Passage 3-15 -
Mount Sion 2-13
Playing in the vibrant style that has stood to them all season, the Passage dream of a maiden senior crown lives on for another fortnight at least after outgunning Mount Sion on Sunday afternoon. In an often frantic and exciting curtain raiser, Passage found that bit extra in the final quarter and goals courtesy of Rory Walsh and Sean Hogan saw them steam ahead and end a sixteen year absence from the showpiece occasion in the club calendar.
As in the group game only six weeks back, wafer thin margins separated these sides.
In the end, the wealth of attacking options and strength in depth at Peter Queally’s fingertips slanted the game in their favour. On an afternoon when Eoin Kelly failed to score from play, nine different names threw in an offering. They could also call on a county minor from the bench in Sean Hogan who scored 1-1 and had a hand in another goal.
They didn’t press the panic button when a ten point swing hit them straight in the face coming towards half time. Facing into the wind with three points to make up, they realigned and redoubled their efforts. Eddie Lynch guarded the goals with steadiness and the defence was marshalled by Noel Connors who always kept his head up to make his clearances count.
Midfield revelation John Whitty emptied all of his energy yet again and Pa Walsh supported in a partnership that yielded four points. The variety and versatility of their attack shone through with all six starters and two substitutes producing crucial plays. They mixed and matched their gamplan between long and short.
Mount Sion will linger on the dark evenings to come over the fourteen wides that contributed to their downfall (seven in each half). They left the field for half time in good health having knitted 2-4 together in the space of ten swift minutes. Austin Gleeson and Stephen Roche carried their sharpest attacking threats, as they have done throughout the campaign, but they needed more assistance on this occasion. They were forced to play precise passes as they had no target man to aim for inside. The injury absentees really hit home during the second half and they didn’t hold the same options in reserve as their opponents.
Passage played with the wind blowing towards Keane’s road in the first half. After receiving an early fright, they made up for their slack start in the quarter final. In the third minute, Tony Browne and Martin ‘F’ O’Neill did the donkey work to set up Stephen Roche but Eddie Lynch didn’t flinch from point blank range. A mere minute later, Liam Flynn claimed possession over the head of Ian O’Regan and Conor Carey loitered to pick up the scraps and whip home.
A quick flurry of points followed through Eoin Kelly (free), Killian Fitzgerald and John Whitty. Passage sailed six points up within six minutes. After a couple of fluffed opportunities, Stephen Roche eventually got the scoreboard moving for Sion from a tenth minute free.
Passage were well in charge however and after shooting three wides, midfield pair Walsh and Whitty fired straight through the posts. Michael Gaffney and Stephen Roche briefly interrupted the flow but Pa Walsh scored his second and Passage hit another groove.
A couple of flare-ups spoilt the latter part of the half. A late chop by John O’Leary on Eoin Kelly ignited the first flashpoint and the number three received a yellow when tempers cooled. Kelly slotted the resultant free as the game began to boil. Stephen Mason raised the temperature further with another point from a misplaced puck out and suddenly a seven point gap appeared (1-8 to 0-4).
Passage were the riding the crest of a wave but came crashing to earth. On 25 minutes, a burst from O’Neill placed Sean Ryan in shooting range and Lynch could only parry his shot. Richie Roche was waiting and he forced the sliotar home despite the scramble defence on the goal line. Further confrontations erupted in the aftermath which resulted in Conor Carey and Eoin McGrath entering Pat Casey’s black book. Sion rejigged the team and it worked a treat in their brightest spell during the sixty. Austin Gleeson assumed the mantle of a free agent around the middle and he pointed the way forward. Robert Bresnan was also introduced instead of goalscorer Roche.
Points followed from Stephen Roche and Gleeson before an injury time raid of 1-2. In the first added minute, Bresnan and Roche were involved before Michael Gaffney’s ground stroke found the bottom corner. O’Neill tagged on a point and then Gleeson won a free which caused further commotion. Jason Flood became the fourth yellow card recipient and in the fifth minute of an extended half, Gleeson powered over the free. After a dramatic climax to the first act, Sion led by 2-8 to 1-8. From seven points down to three points up.
The wild emotions of the first half subsided for the second. Thomas Connors, recently returned from Australia, entered the fray for Passage to replace Jason Flood. That entailed a whole host of adjustments including Eoin Kelly moving fleetingly to midfield. They pared it down to the minimum but a booming Ian O’Regan free and a neat Roche point maintained Sion’s three point lead by the close of the third quarter (2-11 to 1-11).
County minor Sean Hogan was introduced and he became immediately involved when Passage worked a puck out up the far sideline. Hogan’s point attempt hung in the air and Rory Walsh anticipated before Ian O’Regan to tip the sliotar goalwards. Passage back on level ground and determined to stick around. Twice Sion snuck in front through Eoin McGrath’s sixty metre effort and an opportunist Robert Bresnan point following an untidy puck out but Owen Connors took over the free taking responsibilities to answer each time.
Five minutes from time, Passage kicked for home. Whitty made another trademark long bursting run and he passed to Thomas Connors who placed Hogan in the clear on the far wing. He shot across the bows of O’Regan and the sliotar slipped under the net in the far corner (3-13 to 2-13). Sion searched for a leveller but fell victim to a couple of dubious calls especially when Eoin McGrath appeared to be fouled while on the offensive. Super sub Hogan belted one over from distance and Owen Connors sent over his third free of the half to start the red and white celebrations. One more giant leap to take.
Scorers:- Passage: Conor Carey, Sean Hogan 1-1 each, Owen Connors 0-4 (3fs), Eoin Kelly 0-3 (2fs, 1 65’), Rory Walsh 1-0 each, Pa Walsh, John Whitty 0-2 each, Stephen Mason, Killian Fitzgerald 0-1 each.
Scorers:- Mount Sion: Michael Gaffney 1-1, Austin Gleeson (2fs), Stephen Roche (2fs) 0-4 each, Richard Roche 1-0, Robert Bresnan, Eoin McGrath, Ian O’Regan (f), Martin ‘F’ O’Neill 0-1 each.
Passage: E. Lynch; J. Flood, M. Wyse, J. Upton; S. Mason, N. Connors, J. Roche; P. Walsh, J. Whitty; O. Connors, C. Carey, E. Kelly; R. Walsh, K. Fitzgerald, L. Flynn. Subs: T. Connors for Flood, S. Hogan for Flynn, R. Hurley for R Walsh, M. Baldwin for Hurley.
Mount Sion: I. O’Regan; C. Ryan, J. O’Leary, S. O’Neill; T. Browne, O. Whelan, A. Brett; E. McGrath, K. Stafford; A. Gleeson, M. Gaffney, S. Ryan; R. Roche, S. Roche, M. O’Neill. Subs: R. Bresnan for R Roche, A. Kirwan for M O’Neill, G. Carroll for Gleeson.
Referee: P. Casey.