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THE NATIONALIST
Saturday 11th October 2003

Cahir remain on course for double as Hickey inspires win over Fethard

County Senior Football Semifinal Replay

Cahir 0-8, Fethard 0-5

  • Scenes of delight greeted the final whistle at the end of this semi-final played in Clonmel on Sunday 5th October, as Cahir realised they'd unexpectedly made it into the county final and were just 60 minutes away from an amazing South/county double.

    It will be a novel pairing in the- 2003 Credit Unions of Tipperary senior football final, and also a local derby between two sides that have hit form in recent weeks. Who would have thought at the beginning of the season that there would be no place in the decider for either of last year's protagonists, Commercials and Aherlow, or other heavyweights of recent years, Fethard and Moyle Rovers?

    But Cahir won't care about any of that. After defeating Moyle Rovers in the south final several weeks ago, they now set their sights on the ultimate prize of all in Tipperary football. And they are worthy of their place in the final, having led from start to finish in this replay against a Fethard side which struggled to find its best form and only really got going in the closing minutes when it was a bit too little, too late. Fethard's chances took a severe blow early in the game when Cian Maher received a straight red card and they were always facing an uphill climb after that.

    It must feel like a long time since the July day when Fethard comprehensively thrashed Ardfinnan in the south championship. Now, Ardfinnan find themselves in a county final after winning the first game on Sunday while Fethard can only look on after getting beaten in the second.

    A man of the match performance from county man Benny Hickey was one of the main differences between the teams. Playing at full-forward, Benny scored five points in all, including three from play, and did much to inspire his colleagues to raise their performances and book their place in the decider.
    He could be found all over the pitch at various times, winning possession and driving forward the Cahir attack, just like in the tied encounter between the teams last Sunday fortnight.

    The midfield pairing of Michael Tarrant and James Hyland also did well, with Gary Morrison turning in a good performance in the centre of the attack.

    One point of concern for Cahir would be the amount of chances missed over the course of the game, admittedly in difficult conditions, with eight wides shot in the first half alone. Cahir defended well for much of the match, particularly the likes of Robbie Costigan, David O'Gorman and Padraig Hyland, never allowing the Fethard forwards much room.

    In the drawn match, Fethard led for much of the game but this time Cahir were fastest out of the blocks with two points in the opening three minutes, by Benny Hickey and Padraig Whelan.

    The Blues took a while to settle and their first scoring chance fell to Miceál Spillane who did well to squeeze through a couple of tackles and deliver a shot which took a deflection and looped away wide, with the Cahir goalie and backs knowing little about it.

    Nine minutes had passed before Fethard scored their opening point - and only score of the first half - and it was a free by Brian Coen which got them off the mark after Aidan Fitzgerald was pulled down when on the brink of scoring.
    Shortly afterwards came one of the game's main turning-points. While Fethard were in the Cahir half preparing to take a free, Cian Maher and Gary Morrison got involved in a tussle which ultimately led to Maher's dismissal.

    Even at this early stage of the match, it looked grim for Fethard and Cahir used the extra man well. The Fethard forwards found it hard to shake off the attentions of the opposing backs and, playing very deep for much of the game, too often lost possession while trying to build up attacking moves.

    One that did work well involved Stephen O'Donnell, Tomas Keane, PJ Ahearn and John Paul Looby who between them moved the ball from deep in defence up towards the danger area before delivering to Willie Morrissey. It came to nothing, however, as a foul on Morrissey yielded a free which was sent wide.

    Cahir came back with some nice football of their own and almost goaled when James McGrath leaped high for a treat catch, turned and shot only to see Paul Fitzgerald pulling off a great save. Fitzgerald was one of Fethard's strongest performers throughout, with the likes of Damien Byrne, Michael Quinlan and Stephen O'Donnell also doing well in defence.

    Jimmy O'Meara and Willie Morrissey battled hard throughout up front for the losers, but found themselves outnumbered and smothered on most occasions.

    More points were added before half-time by Hickey and Whelan for Cahir, and they were unlucky not to score a goal when Gary Morrison found himself unmarked and shot for the net. Stephen O'Donnell just got there in time for Fethard, however, and cleared off the line.

    Three points separated the teams at the break, with Fethard counting themselves lucky to be still in contention.
    But, again, they were unable to get going in the third quarter and, with 22 minutes gone in the second half had only registered two points in all - the second coming from Damien Byrne who popped up in 1 attack.

    By now, Cahir had themselves scored seven altogether and were looking good for their win.

    Fethard supporters expecting a purple patch 1 were largely disappointed but their team did produce a mini-comeback in the closing minutes, scoring three points in a row in the space of seven minutes to reduce the deficit to two. Substitutes Glen Burke (two) and Conor McCarthy were responsible for those scores and also added a bit of urgency to the cause.

    The momentum disappeared after McCarthy's point when Fethard won possession from the kickout and Conor McCarthy himself and Brian Coen linked up well to give Aidan Fitzgerald a shooting chance, but his effort went wide.

    It was Cahir who closed the scoring, with Benny Hickey capping a great personal performance with an excellent point in injury time, curling a high ball over the bar from a tough position on the left wing. By then, the jubilant Cahir players and supporters knew that they were through.

    Cahir: Ger Leahy, Damien Lonergan, David O'Gorman, Padraig Hyland, Robbie Costigan, Paul Frazer, Paddy O'Flaherty, Michael Tarrant, James Hyland, Robbie Halley, Gary Morrison, James McGrath (0-1, a free), Padraig Whelan (0-2, one free), Benny Hickey (0-5, two frees), Liam Kiely.

    Substitute: Gerald O'Gorman for R. Halley.

    Fethard: Paul Fitzgerald. Damien Byrne (0-1), Michael Ahern, Michael Quinlan, Tomas Keane. Cian Maher, Stephen O'Donnell, Aidan Fitzgerald, PJ Ahearn, Jimmy O'Meara, Willie Morrissey, John Paul Looby, Miceál Spillane. Brian Coen (0-1, a free). Michael Dillon.

    Substitutes: Glen Burke (0-2, both frees) for M Ahearn, Conor McCarthy (01) for M. Dillon, Thomas Anglim for P J Ahearn Kenneth Byrne for M. Spillane.

    Ref: John Ryan.




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