Following Friday night's incredible 5-4 win against Mervue, Alan Kirby challenged me to put words on the night's events. Well, in truth, I think the finest soccer writers assembled at the Euro Finals in Kiev would have found the task almost impossible. Even Shakespeare would have found the plot to have been beyond reasonable imagination.
Driving through the maze of roads and housing estates to find Fahy's Field, two magpies were spotted which we took as a positive omen. Three nil down at half time and it felt like the magpies were having a good laugh at us.
We started brightly enough but were lucky when the upright denied the hosts an opener. But with barely 20 minutes on the clock, Mervue were awarded a penalty which the linesman awarded. Tony Cousins was as angry as the players but their breaths were wasted as Hoban bulged the net. Des Hope seemed to be struggling with an injury and the introduction of former Monaghan player William Mc Donagh seemed to steady things at the back. Again we were living in cloudland when instead of seeing an equalising goal, it was our hosts who scored again within five minutes. When their tricky winger Nkololo with his hi vis orange boots smashed in number three, it looked like our whole world was crashing in. We were flat, we were slow and worst of all we simply hoofing the ball forward.
At half time, we were left to wonder what changes could be made to get some respectability back to the score line.If this continued, we were heading for an embarassing trouncing. Despite the awful scoreline, Willo McDonagh did seem to be our best player on view. A helicopter flew over the grounds and many wished it could whisk us away from what was fast looking like a western nightmare.
Kirbs was introduced for Keith Gillespie and straight away got stuck in. After just 10 minutes, Kirbs swung in a free which found the head of new boy McDonagh and at least we had one back. That seemed to ignite the engine as Michael Lee roared back to life and following some hard graft, his shot ended up in the back of the net, coming off a defender. One Town supporter, at half time had actually said he'd settle for a three two loss if we played better in the second half. Oh he of little faith. But when former Town favourite scored their fourth with the Town defence absent, it looked like there was really no way back this time. The score line now looked like that by which we beat them earlier in Flancare. But in fairness the Town battled gamely and were determined to make up for the terrible first half display. We were thrown a life line when two minutes after their fourth goal, Pat Hoban was given two yellows for questioning a ref's decision. By the now the game had been transformed and had exploded to a hectic pace. Four minutes after the sending off, Kirbs found the back of the net after good work by Gary Shaw. Barely three minutes had passed when the unbelievable happened and Mervue's Tom King was shown a red card, seemingly for use of the elbow. With fifteen minutes remaining, the tension was unbearable and texting updates to absent friends became a nightmare with shaking fingers, trembling hands and a pounding dodgy heart. Could we dare to pray for an equaliser which might restore some dented pride. Wave after wave of Town attack resulted but , to their credit Mervue seemed resolute and held out till the final minute of ordinary time. Then the boy wonder from, Alan Kirby, (and certainly man of the match) floated in a precise free. Gary Shaw's red head soared above all the rest and he smacked an incredible header to bulge the net yet again and leave us all square. The contrast in emotions from both sets of players and supporters had to be experienced to be believed. The fourth official showed four minutes on the board and we sat back to bask in a share of the points. The joy was unconfined at at incredible comeback. But no one told the players to settle for a point and sensing more, they continued their siege on the hosts' goals.Earlier Tony Cousins had gone for broke by changing Haverty at the back for an other new boy, Tony Griffiths. As Griffiths stormed in the danger zone, he was upended. The blowing of the shrill whistle was followed by the ref pointing to the spot. By now, as jaws dropped and hearts went into overdrive, Mark Salmon stepped up to make the great escape even greater. As the cool Salmon smashed home number five, the small band of faithful supporters could be heard out in Connemara.
Shortly afterwards, the ref blew his whistle for the last time in what was surely the most dramatic comeback in the history of the club. Yes, we had the incredible comeback in the cup final against Waterford, but to fight back from three nil and then four two was really off the footballing Reichter scale.
After the game the Mervue staff, players and supporters were shocked into disbelief. There were long silences and much head shaking. The ref wasn't exactly their flavour of the month. Our own players were also in shock but with thinly disguised smiles. In fairness you'd have to feel for our hosts. They did not deserve to be beaten, at the very least they surely deserved a share of the spoils and when you realise they were beaten in the last minute by their clocal rivals SD Galway, you realise why a few tears were shed.Anyone who says, it's only a game should have been present at Fahy's Field on Friday night. It was nice too to see the Town supporters commiserate with a distraught Tom King.
Nine goals, two penalties,two sending offs, more drama, conflict and passion than the local Druid theatre could dream of and all for just ten euro.
You were right Kirbs, it was hard to try to put words on the madness of it all but I hope you're satisified with my effort.
ATHLONE AT HOME
This Saturday night sees us entertain Athlone Town at Flancare Park on Saturday night, kick off 7.30. At least it's good to have a home game after all our travels on the road, first to Finn Harps and then our great escape in Galway. We scored eight goals on the road from those games and bagged all six points on offer. However we also conceded five times which has to be a concern. Hopefully the introduction of Willo McDonagh from Monaghan will help in that department. He's very comfortable on the ball and as we saw in Galway, he's also a real threat in the opposition goalmouth on set pieces. Once again, we need a good solid display from start to finish if we're to maintain our top position. Equally, we also need to see more locals support the team. They've shown time and again that they have massive spirit and what they'd really like to see would be YOU at the game on Saturday night.
HERE AND THERE
Congrats to Marty Stapleton who has just landed a job in Dublin; it's great to have a job but pity poor Marty who never missed one game all last season but missed the most dramatic game of his whole sporting life in Galway. Work can sometimes be the curse of the sporting classes. Bon Voyage to Seamus Murray and Paddy Conway who are topping up their tans on foreign beaches. Meanwhile welcome home from Spain to Carmel Browne who successfully completed four marathons in four days in aid of cancer research and autism. Carmel hopes to dash from the airport on Saturday evening to be present at the Athlone game in case you want to give her a few euro for those worthy causes. Brendan Turner should also be home from sunnier climes in time to pour you your tea at half time in the Clubhouse. Two former Town management members met on Friday night last with rookie Aaron Callaghan's Bohs putting four past the vastly experienced Stephen Kenny's Shamrock Rovers. What are the chances of Roddy Collins heading to Tallaght to replace he who we knew as “God”?