Tubberclair’s Tom Kelleher puts pressure on Johnny Bermingham, St. Malachy’s, during last Sunday's Westmeath IFC semi-final. Picture: J McCauley.

Gavigan’s last-gasp ‘45’ wins the day for St Malachy’s

St Malachy's 2-5, Tubberclair 0-10

An expertly converted ‘45’ in very difficult conditions by Morgan Gavigan with the second last kick of the game edged St Malachy’s past Tubberclair in a gripping Westmeath intermediate football championship semi-final played in TEG Cusack Park last Sunday afternoon.

The wing forward displayed nerves of steel to slot over the placed ball in the last minute of added-time, just moments after spectators had been bracing themselves for extra-time - and, possibly, penalties - to decide who would face Milltownpass in the Peter Geraghty Cup showdown.

It was a tough way to lose for Tubberclair, many punters’ pre-championship favourites, and they will regret the concession of a soft goal at a crucial juncture and some other missed opportunities of their own at the other end.

Inter-county star David Lynch opened the scoring from a free with a little over a minute elapsed. Some nastiness crept into proceedings at an early stage, with the referee issuing a yellow card to a player from both sides to help to diffuse the situation. Lynch doubled his tally in the fifth minute, this time from open play.

Oisín O’Meara soon put the men in green and gold on the scoreboard from a free. After a wide at either end, Shane Corcoran had the winners’ fans on their feet in the 12th minute when he scored a terrific goal from a tight angle after clever interplay with Morgan Gavigan.

However, Kenny McKinley’s troops failed to add to their tally during the remainder of the first moiety, as their opponents began to dominate the exchanges.

The South Westmeath outfit registered a quickfire brace of points at the start of the second quarter, courtesy of Matthew Whittaker (at the end of a counterattack) and Gavin Delaney (despite being pressurized), before Eoin Glennon (deputising for the suspended Alan Mangan) pulled off a fine save from Fred Kelleher.

A great free by Eoghan McCabe and a tidy score from play by O’Meara had the sides level (1-2 to 0-5) at half-time.

Driving rain during the interval made conditions very tricky for the second moiety. Fine play by Sean Claffey and O’Meara enabled McCabe to edge Tubberclair into the lead for the first time from a 33rd-minute free.

The black and red-clad outfit had gone 24 minutes without a score when they were gifted a game-changing goal, Niall O’Brien alert to the opportunity to slap the ball to the net from point-blank range after Kevin Fagan spilled a Peter Murphy delivery.

However, Martin McCabe’s charges levelled the contest (2-2 to 0-8) via a brace of frees from the manager’s son Eoghan (both avoidable from a St Malachy’s perspective). The lively Corcoran quickly nudged his side ahead before an accidental clash of heads caused a delay to the action. A great free from the ground by Cian Gavigan ended with the athletic O’Brien in mid-air punching the ball wide.

The latter player’s fine catch then teed up Corcoran who doubled the winners’ lead in the 49th minute. O’Meara responded with a free for Tubberclair, who proceeded to spurn a chance of an equaliser when the referee overturned a scoreable free with a throw-in due to dissent.

In the first minute of injury-time, a great run by Whittaker led to a foul on the Westmeath U20 star. McCabe slotted over the resultant free, albeit via the post from a favourable angle. Two minutes later, a last-gasp St Malachy’s attack yielded a ‘45’ which Morgan Gavigan converted with aplomb despite the very greasy conditions.

The referee blew the final whistle after the ensuing kick-out. Vehement protests from the losers resulted in Tom Kelleher being red-carded before the teams left the pitch.

Man of the match: Shane Corcoran (St Malachy’s). Quite apart from being the game’s joint-top scorer, the talented young centre half forward was in the thick of the action to good effect throughout.

Key moment: Undoubtedly, Tubberclair’s concession of a soft goal in the 35th minute.

Talking point: Dual star David Lynch had to be checked out in hospital after the game following an accidental clash of heads, and the Castletown-Geoghegan hurling management will anxiously await the results.

Scorers – St Malachy’s: S Corcoran 1-2, N O’Brien 1-0, D Lynch 0-2 (1f), M Gavigan 0-1 (‘45’). Tubberclair: E McCabe 0-5 (5f), O O’Meara 0-3 (2f), M Whittaker, G Delaney 0-1 each.

St Malachy’s: Eoin Glennon; Eoin Kiernan, Aaron Glennon, Naoise McKenna; Shane Clavin, Peter Murphy, Aonghus Clarke; David Lynch, Johnny Bermingham; Cian Gavigan, Shane Corcoran, Morgan Gavigan; Jack Gallagher, Niall O’Brien, Conor Murphy. Subs used: Darren Ruane for Murphy (h-t), David Maloney for Gallagher (38), Neal Kirby for C Gavigan (56).

Tubberclair: Kevin Fagan; Niall Walker, Kyle Fagan, Stephen McGonagle; James Madden, Cathal Tighe, Jason McHugh; Eoghan McCabe, Sean Claffey; Tom Kelleher, Matthew Whittaker, Gavin Delaney; Oisín O’Meara, Fred Kelleher, Danny Reid. Subs used: Paul Garvey for Reid (39), Neil Kenny for Delaney (45), Charlie Kennedy for McHugh (48), Sean McGrane for Claffey (59).

Ref: Enda Kelly (Castledaly).