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Déjà vu semi final heartbreak for Athlone Féile team

posted 30 Jun 2014, 02:17 by Athlone GAA

Déjà vu semi final heartbreak for Athlone Féile team

In the end, the overriding feeling one was one of immense pride. Just like three years ago in Carrigtwohill, Athlone’s bid to win the all-Ireland Féile Peile na nÓg competition ended in a heartbreaking semi final, extra time defeat. The margin was the bare minimum (2-04 to 1-06) and with the last blow of the whistle there was not an ounce of effort left in these magnificent young players who represented themselves, their families, their club and their county with great distinction. To a man they played the game as it should be played, with skill, tenacity and incredible discipline.

The marathon weekend began with lunch in host club, Mountbellew, who went above and beyond their duties in the way they looked after our boys. They were fantastic hosts and showed what this great competition is all about. Sincere thanks from all at Athlone GAA go to Mountbellew/Moylough.

The main event started in Tuam at 5.40 when we went head to head with Galway outfit Kilkerrin-Clonberne and despite a slow start the lads managed to up the tempo in the second period and ran out winners on a scoreline of 3-07 to 2-04. Following an hours rest, we faced near neighbours Ferbane / Belmont. This game displayed everything that is good in Gaelic football. Hard, fair tackling mixed with fast paced attacking and brilliant score taking from both sides left the large crowd enthralled for the 30 minutes but at the long whistle, Athlone had come out on top on a scoreline of 3-08 to 1-07 but the scoreline didn’t reflect just how close this cracker of a game was. Thus ended Friday night and it was a tired bunch that made their way back to Mountbellew for a well deserved rest.

A beautiful summer sun greeted another large crowd in Mountbellew on Saturday morning where we faced up against the host team. As fantastic as their hospitality was all weekend, all relationships were put to one side for the half hour as the lads went toe to toe in another cracker of a game. Mountbellew were five points up late in the first half and Athlone were put to the pin of their collar to get out of this one with a win (2-11 to 3-05). It was a mark of the class of the Mountbellew club that they gave us a guard of honour as we left the pitch. Much respect due.

And so, with three wins from three, Athlone topped the group and were pitted against Eire Óg in the quarter finals in Tuam. When the dust settled on this one, Athlone were winners on a scoreline of 4-05 to 2-03. This was another exceptional display from the lads. The way they moved the ball from back to front was exceptional and the scores were of the highest standard. However, as good as the performance was, most onlookers will remember this day for the touching display of team camaraderie shown by the lads as the entire panel gathered around stricken captain, Joseph Devins, who has been sidelined with a virus for the past week, and showed him that even though he couldn’t play he was still their captain. That sort of togetherness and team spirit augurs well for all future battles that this team will face.

The semi finals were fixed for the Connacht GAA Centre outside Ballyhaunis and a more fitting venue you couldn’t find. The complex comprises five full size prunty pitches and a full size astro pitch in addition to a fabulous clubhouse. Hundreds descended on the complex to watch the sun drenched activities and there was massive support for each game which added a great atmosphere.

Our opponents for the semi final were the exiles from South London. We had received warnings regarding the robustness of our opponents from other clubs in Ballyhaunis but nothing prepared us for the extent of their physicality. Unfortunately, on the day, the officiating let the occasion down. A stronger refereeing performance would have offered some protection to the players but it wasn’t there and it was credit to our lads that not one incident of retaliation took place despite the persistent, and sometimes dangerous, foul play. Despite this, the lads gave everything they had and it was a remarkable achievement that when the game ended there was nothing between the teams. And so, just like three years ago extra time beckoned. London lead by two in the first period but Athlone pulled back level in the second moiety until a late, late score from London’s full forward raised the final white flag of Athlone’s tournament and that was it. There was only time for one more kick out and this resulted in another Athlone player lying prostrate and in pain. Again, no action was taken and within seconds of the restart, the game final whistle sounded and the game ended with a somewhat bad taste in the mouth. However, credit to the Athlone supporters who clapped the crestfallen lads off the pitch and treated them as the winners they were.

They may not brought home any silverware but the lads came home with the admiration and respect of everyone present and we look forward to them pulling on the blue and white jersey in the Westmeath championship in the coming months.  Finally, we wish Joseph Devins a speedy recovery.

Panel: Shane Allen, Andrew Beaumont, Joshua Beaumont, Michael Byrne, Kevin Cleary, Kieran Colclough, Sean Comber, Enda Tynan Daly, Joseph Devins, Niall Doolan, Patrick Doyle, John Duddy, James Finlass, Conor Glennon, Anthony Johnson, Eamon Martin, Killian O’Sullivan, Deba Okodugha, Donagh Prendergast, Thomas Roper, Kevin Rowan, Conor Rushe, Patrick Ryan, Mark Tallon