The Drum/Clonown U13 futsal team struck gold as the sun shone in Athlone IT for the final weekend of the 2012 HSE Community Games National Finals.
The south Roscommon side defeated Listowel of Kerry on penalties in last Sunday's final to bring a coveted gold medal back to their area.
Representing Roscommon and Connacht, Drum/Clonown faced Leinster champions Lucan in the semi-finals last Saturday. It was a very close and nail-biting game from beginning right through to extra-time, and the talented goalkeepers on both sides were kept very busy. But Drum/Clonown's Paul McManus eventually made the all-important breakthrough in extra-time, putting his side 1-0 up by placing the ball nicely to the back of the Lucan net. And that's how the way the game ended.
In the other semi-final, Listowel beat Fanad of Donegal 3-1 to set up a final clash against Drum/Clonown with a national title at stake.
The time of reckoning arrived on Sunday morning. The team that could shake off the nerves and settle into the game quickest was likely to reap the benefits. As it turned out, neither side was willing to give an inch to the other. The teams were very evenly matched in the first half and, despite a high standard of football from both teams, neither could get a clear shot at goal. Listowel had a number of long range shots, but Colm Lynch's terrific goalkeeping skills thwarted the Kerry side's hopes of taking an early lead.
Drum/Clonown relied on skilful passing in a bid to create scoring opportunities, but they were unable to make the breakthrough. Despite both sides battling frantically for the opening goal, the match finished 0-0, and so extra-time was required.
Listowel took the lead in extra-time and, shortly afterwards, Drum/Clonown 'keeper Colm Lynch made a critical save to keep the match at 1-0. Spirited defending from Dylan Sumner kept the ball out of the Drum/Clonown net, but he paid the price and had to leave the pitch with an injury.
With only 30 seconds of play left, Adam Harney played a perfect ball into the box, and Calum O'Brien headed it brilliantly into the top corner to make it 1-1.
The game went to penalties and both sides showed great character to step up to the mark in front of the massive crowd which was willing both sides on. The score finished 4-3 on penalties in favour of Drum/Clonown, who were therefore crowned All-Ireland champions.
The Drum/Clonown players had plenty of support from St Joseph's FC, who all of the team play schoolboy soccer for, and they were also backed by ADSL representatives and members of Clann na nGael GAA club. The south Roscommon side was also thankful to the Connacht runners-up from Mayo who came to support Drum/Clonown in their ultimately successful quest to become the All-Ireland champions.
Among the other south Roscommon competitors who performed well were Oisin McAuley (Kiltoom/Cam), Joseph Kelly (Drum/Clonown), Ronan Finn (Moore), Daniel Farrell (Moore), Adrian Kenny (Moore) and Maeve Dervin (Knockcroghery/St John's/Rahara) - although they were unable to secure medals.
In other events, meanwhile, Charlie Naughton from Ballinasloe claimed a gold medal in the Boys U-8 80m race. Fellow Ballinasloe competitors Shane Fitzpatrick (Boys U-8 60m) and Shane Jennings (Boys U-12 60m) claimed fourth place finishes in their respective events.
Although south Westmeath competitors enjoyed plenty of success the previous weekend, Retreat duo Kate Brennan (U-16 discus) and Jack Brody (U14 long jump), Tubberclair/Glasson's Leah Hanley and Patrick McMahon (Mount Temple/Baylin) were out of luck in terms of winning medals on this occasion.
Westmeath did claim a gold through Eoin Sheridan (Tailteann/St Brigid's) in the Discus. And Kinnegad/Coralstown won a silver medal for Westmeath in the U-10 mixed relay.
Westmeath won a bronze medal in the team event in the boys' marathon. The Lake County had four runners in the marathon and, although not in the individual medal placings, they ran a great team race to secure a bronze medal.
Aisling Moody of Gainstown won a bronze medal in the girls' U16 individual marathon, and Kinnegad/Coralstown duo Charlie Okafar (U10 200m) and Denians Izekor (U-10 100m), and the Milltown/Empor/Moyvore U-11 basketball team, also brought bronze medals to Westmeath.
The Milltown/Empor/Moyvore basketball team consisted of Ben Hesnan, Brendan Murtagh, Caitlin Kiernan, Chloe Molloy, Clodagh Dillon, Conor Gibney, Jack Murtagh, Jason Molloy, Sarah Dillon and Sarah Murtagh. Coached by Cathy Dillon, they became the first Westmeath basketball team to win a Leinster title and therefore went forward to the National Finals. They were defeated by Moycullen (Galway) 24-11 in the semi-finals and then narrowly lost out by one basket (20-18) to Monaghan Town in the 3rd/4th place play-off.
While Westmeath Community Games congratulates all of their medal winners, they also pay tribute to all of the county's competitors who took part in the finals. Overall, they can be very proud of their achievements and were great ambassadors for their areas and county.
An estimated 12,000 spectators attended the finals last weekend as parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, friends and supporters travelled in their droves to encourage the 2,400 participants.
Among the spectators in Athlone was Brendan Boyce from Donegal, who competed in the 50km walk at the London Olympics and who is a former Community Games participant. Commenting on the games, Brendan said: "It is an honour to be here as a guest at the National Finals, the atmosphere was electric. I can see that there are plenty of stars of the future here."
Speaking about the National Finals, Gerry Davenport, President, HSE Community Games, said: "The atmosphere this weekend has been superb, the fun and competitive spirit was evident throughout the campus. The sun was shining and all the participants and supporters embraced the festive occasion."