River men’s free running style sees them sail to success

Boyne Valley… 2-11

Tara… 0-07

A varied and attractive style of football – something synonymous with Cathal O’Bric-trained teams – held sway as the Walterstown/Bective/Rathkenny/Slane were deserving winners of the inaugural Regional Football Championship Final in Ashbourne on Sunday.

At this point, this writer would like to place on record sincere thanks to Coiste Na Mi and Larry McEntee for facilitating streaming of the Dioralyte sponsored showpiece. Hopefully it’s something both parties can continue going forward.

So to the action itself. Blackhall Gaels’ Paul Kelly has been one of the players to really embrace the concept of the Regional Championships and again he made his mark early here, opening the scoring.

Tara enjoyed plenty of possession in the opening exchanges but they drew little reward. Repeatedly being halted and turned over by a highly impressive, well drilled Boyne Valley rearguard. On the rare occasions they did get into shooting positions profligacy undid them.

Cathal O’Bric is one of the most successful coaches in Meath

Characteristic of any team with which Cathal O’Bric is involved, Boyne Valley played total football. What I mean by that is, each and every one of their players were comfortable and dangerous with the ball.

Which became very clear very quickly as the likes of the Rathkenny trio – Sean and James O’Hare and the inspirational Donal Keogan – as well as the equally impressive Cathal McConnell from Bective drove forward at will.

Keith and David Curtis, Barry O’Connell and the hard working Con Smith all notching fine scores. In riposte, Tara mined a good salvo themselves as Alan Nestor, Eoin Harkin and the impressive Davy O’Leary all doing their best to keep the umpires warm.

That burst of scores brought Ger Robinson’s charges back to within a point (0-05 to 0-04) before they were hit by a counter punch which could be patented as an O’Bric score.

A brilliant, fast necklace of passes involving Sean and James O’Hare, Con Smith and Donal Keogan culminated in Bective’s Smith sending a speculative lob across the square which was met by the in-rushing latter O’Hare brother and pushed past Tommy Dalton in the Tara goal.

In a match such as this was, at this time of the year when scores are generally at a premium one ‘Major’ was always going to make a significant difference, and so it was that the Dunshaughlin/Blackhall Gaels/Kilbride/Dunsany united forces were unable to claw their way back into the contest despite the spirited efforts of the Harkin brothers – Conor and Eoin – Jamie McWeeney, Paul Kelly, Donncha Tobin and Nestor.

Dunsany and Meath star Eoin Harkin

Perhaps inevitably in the circumstances, Tara’s necessity to push forward left them susceptible to being caught on the counter attack and it was Keogan’s willingness to drive up field which eventually saw the team from the home of local honey profit from a botched Tara kick out as that man Keogan forced yet another turnover and left Smith with simplest of tasks, rolling to the net and creating history for himself and his colleagues.

So, after all the curiosity and scepticism, I think most people would agree the Regional Championships have been a resounding success. Both in terms of being a competition in its own right and as a means of players auditioning for the Meath team going forward. Such has been the quality of the fare on show in all the matches that it almost seems unfair to single player out.

Barry O’Connell (Walterstown)

Yet I cannot let the occasion pass without even a brief mention of Barry O’Connell. Walterstown are one of the sleeping giants of Meath football for quite some time now but with players of the calibre of O’Connell in their ranks it shouldn’t be long before they awaken. Moreover, with the trophy for the competition being put up by the Barry family in honour of their father, Blacks legend Richie, how fitting it was that not only did the region of which Walterstown were a part win it out, but one of their own was one of the standout players therein.

Scorers – Boyne Valley; K. Curtis (0-6), C. Smith (1-1), J. O’Hare (1-0), D. Curtis (0-2), B. O’Connell and C. McConnell (0-1 each). Tara; P. Kelly and D. O’Leary (0-2 each), E. Harkin, A. Nestor and C. O’Donnell (0-1 each)

Boyne Valley: John Davis; Adam Byrne, Donagh Garvey, Sean O’Hare; Alan Wall, James O’Hare, Cathal McConnell; Donal Keogan, Conor Farrelly; Mark Dowdall, Barry O’Connell, Con Smith; Davy Curtis, Keith Curtis, Marty Mulhall. Subs – Lorcan O’Connor for Mulhall 41 mins, Brian O’Connell for Dowdall 48m, Matt Tully for Smith 52m, Adam Quinn for D Curtis 53m, Ciaran Cox for Wall 57m, Jim Marry for Byrne 59m.

Tara: Niall Flynn; Pauraic Burke, Eoin O’Connor, Cian Harford; Conor Harkin, Eoin Harkin, Declan Smyth; Jamie McWeeney, Donnacha Tobin; Paul Kelly, Alan Nestor, Charlie O’Donnell; Cathal Murphy, David O’Leary, Tommy Kinsella. Subs – Mark Demspey for O’Connor 21 mins, Sean O’Neill for O’Donnell, Shane Walsh for Murphy both 41m, Dermot Carty for Kinsella 43m, Ronan O’Leary for Harford 50m, Conor Mooney for Alan Nestor 52m, Wes Goodwin for D O’Leary, Fearghal Kiernan for McWeeney both 57m.

Referee: Fr Derek Ryan (Na Fianna)

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