SOMEONE must have printed a get out of jail free card for Swatragh at the start of the year and pinned it to Michael Friel’s jersey.
He has, in their two championship games to date, been a one man Salvation Army. Against Slaughtmanus, he was absolutely vital in turning around a game that they scarcely, if at all, deserved to win. His switch to full-forward early in the second half proved absolutely crucial as he scored a terrific goal and set up their final two scores as they edged by a gutsy ‘Manus outfit who deserved more for their efforts.
And yet, graciously, Slaughtmanus manager Christopher Cooke would barely accept the assertion that they were the better team.
“We were maybe the better side but it’s not much good to us,” said Cooke, “We prepared as well as we could. We thought we were prepared but obviously we weren’t good enough on the day.
“We weren’t ruthless enough. We were clean through and hit the post. I know hitting the post is maybe unlucky, but she has to go in or it’s no good to anybody. Hard luck is no good to anybody. Our players put in a good enough effort but it’s maybe a wake up call that the hard work isn’t quite hard enough. That proved it today, beat by one point or ten points, it doesn’t matter, we were beat,” said Cooke.
Two of Swatragh’s three first half points came from frees, but as Christopher Cooke lamented, Slaughtmanus weren’t ruthless enough at the other end. Gavin McShane popped Ryan Barr through after 9 minutes, but his bullet of a shot from 12 yards cannoned that hard off the post it ended up rebounding 30 yards from goal.
Still, with Kevin King in top form, they managed to build themselves a 0-5 to 0-3 interval lead. Michael Kirkpatrick landed a free to reduce that on the restart but two balls hanging right under the Swatragh crossbar were forcefully put over in the space of a minute.
Convery brought it back to 0-7 to 0-6, but again Slaughtmanus crept away again courtesy of an absolutely brilliant King point and a 40-yard free from Ryan Barr.
Just when they seemed set for victory, Swatragh got a bit of a head of steam up and at 0-9 to 0-8 behind the delivery going in was finding its target more often now. The pressure on the ball wasn’t the same and it showed as Convery launched one into the clouds and Friel used his brain to just nudge Adrian Deery at the right time and collect the ball. Ronan Cooke was out quick but Friel dropped the ball straight on to his right foot and directed it into the net.
Slaughtmanus were refusing to bow though, and Kevin King was trying to win it on his own. One off the left, one off the right, both from almost right on the 45-yard line, he dragged them back level at 0-11 to 1-8 heading into injury-time.
But they let Ryan Dillon ghost in and finish them off when really, they didn’t deserve to lose. Still, it’s not about the scoreline you deserve. It’s about the scoreline you earn.
Swatragh: Mick O’Kane; Hugh Martin Turner, Martin Quinn, Philip Mooney; Ryan Dillon (0-1), Cahal McQuillan, Diarmuid Dillon; Michael Friel (1-0), Conor McAtamney (0-1); Thomas Óg Gunning, Sean McNicholl, James Kearney (0-3, 0-1f); Michael Kirkpatrick (0-1f), Ruairi Convery (0-3, 0-1f), Rob McWilliams. (Subs) Sean McMaster for Mooney (35), Johnny McKeefry for Gunning (41), Brian Diamond for McWilliams (56)
Slaughtmanus: Ronan Cooke; Ryan Cooke, Adrian Deery, Barry Cooke; David Quigg, Cahir Cooke, Fergal Hargan; John Robertson, Barry Lyons; Adrian O’Kane (0-1f), Kevin King (0-6), Ryan Barr (0-1f); Brian Duddy (0-1), Ian Doherty (0-1), Gavin McShane.(Subs) Shane Connor for Barr (47), Chris Deery for O’Kane (56), Kieran McGlinchey for Quigg (57)
Referee: Peter O’Connor (Desertmartin)