In this week’s Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely writes about Dromcollogher-Broadford’s senior football success.
The winner’s enclosure can be the most difficult of all places to gain entry to. Only those who have prepared diligently have a chance of access - hard work, skill and a massive desire to succeed are vital ingredients but sometimes knowing how to win can be the difference and that, for me, was just one of the reasons why Drom-Broadford had the better of Newcastlewest last Friday night in the replay of the County Senior Football Final.
The frosty air mingled with the rays of the floodlights and, despite what some people thought beforehand, this was a hard but fair contest and for that both teams can take some credit.
Tension hung in the air for most of the game as the fine crowd followed every move of the ball, this was a battle in every sense of the word as players from both sides worked tirelessly to gain advantage. Both teams set up in similar fashion and for most of the game the middle third of the pitch was packed with players as, for the best part, only four players stayed inside either 45 metre line. Make no mistake about it, winning clean possession was never easy in this game but it was also evident that both sides were playing with the fear of making a mistake.
This Drom-Broadford team are a pretty remarkable bunch of players. Yes, some who laid the foundation in other years are gone, but the core of the team still sees some of the finest players to play the game in Limerick. In winning this latest championship they have now won six senior titles and without doubt are the most dominant team in Limerick football for the past 30 or 40 years. Many of the Drom-Broadford team have many miles on the clock but when the need was greatest they stood up and had the bottle to see this gripping contest over the line. It has to be heartbreaking for Newcastlewest who, once again, came so close to ending their barren spell.
They show themselves to be a quality team that, like others before them, came so close to beating Drom-Broadford. There is a lot of quality in that Newcastle West team and they will have their day. The important thing now for them is not to lose hope. They have proven over the past two years that they have the talent to win a championship and it will happen. I know leaders like Stephen Kelly and Stephen Nix will not be found wanting in holding this team together.
Replays, by nature, are low scoring and this game was no different. Both teams did have goal scoring chances and you always felt that whoever got a goal would win this game. As it turned out we didn’t have any goal but what we did have was lots of drama right to the finish.
The stats for both teams were very similar but in the second half of extra time Drom-Broadford looked to have more reserves and as a result they won more ball around midfield. In total Drom-Broadford attacked 41 times while Newcastlewest attacked 37 times. In kick outs Drom-Broadford won ten and lost eight while Newcastle West won ten and lost ten. It took Newcastle West some time to settle into the game and almost 20 minutes had gone by before Stephen Nix had their opening score. Pat Donnelly and Michael Reidy had scored for Drom well inside the opening quarter.
As the opening half progressed Newcastle West were coming more into the game, Nix was doing very well and they were also winning some good kick outs. The Quilligan brothers were also moving well and I thought they would have done even more damage had the got early direct ball. Each time Newcastle West got the ball they went towards the wing instead of direct. Tom McLoughlin was the free man in defence for Drom and, like always, he was in control but he was helped greatly by Eoin Barry whom I believe is the most improved footballer in Limerick over the past two years. Newcastle West led at the break by one point and, given the amount of the ball they had, it should have been more. They won all of their own kick outs plus five more from Drom.
By the tenth minute of the second half the sides were level and by this point it was clear that if Michael Reidy got enough fast ball he would do some real damage. The second half had more of a frosty edge to it. Both teams were putting in the hits and some players went to ground very easily.
Just like Richie Moloney the week before, referee Mike Meade did a superb job of what could have been a very difficult game. With good assistance from his team of officials he was always in control and his vision to spot those looking for easy fouls added hugely to the contest. Meade has given great service to Limerick GAA and this was a polished performance. With 50 minutes gone in the second half the sides were level at six points each and for the remaining ten minutes we had just one point from each side. Newcastle West were surging forward, Brian O’Doherty’s kick along the heavily dewed grass was goal bound and were it not for the goal post it would have secured victory for Newcastle West.
Jamie Lee, who worked hard all evening, popped up to kick the lead score and it looked like a winner but Drom-Broadford has developed the ability to survive on low oxygen and kept the ball alive to draw a difficult free forty five meters out at an angle. It would require something special to score from here and with more than thirty one minutes gone Garrett Noonan drilled a super kick to level the game. It took some steel to convert that game saving score.
The outcome would now be decided in extra time. Newcastle West, who had worked so hard, were on the verge of victory but now they would have to find reserves. The sides were level again in extra time having shared two points each. During that half it was clear that Jason Stokes had established a grip at midfield but it was also visible that cramp was setting in with many of the Newcastle West players. Both teams had now only ten minutes to secure the title.
Newcastle West had an early point form Ger Cremin inside the opening minute but from here on Drom stepped up a gear. Michael Brosnan kicked a super point and man of the match Michael Reidy took over and kicked the final points to secure the sweetest of all victories for Drom. Reidy was outstanding; he showed all of his class in this game, magical footwork combined with sheer brilliance in front of goal to produce a performance he will never forget.
I think Drom-Broadford are an inspiration to so many but, while many will admire what they have done, however, the fact remains that few players and clubs are prepared to apply themselves like the West Limerick men.
Mike Quilligan has taken Newcastle West close to the summit and, while he will be disappointed, I know this man will not rest until they end the famine.