. James’ took the lead through the boot of Sean Boyle (0-01), it was Corofin who took the initiative in the first half. Alan O’Donovan and David Morris pulled the strings to help the north Galway side build a substantial lead.

St. James’ were nervous and they made a number of uncharacteristic errors in the first half. The Corofin attackers looked dangerous and O’Donovan soon scored two points from play and two free kicks. In one passage of play, St. James’ failed to protect the ball when they were breaking from the back, possession was turned over and David Morris struck for a great Corofin goal. Indeed, Corofin went agonisingly close to claiming a second goal when Sean Silke hit the crossbar and the ball flew over the black spot. David Coen and Sean Cummins struck for two Corofin points from play.

St. James’ had to rely on a Darragh Lundy free and a point from the ever-industrious Alan Hanley. Ronan O’Connell scored a free to bring the Renmore-Mervue-Ballybane side’s first half tally to 0-04. With the halftime scoreboard reading Corofin 1-07, St. James’ 0-04, the men in green and gold were in control.

From the second half throw-in, Corofin galvanised their lead with another point from David Morris. And not long after, Sean Silke forced an excellent save from Nigel Walsh in the St. James’ goal. Alan O’Donovan scored a free and Corofin looked to be cruising.

Despite being seven points down, however, St. James’ began a comeback that will go down in history as an unbelievable achievement.

There were a number of contributing factors. St. James’ looked to have the edge in terms of fitness. Manager, Pat Jordan, and his team of selectors made a number of key introductions from the bench. Mark Kelly brought stability and direction to midfield, while Paudie Conlon and Cillian Breathnach brought enormous intensity to the attack. Wing back David Twomey and centre forward Rob Carroll caused problems for Corofin and centre back Shane Gillespie began to attack. Ronan O’Connell began to field a huge amount of ball causing the Corofin defence to weaken.

If St. James’ were going to have any chance, a goal was required. That goal came when Mark Kelly launched a fantastic ball into the danger zone in front of the Corofin goal mouth. The ball bounced and Ronan O’Connell was the man that punched it into the net. St. James’ went close with another O’Connell effort that was saved by goalkeeper Derek Ryder. The rebounding ball was struck by St. James’ wing back Patrick McKernon and would have rattled the net only for some last ditch defending from Corofin.

The St. James’ men knew that there was still hope and they began to pile on the pressure. O’Connell, who would score all of their scores in the second half, got three excellent points from play and a free. With five minutes remaining, the score read Corofin 1-09, St. James’ 1-08

Substitutes Daragh Connolly and Ryan Doherty brought new energy to the St. James’ team. The city side won two frees that would prove to be vital and with O’Connell oozing confidence and composure, anything was possible. The first was out to the right hand side. O’Connell coolly kicked the ball over the bar, the sides were level and the St. James’ supporters gave huge encouragement to their team.

Two minutes later, after some excellent defending from Emmet Lee and the St. James’ defenders, the ball was worked up the pitch and St. James’ were awarded a free in the middle of the pitch, outside the 45 metre line. Up stepped Ronan O’Connell. Kicking the ball from his hands, the man of the match sent the ball floating over the crossbar at the town end of Tuam Stadium. The crowd went wild with delight as St. James’ claimed the lead!

The game wasn’t over, however. St. James’ controlled the ball very well in the remaining two minutes while the supporters held their breath.

When referee Mairtin O Griofa blew the final whistle, there were scenes of jubilation as St. James’ claimed the County Junior A title and the Paddy Sweeney Memorial Cup. The final score was St. James’ 1-10, Corofin 1-09. Cathal Sweeney presented the cup to St. James’ captain Sean Byrne.

Corofin had a number of very strong players on the day. O’Donovan, Morris and Silke all showed well in the forwards, Colin Raftery fielded a lot of possession at midfield and the Corofin defenders were solid for much of the first half.

St. James’ were served well by Sean Boyle, Darragh Lundy, Rob Carroll and Alan Hanley in the forwards. Kelly and Josh MacFarlane worked very hard at midfield. Twomey and Lee were instrumental in the defence. But this victory owes a lot to one man in particular. Ronan O’Connell’s tally of 1-07 brought St. James’ team back into this game and he duly received the man of the match award.

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