Ronan O'Toole tries to go past Naas defender Mark Maguire in Sunday’s Leinster club SFC semi-final at TEG Cusack Park.

Kirwan leads the way as St Loman’s fade against Naas

Naas 1-15, St Loman's, Mullingar 1-10

By Gerry Buckley

A superb individual display by Darragh Kirwan in TEG Cusack Park last Sunday afternoon was crucial for Naas as they deservedly eliminated St Loman’s, Mullingar from the race for this year’s Leinster club senior football crown, the Kildare champions pulling away in extra-time to qualify for a showdown against holders Kilmacud Crokes in two weeks’ time.

While the Lilywhite representatives were worthy winners, this was a game that Paddy Dowdall’s troops could have won. They led by four points early in the second half of normal time, but they only managed to score one further point – and that from a free – between the 39th minute and the end of extra-time (a whopping 51 minutes).

Indeed, all of their three regular Westmeath forwards, John Heslin, Sam McCartan and Ronan O’Toole, failed to score from play in the 90 minutes’ action, albeit the latter worked tirelessly from start to finish. Overall, the Delvin Rd outfit can have no complaints about the outcome.

The heavy pre-match drizzle had just come to an end prior to the throw-in, but conditions were, understandably, still tricky for football. The home team had the aid of a useful wind in the first half and they were two points to the good after four minutes courtesy of a Heslin free – the award to O’Toole seemed soft – and a great score from play by Shane Dempsey.

However, Joe Murphy’s charges responded with three unanswered points from the boots of Kirwan (two, the second from a free) and Alex Beirne (a free). Peter Foy’s well-taken point (via Luke Mullins’ fingertips) in the 13th minute left the sides tied at 0-3 apiece at the end of the opening quarter.

Another Beirne free and a fine score by the ever-dangerous Kirwan nudged the Kildare champions two clear, but St Loman’s replied with three good points via Kevin Regan, Danny McCartan (a mark), and a fabulous shot by Dempsey. Kirwan equalized before O’Toole teed up Dempsey for a superbly-taken goal in the 24th minute. Danny McCartan added a fisted point, and Mullins then had to come to Naas’ rescue with an instinctive save from a palmed effort by Sam McCartan (at the end of a great delivery by O’Toole). Dermot Hanafin’s 29th-minute point under pressure left the visitors trailing by 1-7 to 0-7 at the interval.

Heslin slotted over a free in the opening minute of the second half. Beirne (a great solo point) and Heslin (another free) traded points, either side of Sam McCartan incorrectly claiming a mark. However, Heslin’s point in the 39th minute proved to be the last score in regulation time for the men in blue and white as wind-assisted Naas began to dominate in most lines of the pitch, with the losers’ efforts largely confined to ‘keep-ball’ in defence.

They added four points to their tally courtesy of Jack McKevitt (a great score under pressure), sub Eamonn Callaghan (a free), Kirwan (at the end of a patient move), and goalkeeper Mullins (a ‘45’ after Kirwan was denied a goal by Jason Daly’s outstretched legs in the 54th minute). Naas had a last-gasp chance to win the day in regulation time, but Kevin Cummins’ difficult free in the seventh and last minute of added-time was well wide of the target.

Kirwan scored a wonderful goal in the third minute of extra-time after fetching a probing delivery by Beirne. The same player added a great point from an acute angle. Heslin, who was largely anonymous in open play throughout, scored his team’s first point in a remarkable 38 minutes with a free in injury-time, leaving the white and blue-clad side ahead by 1-13 to 1-10 at the interval in extra-time.

In the second period of extra-time, Kirwan fisted a point and sub Tom Browne kicked a neat point from play in the fifth and 12th minutes respectively, while the Westmeath champions failed to add to their tally with Heslin off target from two tricky frees, while a brace of late ‘45’s by Sam McCartan came to nothing.

Scorers - Naas: D Kirwan 1-7 (0-1f), A Beirne 0-3 (2f), L Mullins ('45'), J McKevitt, D Hanafin, E Callaghan (f), T Browne 0-1 each.

St Loman's: S Dempsey 1-2, J Heslin 0-4 (4f), D McCartan 0-2 (1m), P Foy, K Regan 0-1 each.

Naas: Luke Mullins; Cathal Daly, Brian Byrne, Mark Maguire; Paddy McDermott, Eoin Doyle, Eoghan Prizeman; Paul McDermott, James Burke; Alex Beirne, Conor McCarthy, Jack McKevitt; Darragh Kirwan, Dermot Hanafin, Ssean Hanafin. Subs used: Eamonn Callaghan for D Hanafin (44), Kevin Cummins for Paul McDermott (44), Neil Aherne for Kirwan (blood, 56-58), Tom Browne for Prizeman (e/t, 2), Brian Kane for Doyle (inj., e/t, 9), Sean Cullen for Kirwan (inj., e/t, 20).

St Loman’s, Mullingar: Jason Daly; Eoghan Hogan, Darragh O’Keeffe, Oisín Hogan; Jack Geoghegan, David Whelan, Enda Gaffney; Sean Flanagan, John Heslin; Peter Foy, Sam McCartan, Kevin Regan; Danny McCartan, Ronan O’Toole, Shane Dempsey. Subs used: Kelvin Reilly for Whelan (inj., 37), TJ Cox for Flanagan (46), Fola Ayorinde for Regan (51), Tristan Graham for Foy (58), Peter Foy for Graham (e/t, 14).

Ref: David Gough (Meath).

Examiner's Eye on the game

Man of the match

Darragh Kirwan (Naas). No debate needed here, as the Kildare inter-county star top-scored in a superb all-round display, with all bar a point of his 1-7 coming from open play.

Key moment

Sam McCartan was unlucky to see his flicked effort for a goal being parried by Luke Mullins in the 27th minute, at which stage a St Loman’s goal would have put them seven points clear.

Talking point

Was 2023 St Loman’s best chance to win a Leinster title since their incredible collapse in the 2017 final? Father Time is catching up with some key players.

Stats watch

Wides - Naas 6 (1/3/2); St Loman’s 7 (3/2/2)

‘45’s - Naas 1; St Loman’s 2

Yellow cards - Naas 0; St Loman’s 2 – R O’Toole, T Graham

Black cards - None

Red cards - None

Match officials

David Gough is widely regarded as one of the best whistlers in the country, and he controlled this game very efficiently throughout. John Heslin’s effort at a crucial stage in the second half of normal time from an acute angle was deemed to have gone marginally wide.

Next up

Naas face their nemesis Kilmacud Crokes in the Leinster final, while St Loman’s year has ended disappointingly.