THERE was all kinds of everything in Geashill last Friday evening as Bracknagh captured the Division 2 Football League title with a considerable degree of comfort against their parish neighbours, Walsh Island.
The winners looked to be in good health as they far won easier than they might have expected against a Walsh Island side who improved a lot in the second half after a fairly atrocious first 30 minutes but never truly looked like salvaging anything.
There was all sorts of mixed bags from both sides. Bracknagh were excellent in the first half as they played with a pace and intensity that was not matched by their opponents but they were no where near as good in the second half.
Walsh Island never got out of second gear in that first half. Their football was slow and ponderous as they took too much out of the ball, resisted giving quick passes and were completely outplayed by Bracknagh. In the second half, their intensity levels were much higher, they produced much greater drive but still only managed 1-1 and their sole point was a long distance kick from Thomas Brereton that bounced over the bar.
There were times when the game was pedestrian and mediocre; but there were other occasions when it was full of whole hearted no holds barred football with the type of bite that you would expect from parish rivals.
When it all came down to it, however, there was no disputing the superiority of Bracknagh and they look well equipped to mount a real challenge for the senior B football title. They played the best football, they were sharper, faster, more direct than their opponents in that first half and a twelve point winning margin was a fair reflection of the difference.
Despite such a one sided scoreline, it made for compelling enough viewing and there was plenty here to satisfy supporters. Bracknagh’s only goal came from a Peter Cunningham penalty deep in injury time and they will be wondering how they didn’t bag a few more. They cut through the Walsh Island defence with ease at times but found Ian Duffy an impenetrable barrier in the losers’ goal. He made a few great saves and while some of these were helped by less than spectacular shot placement, they still had to be blocked and a different goalkeeper might have conceded four or five.
Walsh Island could also have got a couple more goals with a sub Dean Murphy blasting against the cross bar in the second half while Oisin Murphy hit the post with another shot at the net towards the end.
Despite Duffy’s heroics, Bracknagh had several players performing at a higher level, Jim Hendy and especially Ciaran Donnelly had great games in their defence. Stefan Geoghegan and the impressive Jason Dempsey took the midfield honours while Mikey Cunningham, Peter Cunningham and Robin Galbraith were all too hot to handful for the Walsh Island defence though the two Cunningham’s will feel they can play even better.
Walsh Island were fairly predictable when it boiled down to the nitty gritty. Their first half display was surprisingly poor but their commitment levels were much improved in the second half, though their game plan centred on getting long ball into Alan Mulhall and feeding off him. It worked to an extent with Mulhall creating havoc at times while his cousin, Willie Mulhall also began to run the game when moved out to centre half forward. However, they never got the run of scores they needed to make it truly interesting – Rory Connolly, Thomas O’Connor, Oisin Murphy and Chris Mulhall also had good moments for them.
For a brief spell in the second half, it looked like Walsh Island might get back into it as they reduced arrears to 1-4 to 0-11 and began to ask questions of Bracknagh. However, a second yellow card for defender James Gallagher in the 39th minute sealed their fate and they were always on a damage limitation exercise from here.
Bracknagh played great football for some of the first half. Mikey Cunningham was superb early on and his two points helped Bracknagh to a 0-5 to 0-2 lead after eleven minutes. Even at this early stage, Walsh Island were desperately hanging on and they needed Bracknagh to have bad misses to keep them in it.
Walsh Island were 0-7 to 0-3 ahead after 17 minutes and there was a plethora of goal chances before the interval. Peter Cunningham and John Doyle were just wide at opposing ends with decent half chances while Duffy made fine saves to deny Jamie Sheridan and Jim Hendy. Still a 0-10 to 0-4 half time lead represented a good half hour’s work for Bracknagh and it was theirs to lose at the break.
Duffy made another quality save to deny Peter Cunningham at the start of the second half – he also made a great stop from the same player near the end - and a scrambled goal from John Doyle gave Walsh Island a lifeline of sorts as it reduced the gap to just four points. However, they then lost Gallagher and didn’t score again until Brereton’s kick in the 55th minute. By that stage, Bracknagh had 15 points on the board and they closed out the deal with ease as they registered a sweet victory over their once powerful rivals and a confidence boosting league title.
See Tullamore Tribune for detailed analysis of match with teams, scorers, man of the match, key moments etc.