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St Mullins dramatic footballing rise continues after claiming Junior 'A' Football title

Kevin Regan
October 2, 2023

Carlow Junior A Football Championship Final

St Mullins 1-11

Fighting Cocks 2-7

They've done three Championships in a row in Hurling, but now the Footballers of St Mullins have done likewise, albeit in a different way. The Hurlers of course winning 3 Senior titles back to back, but what the Footballers have done in terms of going from a Junior C team to Intermediate in just a couple of years is also an outstanding achievement.

Yes they have players that are conditioned from playing inter county, but the other thing that some may forget is that some of these players wouldn't look out of place on an inter county football panel either.

In many respects you could say that this was the most convincing one point victory in a county final which may seem like a silly thing to say, especially when the Fighting Cocks had a kick to level it at the end from a Darragh Byrne '45, but when you consider the following key points you will know where I'm coming from.

St Mullins led by 1-3 to no score after 17 minutes. They kicked 5 wides and dropped two short in the opening 11 minutes and by half time that tally extended to 9 wides and 3 dropped short. The Fighting Cocks could barely get their hands on the ball in the opening 20 and kicked only 1 wide in each half, but the truth is that they got very little scoring opportunities in this game.

One of their brighter spells however was the last 10 minutes or so of the first half when Mattie Dowling converted three frees and Alan Quigley and Billy Nolan scored from play and somehow it was 1-3 to 0-5 at half time.

The St Mullins Goal in the opening half came from Paddy Boland, a neat one as well, with Jason O'Neill and James Doyle scoring nice points from play and Seamus Murphy notching a free.

St Mullins would kick 4 further wides in the second half and squandered two goal chances early in to it which may have come back to haunt them.

Aaron Bolger finished low to the net on 35 minutes after a good spot from Glen O'Rourke and then a long ball in around the house on 38 minutes led to a Dowling/Quigley combination and from a tight angle the latter squeezed it home. In actual fact the ball was so scarce coming in at times that every occasion Quigley got it in the scoring zone he seemed to convert, but they couldn't get on enough ball to keep a regular supply fed inside.

Fighting Cocks were still three points ahead now at this stage of the game and after Seamus Murphy and Eoin O'Byrne swapped scores it was the favourties who led 2-6 to 1-6 with 20 left.

But St Mullins appetite for the battle really came to the fore in the final quarter. Marty Kavanagh was magnificent throughout, turning over ball, attacking it with purpose, mopping up loose stuff and driving forward at will. He was to be rewarded on the scoreboard with a point coming down the closing stretch.

Alan Quigley pointed from play on 55 minutes but shortly before this they lost Aaron Bolger to a black card and with Gary Nolan and Mattie Dowling gone off the field after being subbed at this point as well and you sensed that they would do well to get something from the game. However to be fair Sean O'Brien was the man that came on for Dowling and Captain Emmet Moran on for Nolan so perhaps the leadership torch was simply being passed over to two other men very much capable of carrying it.

James Doyle showed his class late on with frees off the ground as good as you will see anywhere and Seamus Murphy along with Chris Kavanagh converted twice each from the hands during the second half as well.

Now for the late drama. So deep into injury time the ball goes out for a 45 for Fighting Cocks who are a point down. It's a difficult one on a dry day and Darragh Byrne had it all to do here in miserable conditions as he stepped up. He didn't catch it well at all and in the end it was James Doyle's free off the ground that was the deciding score in the 58th minute.

A magnificent story for St Mullins and in fairness Fighting Cocks club people were first to admit that they were second best on the day.

Onwards and upwards for the men based out of Bahana and they rock on to face the Laois champions on October 21st in Carlow.

St Mullins: Paul Kehoe; Sean Doyle, Oisin Boland, Tom Coady; Jack Kavanagh, Paudie Kehoe, Eamonn O'Shea; Paidi O'Shea, Marty Kavanagh (0-1); James Doyle (0-4, 2f), Conor Kehoe, Jason O'Neill (0-1); Paddy Boland (1-0), Seamus Murphy (0-3, 2f), Chris Kavanagh (0-2f). Sub: Alex Doyle for Coady (44mins)

Fighting Cocks: Darragh Byrne; Sean McGrath, Eoin O'Byrne (0-1), Tom Eustace; Matthew English-Hayden, Gary Nolan, Dylan Townsend; Liam Sheppard, Aaron Bolger (1-0), Matty Dowling (0-3f), Trevor Watchorn, Glen O'Rourke; Billy Nolan (0-1), James Hickey (sweeper), Alan Quigley (1-2). Subs: Sean O'Brien for Dowling (38mins), Emmet Moran for G Nolan (43mins), Cian O'Byrne for Townsend (46mins) Jack McDonald for O'Rourke (61mins)

Referee: Marion Hayden