First half goals earn St Fechin’s crucial championship win over neighbours Dreadnots
Ronan Holcroft led St Fechin’s to victory in their first senior championship appearance since 1995 at Dunleer on Sunday evening – all but ensuring their place in the knockout stages ahead of a crack at the champions, Naomh Máirtín, in round two.
he former Louth forward scored 1-3 and formed a third of Fechins’ clinical inside forward line, which Dreadnots were simply ill-equipped to contain.
While it was a relatively lacklustre affair, devoid of any hint of derby spice, there were tremendous scores kicked at either end. The ultimate difference, though, was in the method with which the teams attacked.
Whereas Fechin’s, with Holcroft, Ryan Walsh and Niall Devlin close to goal, constantly looked for and located pockets of space out wide for their marksmen to run into, affording them time and room to gather and capitalise, Dreadnots tried to be far too intricate and precise for their own good, coughing up possession on multiple occasions and running into alleys lined with Hoop-clad opponents.
Dreadnots felt they bore the brunt of referee Ultan McElroy’s decision-making and while Fechin’s did seem to earn their fair share of calls and more in a match which the Kilkerley Emmets official was content to allow flow, he called the major decisions quite accurately.
Indeed, John O’Brien’s men kicked three scoreable frees wide during a second half in which they dictated proceedings for lengthy spells.
The pattern of the match was ideal for Fechin’s who, having recovered from a dubious opening in which Smith was twice on target, struck for crucial goals on nine and 25 minutes respectively. After Walsh was pulled down, Holcroft buried a penalty past Ciarán Cunningham, while the former flicked a Niall McDonnell kickout into the path of Bevan Duffy for the second major.
Rampant Duffy collected, sprinted forward and shot, right-footed, past Cunningham, who seemed to be expecting the Fechin’s midfielder to settle for a minor.
And when Walsh split the posts with a free, having earlier landed the point of the opening period from almost 45 metres, Paul Clarke’s men headed for tea with a commanding advantage, 2-4 to 0-5.
Dreadnots required a response when the game got back underway and they duly provided as Dermot Campbell leapt on McDonnell’s unfortunate spillage of Peter Kirwan’s ferocious shot to poke across the line. It was the only occasion in which Kirwan got an inch on tight marking Colm O’Neill and Dreadnots, ultimately, suffered as a consequence.
The four subsequent points were exchanged before Dreadnots made their move entering the closing five minutes – influential substitute Craig Shevlin (free) and Hughes, spectacularly, levelling the score at 2-5 to 1-8.
Fechin’s looked weary and absolutely out of the ascendency, only for Walsh to convert an incredible point from outside the 45 and then Holcroft to neatly tip over on the half-turn.
A Hughes free gave Dreadnots hope but Devlin, who remains such a classy operator, knocked over a fabulous dead ball at the death – Fechin’s holding on in spite of losing Mark Holohan to a black card.
ST FECHIN’S: Niall McDonnell; Colm O’Neill, David Lally, Harry O’Neill; Mark Holohan, David Collier, Harry Haughney; Pádraic O’Donoghue, Bevan Duffy 1-0; Seán Kerrisk, Brian Devlin, John O’Connell; Ryan Walsh 0-3 (1f), Ronan Holcroft 1-3, Niall Devlin 0-2 (1f). Subs: Joe Corrigan for B Devlin, Paul Mathews for Collier, Eoghan Duffy for O’Connell.
DREADNOTS: Ciarán Cunningham; Conor Clarke, Barry Faulkner, Ciarán Finnegan; Pádraig Rath, Cian McEvoy, David O’Brien; James Califf, Dermot Campbell 1-0; Jay Hughes 0-3 (2f), Páraic Smith 0-4 (1f), Nathan Sutherland; Peter Kirwan, Derek Shevlin, Owen Murphy. Subs: Craig Shevlin 0-2 (1f) for Sutherland, Derek Shevlin for Smith, Sutherland for O’Brien.
REFEREE: Ultan McElroy (Kilkerley Emmets).