The perfect advertisement for 2021’s new underage structure as St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield and Ballyea served up a thrilling inaugural Under 13A decider that was only edged by the former with a spectacular late three goal blitz in Clarecastle on Saturday afternoon.
Considering the transformation of playing non-competitive Under 12 ties in a reduced field twelve months previously to being thrown in at the deep end of an Under 13 competition installed as the first major championship title, the standard of play and quality of personnel was admirable in a final that pitted the best two sides in the county against one another for the ultimate showdown.
After all, a combined tally of twenty previous championship matches only yielded one defeat, ironically an opening reverse for the Parish against Ballyea. However, while Ballyea had remained unbeaten up to Saturday’s final, St Joseph’s only seemed to grow in confidence and understanding as the championship developed.
The rivalry was enhanced by the fact that the O’Sullivan brothers Fergal (Doora/Barefield) and Diarmuid (Ballyea) were in opposite dug-outs as mentors.
Level by the 50th minute, an anticipated grandstand finish was duly side-stepped when Doora/Barefield raided for three goals in the space of eight minutes through Leon Talty (2) and Kyle Lillis to cement the prestigious honours.
Indeed, the towering Talty, had dominated the opening period, and finished the day with a brilliant 3-9 haul but was actually emulated by flawless centre-back Graham Ball who produced a truly inspirational display for the winners from centre-back.
Captain Cian Ó Breasláin who also masterfully delivered his acceptance speech as gaelige, Shane Dilleen, Colm Daly, Martin Daly, Sean McMahon and targetman TJ Moore were others to shine in front of a sizeable crowd despite the drizzly conditions but it was the influence of Talty and Ball that steered the narrative of this final as Ballyea were forced to blink first and alter their gameplan to try and curb both.
Seven points in arrears at the break, Ballyea’s second half backlash was as impressive as it was inevitable because it finally demonstrated the spirit and relentless drive that had powered them to this lofty stage. As ever, Dara Kennedy and Eoin O’Connor were true leaders while Evan Cleary, Kris O’Callaghan and captain Cian McAllister got through a lot of work, with momentum appearing to be on their side as they made a full recovery entering the final quarter.
Over the hour, St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield deserved their victory though, having taken the game to the favourites from the outset despite facing into the conditions. Centre-forward Leon Talty was the chief architect and marksman, with a six point first quarter haul alongside an early brace from Shane Dilleen boosting the Parish to a 0-8 to 0-5 lead by the water break.
Dara Kennedy switched back to centre-back to try and curb Talty’s influence but it took from Ballyea’s attacking hand as Talty (2) and Ó Breasláin extended St Joseph’s advantage before capping off the half with a timely injury-time goal.
Only minutes earlier, Ó Breasláin had flashed a shot across goal and wide but Doora/Barefield would make up for it on the half hour mark when a Graham Ball delivery saw TJ Moore offload to Leon Talty to find the bottom left corner of the net at 1-11 to 0-7.
Half-time couldn’t come soon enough for Ballyea to regroup and it would work wonders as they were the ones to dictate matters on the restart. A goal within 90 seconds of the throw-in certainly helped as Eoin O’Connor cut in from the right corner before his shot was parried and Sean O’Sullivan was on hand to flick the rebound to the net at 1-11 to 1-7.
Dara Kennedy’s growing authority allied to a quick-fire brace of Evan Cleary points ensured that the gap was back to just two by the final water break at 1-13 to 1-11. It was a pattern that would only be maintained on the resumption as an Eoin O’Connor effort agonisingly skimmed the top of the crossbar before Dara Kennedy fittingly got his side back on level terms for the first time in over 45 minutes.
Ballyea would be duly rocked back on their heels in the next passage of play when another Ball delivery saw TJ Moore hit the butt of the post with a shot before Kyle Lillis scrambled the ball over the line to inject new life into the Parish for their first score in 13 minutes at 2-13 to 1-13.
An injury to Leon Talty dictated his switch to the edge of the square where two further goals would be procured in quick succession to complete his hat-trick and cement a memorable A crown for St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield.
On the flip side, Ballyea certainly didn’t deserve to be on the end of a nine point defeat and will understandably find final reverses for both their first and second sides difficult to stomach considering the strength of the season that they’ve had. That hurt is doubled up for a sizeable chunk of their main protagonists who had also lost the Under 13 Division 1 football final with Clondegad only six days earlier.
It’s a learning curve that St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield certainly mastered after producing a stunning 29 point turnaround from their first round loss to Saturday’s opponents.
One thing’s for sure, it’s only the start of their rivalry.
St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield: Cillian Thornton; Martin Daly, Sean McMahon, Liam McAllister; Sean Corry, Graham Ball, Harry Leahy; Colm Daly, Cian Ó Breasláin (Captain); Shane Dilleen, Leon Talty, Ben Talty; Kyle Lillis, TJ Moore, Leon Guerin
Scorers: Leon Talty (3-9, 5f); Kyle Lillis (1-1); Shane Dilleen (0-2); Cian Ó Breasláin (0-1)
Ballyea: Harry Keane; Adam Hehir, TJ Chambers, Cian McAllister (Captain); Thomas Hehir, Marc Kennedy, Sean O’Malley; Dara Kennedy, Evan Cleary; Liam Casey, Cillian Moylan, Bill Egan; Kris O’Callaghan, Eoin O’Connor, Sean O’Sullivan Subs: Thomas O’Dea for Moylan (41), Caileann Rynne for D. Kennedy (60, inj)
Scorers: Dara Kennedy (0-6, 3f, 1’65); Sean O’Sullivan (1-1); Evan Cleary, Eoin O’Connor (0-2 each); Kris O’Callaghan, Cillian Moylan (0-1 each)
Referee: Martin Glynn
by Eoin Brennan