A final scoreline of 4-09 to 0-10 seemed highly unlikely at half-time, but that is exactly how it finished in favour of Mitchelstown CBS over Dunshaughlin C.C. in a tense and exciting All-Ireland senior football semi-final at Heywood, Co. Laois, on Saturday week last, March 12th.

Played on all-weather surface in fine conditions, the first half was a tight affair. Mitchelstown were first off the mark when good work by Eoin O’Mahony set up Cathail O’Mahony for the opening point. From the very early stages the Mitchelstown half-back line of Lorcan Finn, Eric O’Donoghue and Dylan Kent were very effective and strong in possession.

The midfield and half-forward worked hard at pressing the opposition, typified by a good block by George Pendle close to his full-back line early on. Mitchelstown’s second point was created and finished by centre-forward Sean O’Sullivan. Dunshaughlin replied with a point from a free and another from play to level the scores.

Mitchelstown missed some scorable chances, and indeed they appeared to be finding it difficult to adjust to the unfamiliar playing surface. Many of these chances were created by the intelligent play of Eoin O’Mahony and the determination of Dylan Kent. Equally, Dunshaughlin were finding it difficult to breach the Mitchelstown rearguard, in which Jack Coughlan excelled throughout, ably supported by Eoin Gallahue and Killian Roche in the corners.

Dunshaughlin added a further pointed free, but Sean Walsh levelled the match at 3 points each following good work by Mark Keane. A foul on Dylan Kent was punished by Eoin O’Mahony – an excellent effort from a tight angle. This was cancelled out by a fine effort from play by Dunshaughlin. Eoin Gallahue was to the fore in defence, and a further foul on the excellent Dylan Kent gave Eoin O’Mahony the opportunity to kick his second pointed free.

Mitchelstown were soon 2 points ahead. Good teamwork and a driving run from wing-back Lorcan Finn created the chance for Sean O’Sullivan, and he made no mistake in splitting the posts. Dunshaughlin replied immediately as the whistle beckoned and left the minimum between the sides at the break, with CBS leading by 6 points to 5.

Dunshaughlin began the second half with great gusto, scoring 2 quick points from play to put them ahead by 1. Their forwards were moving with purpose, and they moved the ball with a greater pace than heretofore. They threatened to add the game’s first goal, but superb covering and a brilliant goal-line save by full-back Jack Coughlan kept the goal-bound shot out.

Immediately CBS cleared the ball out to Adrian English who showed great skill to open the space and create an opportunity for corner forward Cathail O’Mahony. The result was a first goal for Mitchelstown, a six point swing in the space of one minute, and a potential game changer.

Dunshaughlin responded well, adding the next point, before a foul on the hard-working Colin English gave Eoin O’Mahony the opportunity to kick his third pointed free. The same player then added another, an outstanding effort from close to the sidelines, following a foul on Adrian English. Mitchelstown now led by 1-08 to 0-08. What followed in the minutes thereafter rocked them and the large travelling support.

Team captain Colin English, a player who embodies the heart and determination of the team, was red carded for reasons unclear to those watching. This was followed by the awarding of a hotly contested and very dubious point to Dunshaughlin, the ball appearing to have been right of the posts, and the awarding of a free close in to Dunshaughlin when it appeared that CBS ‘keeper Cahal O’Sullivan had been fouled. Dunshaughlin pointed the free and it left just one between the sides, 1-08 to 0-10.

It was to prove to be Dunshaughlin’s final score. As so often happens, the team of 14 men galvanised and refused to be beaten. Mark Keane moved to midfield and was to have a major impact on the game. Sean O’Sullivan and Eoin O’Mahony were hugely influential as the forwards seemed to be finding space with greater ease.

Killian Roche was very involved in setting up moves from the back, and his efficient use of possession was a feature of the game. Sean O’Sullivan cut his way through the Dunshaughlin defence to create a goal scoring opportunity, but he was denied by a good save by the Dunshaughlin keeper.

The next opportunity followed soon after. Mark Keane dispossessed his opponent, and his floated pass into space was perfectly weighted for Cathail O’Mahony to run onto. A quick turn and he was gone, only to be fouled inside the area.

The referee pointed to the spot, and though the Meath keeper saved the first effort he was powerless to keep out the rebound from Brian White. Within minutes Mitchelstown added their third goal, this one just reward for the excellent Sean O’Sullivan. Eoin O’Mahony added a free to put CBS ahead by 3-09 to 0-10.

Dunshaughlin now threw everyone into attack and Mitchelstown spurned efforts on the counter-attack to add to their total. The fourth goal arrived as the minutes ebbed away, a second for Sean O’Sullivan, to secure the victory by 4-09 to 0-10.

March 26th fixture

The All-Ireland senior football final for the Eamonn O’Sullivan Cup is scheduled for Easter Saturday, March 26th. Mitchelstown CBS will face Ulster champions Warrenpoint, who defeated Connacht champions Presentation Athenry by 4 points in their semi-final.

Mitchelstown CBS panel: Cahal O’Sullivan, Eoin Gallahue, Jack Coughlan, Killian Roche, Lorcan Finn, Eric O’Donoghue, Dylan Kent, Colin English, Sean Walsh, George Pendle, Sean O’Sullivan, Eoin O’Mahony, Cathail O’Mahony, Mark Keane, Adrian English. Mark O’Callaghan, Tommy Breedy, Ian Butler, James Conway, Tadgh Finn, Shane Doyle, Kieran Fox, Cathal Harrington, David Harrington, P.J. Keating, Josh Macken, Padraig McGrath, Padraig O’Gorman, Jordan Sheehy, Brian White, Cathal Walsh O’Grady, Eoin Fenton.