Seneschalstown 3-09 (18)

Na Fianna             0-10

As Na Fianna moved 0-09 to 1-04 ahead in the 41st minute of Saturday’s SFC Relegation Quarter-Final, the Enfield/Baconstown combination had rattled off seven of the previous eight points and it looked like Seneschalstown would need something special to wrestle back the early momentum they had and secure safety at the first time asking in this year’s Fairyhouse Steel Senior Football Championship Relegation Play-Offs.

Cue just over 120 seconds of mayhem, Seneschalstown struck for two superb goals – the second of which will be as good as any seen in the county this year and is a hallmark of this current Seneschalstown group as they moved the ball from back to front through the hands in double quick time, and while the finish was not the prettiest, it was what ultimately won the game for the Yellow Furze men.

Despite the many questions over the staging of this fixture in the background in the build up to Saturday, Seneschalstown could only prepare for what was in front of them. They welcomed back Cathal Hickey and Séimí Byrne to the starting team, while Na Fianna were dealt a huge blow with Ethan Devine not fit to play.

When Patrick Coyle got the game underway at 7:30 on what was still very warm evening, both teams wasted some early possession as they tried to figure each other out.

When the scoring did get going it was Na Fianna first on the board when Jamie Queeney pointed a 20 metre free, made more advantageous when a Seneschalstown player was unwise to question the referees knowledge of the rule book.

Seneschalstown were probing for an early opportunity and when Séimí Byrne spotted Cathal Finnegan making a run inside, he picked him out. Finnegan let the ball bounce over his head before he picked up and evaded the last ditch challenge of the Na Fianna defence to finish to the net and get Seneschalstown up and running with a well taken goal.   The same player tagged on a free moments later after a foul, before Seneschalstown’s lead was extended to four points in the eleventh minute and it came from an unlikely source. Full-back Brian Maguire got on the end of a move involving Cathal Hickey and Dylan Keating.

Na Fianna replied with a point in the twelfth minute, but another successful Finnegan free restored Seneschalstown’s four point advantage, this time after Simon Rooney was pulled off the ball.

However, Seneschalstown would not trouble the scoreboard operator again this side of the short whistle and were guilty of missing some scoreable chances as the men in amber and black ate into the lead with three consecutive Jamie Queeney frees.   From open play though, Seneschalstown’s defence remained resolute and ensured Ciaran Marks men went into the changing room with the score in their favour at 1-03 to 0-05.

Na Fianna continued their dominant spell when the game restarted and Owen McDonnell put over a tidy point to restore parity.   Eoin Finnegan hit the lead point for Seneschalstown in response less than a minute later when the ball broke to him and he took his score from 20 metres out.   However, two deadballs from each of the Queeney brothers either side of a fine Sean Martin point from distance had Na Fianna two points in front by the 41st, and Seneschalstown looked in trouble in a number of areas.

In similar positions in the past 18 months, Seneschalstown had struggled to ride out the opposition storm and regain control of matches.   This proved to be different as once Seneschalstown scored again, they seized total control.   Fortunately, this next score proved to be a goal.   Cathal Hickey picked up the ball on the Na Fianna 45 and appeared to be going aimlessly towards the corner flag.   Suddenly, Hickey broke through one tackle and the defender fell off the next leaving him one on one with the keeper and the county man produced an unstoppable drive into the roof of the net, leaving to scoreboard reading 2-04 to 0-09.

Buoyed by this, Seneschalstown were hoping to add to that major boost and they did so in the best possible fashion.   Ross Howard won a turnover deep in the Seneschalstown defence and took off towards halfway.    He linked up with Alan Mulvany who played a one two with Robbie Finnegan.   The ball was barely back in Mulvany’s hands when he picked out Cathal Finnegan who immediately transferred the ball to Howard continuing his charge from his own half.   Howard had only the keeper to beat and he rolled it towards the bottom left corner.   The ball nearly stopped on it’s way in but it had just enough juice to trickle over the line for superbly executed team goal and probaly the best Seneschalstown scored all year.

Two minutes later, Donie Commons found himself in some space to the left of the of the ‘D’ after being picked out by Dylan Keating and Commons pointed off his left foot.   Luke Kelly pulled one back for Na Fianna with seven minutes left but that would prove to be their last score.   Seneschalstown started to push for home, and when Cathal Finnegan was fouled off the ball, he slotted over the free with five to go.   Less than two minutes later, he repeated the trick when he claimed a mark from 25 metres and Seneschalstown’s lead was now by those two second half goals.   The winners were now making all the running, and when a Na Fianna defender was adjudged to touched the ball on the ground on the 13 metre line, Robbie Finnegan tapped over the resultant free for his first score of the hour in the 60th minute.   With injury time almost up, Cathal Hickey came up with the point of the night as he arrowed a superb effort between the sticks with the outside of his right boot to put the icing on the cake.   From the kickout, the final whistle was blown and Seneschalstown had won out by eight points.

With that, Seneschalstown had secured their Senior status and will play Senior Championship football for a 56th year in a row in 2023 simce winning the Intermediate grade in 1967. A year which had peaks and troughs at various points, and sometimes where luck deserted Seneschalstown, the performance in the last 15 minutes shows the potential of this group of lads, where the average age of last night’s starting team was 22 years old.

After the game, Ian Maguire confirmed he would be stepping down from his role as selector with the team. Ian has given many years of service to the club in numerous capacities and held the role of selector across a couple of stints and this was a fitting way for him to go out as someone who has given so much to the club.

Seneschalstown: David Gordon, Cillian Lawlor, Brian Maguire (0-01), Séimí Byrne, Rob Wogan, Simon Rooney, Ryan Finnegan, Donie Commons (0-01), Cathal Hickey (1-01), Robbie Finnegan (0-01, 1f), Cathal Finnegan (1-04, 4fs), Alan Mulvany, Dylan Keating, Eoin Finnegan (0-01), James Meade.

Subs Used: Ross Howard (1-00), John Smith