Loughmore Castleiney V Moyle Rovers13 Sep 2020
Loughmore Castleiney 0-18 Moyle Rovers 1-11
By Anthony Shelley
“I stepped into an avalanche, it covered up my soul” is the opening line on Leonard Cohen’s third album Songs of Love and Hate.
Moyle Rovers will know what he meant! Yesterday they stepped into a Loughmore avalanche and it broke their hearts.
I’m not going overboard when I say that by the time he had met Foxy Loxy, Chicken Licken wasn’t surrounded by as big a posse as the Moyle Rovers players were yesterday every time they got the ball.
The County Senior Football semi-final between Loughmore/Castleiney and Moyle Rovers promised to be a classic and all week I had looked forward to it like a small boy looks forward to going to U6 training.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Loughmore were forced to make a late change when Lorcan Egan’s engine light came on in the warm-up. Willie Eviston proved to be a reliable replacement vehicle. They won the toss and opted to play with a wind that was breathing rather heavily towards the parochial house in Boherlahan.
Ciaran Connolly had a Loughmore point in the opening sentence before Rain Quigley opened the Rovers account quickly followed by a fine solo effort from Liam Boland.
Unlike last weeks semi-final, both teams had come to play and the texture of the game was open free-flowing football sprinkled with touches of imagination mostly provided by Noel and John McGrath:
With Liam McGrath on his travels, many, including myself, thought Loughmore would miss his scoring ability but corner forwards Conor Ryan and Conor McGrath are proving to be as good a combination as mushy peas and salty chips. They came into this game with 4:22 scored between them and they added another 11 points to that tally yesterday.
In the modern game of Gaelic football, possession is king. Moyle Rovers won enough possession but wasted most of it. By the time the first water break arrived Loughmore had turned them over 8 times and led 0:05 to 0:02.
They extended that lead shortly after the restart when Noel McGrath channeled his inner Lionel Messi to provide the pass of the season to Conor Ryan.
Stephen Quirke and Liam Boland reduced the deficit as Rovers began to find their rhythm.
I met a Loughmore man during the week who filled me in on the Ryan family tree. What he failed to mention was that they are obviously direct descendants of William Tell as first Conor and then cornerback Eoghan popped over points to extend the lead back to 4. Conor McGrath made it 0:09 to 0:04 as we entered the final few minutes of an intriguing first half.
Rovers eventually came to terms with the Loughmore kick-out leading to points from Boland and Fitzgerald before the big talking point (or talking goal if you like) arrived in abnormal time at the end of the half. A Rian Quigley effort came back off the crossbar and as the foot race for the rebound began referee Derek O’Mahony spotted a John Ryan nudge into the back of Shane Foley and spread his arms to indicate a penalty for Moyle Rovers. Liam Boland dispatched to the front of the net for the last action of the half and send the sides in level at 09 to 1:06.
If there had been a crowd at the game both teams would have left to tremendous applause. Hopefully, the restrictions on supporters attending games will be lifted by the time the County Final is played in two weeks.
By now I’m sure most readers are wondering who was with Chicken Licken when he met Foxy Loxy but while you contemplate that, I can tell you that in the stand we wondered aloud if subconsciously the thoughts of next weekends County Hurling Final would enter Loughmore heads. The consensus was that if Moyle Rovers could start the second half well, then with the aid of the wind, they could moonwalk to victory.
No doubt Rovers thought the same. Liam Boland slotted a free in the 2nd minute before Stephen Quirke tried to lob the onrushing Shane Hennessy but his effort went just over the bar to put Rovers 2 up.
But when the chips are down, Loughmore always seem to arrive with the salt and vinegar. Conor Ryan replied with 3 in a row before John McGrath provided the finishing touch to a speculative Ciaran Connolly effort.
From here to the end, Loughmore outworked, out-thought and outplayed Moyle Rovers. By the time the second water break arrived, they had turned Rovers over 17 times and led by 3. By the end of the game, they had managed to turn Rovers over 27 times notching up 10 points within 40 seconds of those turnovers. It’s an impressive tally by any standards.
Rovers were living on scraps. They managed just 6 shots at goal in the 2nd half when playing with the wind. To their credit, they scored from 5 of those shots and somehow found themselves just a point down with 3 minutes to play.
However, their tactic of trying to hit Stephen Quirke early and often backfired. They tried to hit him too early and too often. It was a crude tactic when a more measured approach may have produced better results. You don’t always need to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
Substitute Liam Treacy, who has spent much of the year in the repair shop, announced to his manager, that he is back in working order with a fine point before Conor Ryan and Evan Sweeney finished off the scoring to leave the final score 0:18 to 1:11.
And so the battleship Loughmore sails on with its first port of call the County Senior Hurling Final next Sunday before dropping anchor for its final destination of the year, and a meeting with old rivals Clonmel Commercials in the County Senior Football Final.
It promises to be one of the most exciting finals in years. Over the next two weeks, you may meet people who will try to convince you they can call the result. Those people have reached the Everest of self-deception and are best ignored.