Renvyle Capture First Ever County Under-16 Title
Renvyle 2-9 Oileáin Árainn 0-10
Renvyle Under 16s received their just reward for honest endeavour, parochial pride and admirable discipline when they brought home some badly needed silverware to a club that has been starved of success at all levels for far too long. They struggled for long periods, particularly in the opening half but they had character, self-belief and resilience in abundance and when they finally found their rhythm in the final quarter, they finished with a flourish to run out worthy winners.
They say that goals win games, and this was certainly borne out in this match. Renvyle took their goal chances, the first one very early on which gave them a platform for victory and the second one late on to close out the contest. Oileáin Árainn created the goal opportunities but didn’t avail of them and ultimately that was the crucial difference between the sides. The island lads were very strong down the central spine of their team but in some respects this was their undoing because they became overly reliant on these players as the game went on. Renvyle on the other hand were that little bit better balanced. They had stronger players in the wider positions which gave the more attacking options than their opponents. This was crucial late on when the fatigue factor kicked in on both sides with the West Connemara lads using the wide spaces of the Spiddal pitch to devastating effect.
Renvyle raced into an early four point lead with County star Tommy Walsh scoring 1-1 inside the first five minutes. Mickey Joe O’ Flatharta opened the islanders account on 10 minutes but Tommy Walsh responded for Renvyle with a beautifully struck forty metre free. Renvyle had the wind at their backs but it was Aran who had the wind in their sails despite trailing their opponents. Their captain Diarmuid Ó Lalmhain was a colossus at centre half back and the launch pad for many of their attacks. Midfielder Aonghus O’ Lorain and Martin O Goill were full of industry and invention and their clever distribution to minutes but he made up for this one minute later with a well taken point. Full forward Nathan Seoighe cut the difference to two points on 21 minutes as Oileain Arainn grew in confidence.
Renvyle needed a response and it came on 23 minutes, an excellent long range effort from Peter Wallace after he was cleverly set up by the skilful Eoin Gannon. Tommy Walsh added another free to restore Renvyle’s four point advantage only for Ronan O’ Gríofa to fire over at the other end. Aonghus Ó hIarnain quickly added another on 28 minutes but Renvyle finished the half strongly with two very significant scores. The first at a close in free from Tommy Walsh and the second a real beauty from way out on the right wing by impressive wing back Aaron O Regan. Renvyle led by 1-6 to 0-5 at the break but one sensed it wouldn’t be enough.
Their supporters’ worst fears were confirmed inside the first three minutes of the second half when quick fire points from Máirtín O’ Goill and Mickey Joe Ó Flatharta brought Aran within two points for the third time. Renvyle management responded with a tactical masterstroke, a calculated risk that ultimately turned the game. It was a straight switch, full back David Kearney to centre half forward and centre half forward Alan Walsh to full back. Both of their players duly went on to have a huge influence on proceedings thereafter. Renvyle corner-forward Shane Lydon engineered a superb opportunist point on 40 minutes and moments later corner back Tommy Salmon effected a dramatic goal line clearance to prevent what looked like a certain equalising goal.
Aran persevered however and points from O’ Flatharta and Tomás Seioghe on 42 and 44 minutes left the bare minimum between the sides as the game entered its final quarter. The momentum now appeared to be with Aran. However, they hadn’t reckoned on their opponents fighting spirit and their stubborn refusal to yield. Renvyle regained the initiative at mid-field, Alan Walsh began to excel in his new role at full back, half back Robert Lydon and Captain Jason Ridge tightened up considerably and the supply lines to the Aran inside forwards began to dry up. Ridge was inspirational late on, rallying his troops to one final assault and nowhere was this new found self belief and desire better epitomized than in wing forward Kane Fanning who became a real thorn in the islanders side with his tireless running down the flanks.
Aran’s concession of two close in frees the face of this renewed pressure was punished by Tommy Walsh as Renvyle restored their earlier three point advantage. With three minutes remaining, a brilliantly timed interception by Tommy Salmon on Eanna Seoighe’s final hand pass to Ciaran O’Domhnaill probably prevented this game from going to extra time. Two minutes later, a wonderful attacking move from Tommy Walsh, Shane Lydon, Kane Fanning and Peter Wallace culminated in Eoin Gannon firing home the decisive second goal for Renvyle. Tomás Seoighe scored a fine point on the run for Aran following the resultant kickout but it was too little too late and his dejected side were left to reflect on what might have been.
Máirtín O’Griofa’s final whistle led to scenes of unbridled joy among the large Renvyle following as they ran onto the Spiddal sod to congratulate their heroes. It was no more than they deserved on a day when Des Wallace, a hugely successful manager at schools level, finally got the big payback at club level, along with his two experienced selectors Pat Lydon and Finian Sheridan.
Written by Paul Gannon. Connemara View, November 2005
Full Version Available in “Pride in the Parish: Volume 2”