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Crowley fires Palatine to safety as Fenagh lose Senior status after one year

Kevin Regan
September 30, 2023

SFC Relegation Final

Palatine 0-15

Fenagh 0-10

And so the worrying trend continues.

Since the restructuring of the Carlow Football Championships to 8 teams per grade a decade ago this year, the life span of newly promoted Intermediate champions has been 2 years maximum at the Senior grade. St Andrews who rebranded to Bagenalstown Gaels in 2019 being the only exception to that rule.

This yo-yo effect surely can’t be serving either the Senior or Intermediate grade particularly well and in the past 10 years Fenagh have won the Championship twice, O’Hanrahans likewise and Ballinabranna have won it three times which says it all.

So there’s a school of thought that maybe some of these teams have been too good for Intermediate (teams above mentioned in relation to winning at the time - not all based on current form) over the past decade but maybe haven’t had enough time to bed into the vicious eight team Senior grade. Should this be looked at perhaps?

But before people are led to think that this is a report or an article to defend Fenagh, it’s absolutely not, because on the night when it mattered down the home stretch not enough players stood up and showed that they wanted to survive.

With 5 minutes to go Pal led a three point game. 5 minutes for Fenagh to throw everything at them to survive. 5 minutes instead of a potential 360 minutes of Intermediate football games to get back there. But the appetite in those final moments wasn’t there harmoniously.

Now to Palatine. They certainly wouldn’t have expected to be in this position, but from the get go they showed great hunger with Crowley, Andrew Kehoe and Stephen Reilly sending them into an early 3 point lead after 7 minutes and when it really mattered, they were the ones who expressed the drive to survive coming down the home stretch.

Fenagh to their credit responded with the next 4 scores after going 3 down early on as Michael Murphy, Cormac Lomax and a Sean Smithers brace had them in front a quarter of an hour in.

Both sides were guilty of some really poor wides and in general it was clear to see why both were contesting this relegation final at times.  But there was also some moments of quality in terms of some of the scores mentioned above.

At half time Pal led 0-7 to 0-6 with Kehoe landing two more from play and Finbarr Kavanagh was among the scorers now as well. Fenagh’s points coming from Lomax and Murphy.

Fenagh could well have led at this juncture with Keagan Bradley bearing down on goal in the opening half but Craig Kearney was equal to the task proving that his shot stopping skills are very much on par with his website making skills!

Pal’s strong running became a big factor in the second half and with the likes of Conor Lawlor rampaging through, Fenagh fouled time and time again, and Crowley was unerring from frees scoring five of them in the second half along with one from play.

Pal were down to 14 early in the second half for 10 minutes as Darragh Fitzpatrick got a black card, but they managed this period tremendously well to their credit.

Two Jack Treacy points were among the few highlights for Fenagh in the second half and in one standout moment late on their season was summed up as a mix up for a goal chance meant two players failed to attack a ball and Pal came away with it.

A late Bryan McMahon point wrapped it up for Palatine to retain their Senior status, but for Fenagh it’s back to the drawing board and the difficult task of trying to forge a return to the Senior ranks next year.

Palatine: Craig Kearney; Stephen Reilly (0-1), Cian Cashman, Conor O’Doherty; Gavin Healy, Conor Lawlor, Finbarr Kavanagh (0-1); Jason Kane, Darragh Fitzpatrick; Mark Rennick, Conor Crowley (0-8, 6f), Bryan McMahon (0-1); Andrew Kehoe (0-3), Josh Egan, David Reid (played around the middle third).

Subs: Jack Deacy for Healy & Cillian Duff for Kane (Both HT), Brandon Cassidy for Fitzpatrick (43mins), Padraic Kelly (0-1) for Reid (49mins), Cillian Moore for Kehoe (62mins)

Fenagh: Jack Rowan; Darragh Byrne, Tommy Bric, Jamie Wall; Craig Wall, Jamie McCabe, Sean Cummins; Sean Murphy, Keagan Bradley; Jack Treacy (0-2), Cormac Lomax (0-2), Michael Murphy (0-2f); Sean Smithers (0-3, 1f), Conor Treacy, Padraig Hynes.

Subs: Cormac Nolan for Hynes (58 mins)

Referee: Jonathan Murphy (St Mullins)

Elsewhere Kilbride will play their trade at Junior A level next year as goals from Diego Dunne and Adam Kenny kept Naomh Eoin afloat at Intermediate level, winning by 2-12 to 1-9 on Thursday night.

While Old Leighlin were relegated to Junior B as Tinryland won out by 1-16 to 1-4 on Friday night in Fenagh.