The incident underneath the main stand in Portlaoise involved players and mentors from both sides, as well as supporters from Derrytresk who jumped the barrier. Dromid Pearses lost influential midfielder Thomas Curran with concussion following the incident.
Following a further incident at the final whistle Dromid Pearses manager Michael Anthony O’Connell, who saw his team reduced to 13 men following the second-half dismissals of Denis ‘Shine’ O’Sullivan and Colm O’Connor, hit out at the Tyrone club’s tactics.
“I have to hold my hand up and say they were the better team. But I have to say our players were provoked. The tactics they had in beating us, I didn’t agree with. There’s an old trick of the trade where usually you’d bring on a sub to change the game but they brought the sideline on top of us before half-time. I’ve never before in my life witnessed what I saw there. I’m shocked. The linesman said fair play to ye and asked us to try to keep our selectors outside the barrier. He knew where the trouble had started. But that was not good enough.
“The episode with Denis Shine turned the game. If anyone saw him now, his eyes are black as he got a boot. And the referee turned around and sent him off. I don’t mind anyone being sent off but what happened there today, I’m absolutely disgusted. Our lads can hold their heads up high as we don’t play that kind of stuff.”
The loss of wing-back O’Sullivan with a second yellow card in the 38th minute was a massive blow for Dromid Pearses. They led at the break (0-4 to 0-3), benefitting from some excellent points by midfielders Curran and Colm O’Connor that illuminated a low-scoring opening 30 minutes of football. However Derrytresk availed of the numerical supremacy in the second-half and their well-organised style of football paid dividends.
They received a major boost in the 41st minute when centre-forward Joseph McKee pounced for the only goal of the game when he hammered a cracking shot to the roof of the net after centre-back Cathal O’Neill had scythed through the Dromid Pearses rearguard. The prominent displays of McKee and O’Neill, along with towering midfielder Ronan O’Neill, in the second-half were central to Derrytresk’s progression as they were able to keep Dromid Pearses at bay.
The loss of Curran hit the South Kerry outfit hard around the middle of the field. But with marquee name Declan O’Sullivan roaming all over the pitch to provide leadership, and the persistent efforts of Kevin and Niall O’Shea, Dromid Pearses grimly stuck to their task. Niall O’Shea split the posts with a beautiful score from the left wing but found himself crowded out by the Derrytresk defence when a goal opening nearly materialised in the 48th minute.
When wing-back Michael Sheehan burst forward to fire over a classy point with his left foot in the 54th minute, Dromid Pearses had trimmed the gap to four points. Yet the huge effort their 14 men had produced told in the closing stages as Derrytresk started to create overlaps in their attacking play. Their most potent attacker Niall Gavin, who finished with 0-6 to his credit, notched a late brace to seal their place in the Croke Park decider on February 12th and Dromid’s day of woe was completed with the late dismissal of midfielder Colm O’Connor.
Scorers for Derrytresk: N Gavin 0-6 (0-3f), J McKee 1-1, M Rea 0-2 (0-1f), C O’Neill 0-1.
Scorers for Dromid Pearses: Declan O’Sullivan (0-1f), T Curran 0-2 each, M Sheehan, C O’Connor, N O’Shea 0-1 each.
DERRYTRESK: A Quinn; S Slater, K Campbell, J Dillon; E Rea, C O’Neill, C Corr; C Gavin, R O’Neill; C O’Neill, J McKee, M Robinson; N Gavin, K Quinn, M Rea.
Subs: P Kilpatrick for C Gavin (55), G Devlin for Dillon (55).
DROMID PEARSES: A Hogan; P O’Sullivan, Dominic O’Sullivan, Donal O’Sullivan; D ‘Shine’ O’Sullivan, K O’Shea, M Sheehan; C O’Connor, T Curran; A O’Sullivan, Declan O’Sullivan, A O’Connor; E O’Leary, N O’Shea, G O’Sullivan.
Subs: M O’Shea for Curran (inj) (half-time), C Hallissey for G O’Sullivan (34), C Farley for O’Leary (42), M O’Connor for A O’Connor (62).
Referee: Francis Flynn (Leitrim)