GAA | Watters wins it at the death as the Gaels end the O’Mahonys’ grip on Joe Ward

Anchor Tours Louth Senior Championship Quarter-Final Replay
Dundalk Gaels 0–12 Sean O’Mahony’s 0–11

Jamie Faulkner of Dundalk Gaels gets this pass away despite the close attention of Sean O’Mahonys’ Johnny Connolly. PICTURE: BEN MCSHANE

There will be a new name on the Joe Ward this year after Barry Watters’ last minute point booked the Dundalk Gaels a place in the Senior Championship semi-finals and ended the Sean O’Mahonys’ 12-month reign as county champions.

Is there a better way to win a derby than with a last gasp winner? The reaction of the Gaels supporters answered that question emphatically, Malachy O’Rourke’s side clapped and cheered off the pitch by those in the blue and white corner.

Those same fans would have been fearing the worst five minutes earlier. A classy first-half display by their side was a distant memory by the time the game ticked towards the final minute.

Four points adrift with 10 minutes to play, the O’Mahony’s displayed their renowned spirit to hem the Gaels in and score four points on the trot to draw level.

Johnny Connolly of Sean O’Mahonys’ gets away from Dundalk Gaels’ Eamonn Kenny. PICTURE: BEN MCSHANE

However, with extra-time looming large, their grip on the trophy was ended when Watters raced onto a Jason Clarke pass and wrote himself into club folklore with a finish that made light of a difficult crossfield breeze.

A dramatic night in Haggardstown saw the Gaels open with two scores inside the first five minutes, Derek Crilly gathering a wayward effort from Watters to fire over before Gerard McSorley smacked a close range free over the top.

Their bright start continued with Jamie Faulkner coming from the back to collect a Crilly pass and send a booming score between the posts.

Conor Finnegan, with a free from the left, got the O’Mahony’s off the mark in the seventh minute and he repeated the dose soon after from an almost identical position.

Ben Mclaughlin of Sean O’Mahony’s finds his route to goal blocked. PICTURE: BEN MCSHA

It was the Gaels who carried a bigger threat from play, however, and Eanna McArdle, after Chris Sweeney was denied by Seans goalkeeper Kevin Brennan, and McSorley extended the lead, 0–5 to 0–2, after quarter of an hour.

A fine Conor Martin effort gave the O’Mahony’s a lift but the Gaels continued to be ruthless in front of the posts with McArdle, from the right, and Crilly, from the left converting two very difficult frees.

Hitting a brick, blue wall when they went forward, the county champions were restricted to efforts from long range and a sumptuous John O’Brien effort pulled them back within three.

But the Ramparts outfit took a well deserved four-point advantage into the break when Crilly converted another free after Martin unceremoniously halted a brilliant spurt of hand passing that took the Gaels from their own 13m line past halfway.

Barry Watters of Dundalk Gaels beats Sean O’Mahonys’ Conor Martin to this high ball. PICTURE: BEN MCSHANE

Finnegan’s surging run and finish ensured that the O’Mahony’s started the second half in more positive fashion.

And when McArdle and Sean McCann both squandered opportunities at the other end there was a feeling that the tide might be beginning to turn. That was enforced by another tidy John O’Brien point that left just two in it.

Finnegan missed what looked like a relatively simple free by his standards to stall their momentum and Chris Sweeney punished the Quay side, sticking over a quality point from the left to get the Gaels motoring again.

McArdle then made defied the vicious, swirling breeze to put daylight between the teams again with 13 minutes to play, 0–10 to 0–5.

Dundalk Gaels’ James Stewart makes life difficult for Sean O’Mahonys’ Stephen Kilcoyne. PICTURE: BEN MCSHANE

Finnegan responded with a free before limping off with an injury but the Gaels kept tagging on scores at the vital moments with Chris Sweeney collecting a Sean Murray pass to slam over, just missing the underside of the crossbar by inches.

The Point Road outfit, as they have done over the years, refused to lie down and with Conor Crawley starting to get some service, they staged a late rally to draw level.

Substitute Barry Mackin profited from a Crawley knockdown to start the ball rolling in the 53rd minute and Stephen Kilcoyne, who was contained brilliantly by the Gaels backline up to the latter stages, left two in it with a free.

With Finnegan off the pitch, Mackin stepped up to sail another dead ball over the top and with the wind in their sails, the O’Mahony’s tied the game when Kilcoyne pounced on a breaking ball and swivelled in stylish fashion to level matters.

Ben McLaughlin of Sean O’Mahonys and Daire O’Callaghan of Dundalk Gaels fight for this ball. PICTURE: BEN MCSHANE

Extra-time looked the most likely outcome but chances still fell to either side. Mackin missed the target at one end but Watters made sure at the other, taking hold of substitute Jason Clarke’s pass to pop over the winner, book the Gaels a semi-final showdown with Naomh Mairtin and end the O’Mahonys’ grip on Joe Ward.

DUNDALK GAELS: Stephen Faulkner; David McComish, Jamie Faulkner (0–1) Daire O’Callaghan; Oisin Murray, James Stewart, David Moloney; Derek Crilly (0–3 2f), Sean McCann; David Moloney, Barry Watters, Sean Murray, Eamonn Kenny; Eanna McArdle (0–3, 1f), Ger McSorley (0–2 1f), Chris Sweeney (0–1). Subs: Jason Clarke for E Kenny, 60 mins; Peter McGinnity for C Sweeney, 60 mins.

SEAN O’MAHONY’S: Kevin Brennan; Christopher O’Neill, Ronan Byrne, Michael Clarke; Niall McLaughlin, John O’Brien (0–2), Liam Dullaghan; Conor Martin (0–1), Shane Brennan; Conor Finnegan (0–5, 4f), Ben McLaughlin, Stephen Fisher; Stephen Kilcoyne (0–2, 1f), Conor Crawley, Johnny Connolly. Subs: Barry Mackin (0–1, 1f) for J Connolly, 40 mins; Johnny Connolly for C Finnegan, 52 mins.

REFEREE: Noel Hand.

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