SFC: St Loman’s ‘ground it out in the end’

After five consecutive years in the Westmeath senior football final under the tutelage of Luke Dempsey, St Loman’s, Mullingar’s sixth appearance in-a-row will see a different man wearing the blue bainisteoir bib next Sunday week, Declan Kelly set to parade the sideline for a showdown with Tyrrellspass, writes Gerry Buckley.

After his troops’ very hard-earned penultimate round win against The Downs today (0-13 to 0-11), the Offaly man opined: “We ground it out in the end, but for long periods in the first half we were playing very much second fiddle. But semi-finals aren’t meant to be pretty, it’s just about winning really.

“The Downs came out at 100 miles an hour and blitzed us completely, and they could have had a goal to go with their early points. We struggled for 10/15 minutes to get our hands on the ball at midfield.

“Overall, they were very up for the game from the word ‘go’. They were coming at us hard and fast.”

After a relatively anonymous showing in the first half, skipper John Heslin came good on the change of ends. Kelly concurred that this was crucial to the outcome.

“John is a top-class footballer and, if you can keep him in close to the goals, he’ll probably take a couple of guys in with him and it’ll free up a bit of space further out,” he said.

“He got a couple of scores to keep us in touch with them, and Ronan (O’Toole) chipped in with a couple as well.

“The black card (for The Downs’ Conor Coughlan) was a blow to them and they had to play the last ten minutes of normal time with just 14 players.

“It was a turning point, but Ronan might have been through for a goal and was pulled down. The referee probably hadn’t much option. It gave us an extra body and they were playing against the wind. We had the momentum at that stage.”

Kelly looked forward to the Flanagan Cup decider as follows: “Tyrrellspass are a very experienced outfit. I live on the border near them and I know a lot of them.

“They are well seasoned and have been in a number of county finals. I wouldn’t read too much into the first round game when we beat them. We have a lot of work to do.

“We’re down a few lads between TJ (Cox) having gone into the Army and a few lads out with injuries as the games are coming thick and fast. You just go with the panel you have and, in fairness, we got to the junior final yesterday also.

“There’s a bit of competition for places. We’ve only a couple of sessions really to prepare, as we’ll be winding down in the middle of next week,” he concluded.

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