Goals at crucial times in each half – evergreen wizard Frankie Dolan and Garvan Dolan the scorers – put Roscommon kingpins St Brigid’s on course for a comfortable seven-point demolition of Sligo’s Tourlestrane at a weather-battered Hyde Park yesterday.
St Brigid’s, chasing a provincial four-in-a-row, will take on Leitrim’s St Mary’s in the Connacht semi-final after a hugely effective performance. But for winning goalkeeper Shane Curran, it was a case of getting the job done.
“We prepared very well for this game and knew it was a potential banana skin. We’ve a steely determination about us – we rocked them with both goals and had the experience to see it out,” he said.
St Brigid’s manager Benny O’Brien said the conditions played a part in what was, generally, a trouble-free exercise for the title holders.
“We won the toss, decided to play with the wind and we got a head start on them. We are delighted that the team won and got through to the semi-final.
“The first goal was fortuitous but you will take them when you get them and it came at a crucial stage.”
The defending champions, backed by the wind, dominated an opening period that had been deemed almost unplayable by heavy rainfall the previous day.
St Brigid’s registered seven scores during a scrappy first-half – Tourlestrane withdrew a lot of their players into their own half – and there was a sense of inevitability when Frankie Dolan landed a point in the fifth minute.
But by the 15th there were only three points between them, 0-3 to 0-0, St Brigid’s having increased their tally with scores from Ronan Stack, raiding from corner-back, and midfielder Karol Mannion, who ghosted into space to receive Niall Grehan’s pass.
Tourlestrane were working extremely hard – Alan Dunne and Eamonn O’Hara involved – but were conceding possession cheaply which meant a non-existent supply to their dangerous inside forwards, Brian Egan and John Quinn.
The turning point was the St Brigid’s goal after 22 minutes. From a ruck in front of the Tourlestrane goal, the Sligo side appeared to be in control but the ball squirted clear and Frankie Dolan drilled a precise shot into the bottom corner.
Another Mannion point left St Brigid’s in a comfortable position, 1-6 to 0-0, with Tourlestrane’s only first-half reply a pointed free from Brian Egan in stoppage time to leave eight points between the sides.
St Brigid’s, playing against the elements in the second period, put one foot in the province’s last four when Garvan Dolan goaled just three minutes into the half after a telling move involving Padraig Kelly, substitute Adrian Gleeson and the excellent Ronan Stack, who was later named man of the match. With an 11-point lead, 2-6 to 0-1, St Brigid’s could afford to absorb sporadic pockets of resistance from Tourlestrane.
The Sligo side, once Connacht Club runners-up in 1982, reeled off four unanswered points in the last five minutes and were denied a consolation goal when teenager Cathal Henry’s shot was turned over the bar by veteran goalkeeper Curran’s wonder save.
Scorers for St Brigid’s: F Dolan (1-3, 2f), G Dolan (1-0), S Kilbride (0-2, 1f), K Mannion (0-2), E Sheehy (0-1), R Stack (0-1), A Gleeson (0-1)
Tourlestrane scorers: B Egan (0-2, 2f), S Henry (0-2), J Kelly (0-2), A Dunne (0-1), G Gaughan (0-1), C Henry (0-1)
ST BRIGID’S: S Curran; R Stack, N Grehan, R Kelly; N McInerney, D Donnelly, E Sheehy; K Mannion, G Ahern; G Cunniffe, G Dolan, P Kelly; F Dolan, S Kilbride, C McHugh.
Subs: A Gleeson for C McHugh, h-t; A McInerney for N Grehan, (52; J Murray for R Kelly, 53; D O’Connor for G Dolan, 55; E Egan for F Dolan, 55.
TOURLESTRANE: S Gildea; B Walsh, B Kennedy, D Dunne; S Dunne, N Gaughan, J Leonard; E O’Hara, A McIntyre; J Marren, J Quinn, A Dunne; G Gaughan, B Egan, J Kelly
Subs: C Henry for J Marren, 28; D Durkin for B Kennedy, 40; S Henry for A Dunne, 50; JF Carr for S Dunne, 54
Referee: Eamonn O’Grady (Leitrim).