Kilbeggan Shamrocks' James Finnegan in action.

Honours even in exciting local derby

St Joseph's 1-12, Kilbeggan Shamrocks 1-12

A last-gasp Conor Delaney free got Kilbeggan Shamrocks out of jail and denied St Joseph’s an historic victory over their local rivals in a thrilling Clarke’s Bar Junior 1 Football Championship Round 4 encounter at Castledaly last Friday night.

Postponed from the previous Sunday due to the passing of Billy Fitzgerald, father of St Joseph’s player Brian, the game looked to be over as a contest when Kilbeggan led by 1-11 to 0-6 at the end of the third quarter. But St Joseph’s staged a tremendous comeback that yielded 1-6 without reply to take the lead in injury-time. However, they had to settle for a share of the spoils after Delaney – a Laois SFC winner with Stradbally in 2016 – showed nerves of steel to convert a 40-metre free in the dying seconds.

The result means that both teams are through to the knockout stages with a round to spare. Kilbeggan remain unbeaten with six points from a possible eight (their other draw was against Ballycomoyle), while St Joseph’s have five points, having beaten Bunbrosna and Moate All-Whites, and lost to Ballycomoyle in their other games.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the neighbours meet again later in the championship when they should be closer to full strength. Kilbeggan are expected to welcome back talisman Nigel Scally from a cruciate ligament injury in the coming weeks along with their first-choice midfield pairing Niall Carey and Darragh Coffey, who have spent the summer travelling. The Joe’s will also have Jordan McDonnell back to strengthen their attack after sitting this one out through suspension.

A large crowd descended on the well-presented St Kieran’s Park for this local derby which certainly didn’t disappoint. Relegated from the intermediate ranks last year, Kilbeggan led by 1-6 to 0-5 at half-time thanks to Cathal Finn’s 12th minute goal and doubled their advantage after the restart before St Joseph’s stormed back. A draw was the least the Streamstown-based outfit deserved after they had missed a number of chances in the third quarter, including an Andy Scally effort that crashed back off the crossbar.

After Cathal Finn and Ben McDonnell were denied goals at either end, Dean Slevin opened the scoring for St Joseph’s in the seventh minute. Danny Scully and Finn both hit the upright with point attempts before Kilbeggan found their groove with points from Paul Fennell (free) and Mel Kiernan, and a goal from Finn after Delaney played him in.

The Joe’s replied with scores from midfielders Mikey Lynam and Ros Elliffe (who was positioned on the edge of the square for much of the first half) before Delaney and Scully made it 1-4 to 0-3 in Kilbeggan’s favour after 17 minutes.

The lively Slevin cut the gap again, only for Kilbeggan ‘keeper Joey O’Neill to respond from a ’45. Ben McDonnell and Delaney traded frees to leave four in it at the break.

Dylan McDonnell scored straight from the restart for St Joseph’s before Paul Fennell set up his twin brother David for a Kilbeggan point. The Joe’s were on top at this stage, but couldn’t make it count on the scoreboard with Scally’s missed goal chance being followed by some poor wides.

Those missed opportunities were punished when Kilbeggan hit a purple patch that produced four unanswered points from Finn and Delaney (three, two frees) between the 42nd and 46th minutes. Trailing by eight points, the Joe’s looked a beaten docket but they got themselves back into it with a 51st minute goal from Ben McDonnell after Slevin had to settle for a point moments earlier after his initial shot was blocked on the goal-line.

It was all St Joseph’s now who reduced the deficit to the minimum with three quick McDonnell frees before Dean Slevin fisted over the equaliser in the final minute of normal time after Kilbeggan were turned over from a short kick-out.

The momentum remained with the green and golds who took the lead for the first time in 54 minutes with a booming point from Mikey Lynam which curled over at the last second. But they couldn’t hold on as Delaney spared Kilbeggan’s blushes with an excellent equalising free from out of the hands in the fourth minute of stoppage-time.

For the record, St Joseph’s registered nine wides compared to Kilbeggan’s five.

Scorers – Kilbeggan Shamrocks: Conor Delaney 0-6 (4fs), Cathal Finn 1-1, David Fennell, Paul Fennell (free), Mel Kiernan, Danny Scully and Joey O’Neill (’45) 0-1 each. St Joseph’s: Ben McDonnell 1-4 (4fs), Dean Slevin 0-4, Mikey Lynam 0-2, Ros Elliffe and Dylan McDonnell 0-1 each.

Kilbeggan Shamrocks: Joey O’Neill; Martin Ward, James Fox, Colin Draper; Mel Kiernan, Aidan Stone, Micheál Coffey; Conor Carroll, Brendan McMahon; Paul Fennell, David Fennell, Danny Scully; James Finnegan, Conor Delaney, Cathal Finn. Subs: Sean Hanlon for Draper (41 min), Jack Mullins for Finnegan (55 min), Dean Fitzgerald for Finn (60 min).

St Joseph’s: Steven Fennessy; Thomas Conlon, Alan Farrell, Andrew Conway; Andy Scally, Daniel Keegan, Brian Keegan; Mikey Lynam, Ros Elliffe; Jake Gannon, Dylan McDonnell, Pearse Weir-Norris; Ben McDonnell, Niall Moran, Dean Slevin. Subs: Joseph Cusack for Moran (42 min), Aaron McDonnell for Elliffe (46 min), Brian Fitzgerald for Farrell (50 min), Josh Gannon for Weir-Norris (60 min, injured).

Referee – Enda Kelly (Castledaly).

Examiner's Eye on the game

Man of the Match

Conor Delaney (Kilbeggan Shamrocks). The Laois man is a class act at this level and led the Kilbeggan attack brilliantly. Corner back Martin Ward also had a super game for the Shamrocks, while Dean Slevin – with four points from play – and Mikey Lynam were St Joseph’s standout performers.