Unbeaten league leaders Gurtagarry welcomed second-placed Borrisokane ‘B’ to Latteragh on Sunday afternoon in a real ‘six-pointer’ in Division 3. Billed in the local press as the ‘game of the weekend’ those in Latteragh would not be disappointed.
Rain and wind could not dampen the excitement of a healthy crowd on the sidelines, the majority of whom seemingly having travelled from Borrisokane. But it was Gurtagarry who settled quickest and it was not a surprise when they took the lead after 10 minutes through their ever-dependable skipper Ronnie Kinane. The Gurta boys had appealed for a penalty when the North Tipperary and District Soccer League’s most prolific marksman Paddy ‘Pio’ O’Rourke was felled on the edge of the box. Referee Darren Mitchell, however, was not swayed and gave a direct free kick just outside the area to the left of the goal.
These days though that’s almost as good as a goal for Gurtagarry as Kinane smashed the ball into the top corner despite the valiant attempts of Borrisokane’s veteran cat John ‘Noddy’ Norton who could only get his fingers to the rasping effort of the Gurta man. First blood to Gurtagarry.
Borrisokane had lost only 1 game prior to Sunday and they are nothing if not resolute, and it was not long before they had drawn level. A mix-up in the Gurta defence in the 25th minute allowed Gerard Comerford to sneak in behind the defence and he finished with aplomb to even things up.
At this stage the heavens opened and we had a real humdinger of a game on our hands. No quarter was asked and none was given in a keenly contested battle and despite a couple of bookings the game was played in a fantastic spirit; a great advertisement for the league. The squally conditions tested the players to the maximum but the quality remained high.
The teams went off at half-time all square and the game resumed as it had left off, with neither team giving an inch, but as in the first half it was the home side who landed the first blow. Gurta’s top scorer last season Billy Corcoran got in one-on-one with Norton and despite superb reflexes from the Borrisokane custodian who got down low to save, the ball kindly rebounded to Corcoran who made no mistake and tucked the ball away in off the left upright.
Gurtagarry were back in front but it was to be a case of déjà vu for the boys in blue because on the hour mark, similar to the first Borrisokane goal, Matt Power beat the offside trap, rounded the Gurta keeper and trickled the ball over the line to level the score at 2-2.
It was Borrisokane who now had the upper hand and for the next 15 minutes or more they pushed Gurtagarry as hard as any team has this season. Brendan Hayes was outstanding in goal for Gurtagarry and the centre halves Tom Hassett and Kieran Brislane put their bodies on the line when it mattered. They would not be breached again.
Each manager made full use of his substitutes and while Borrisokane had fielded a very strong side, the Gurta bench was the equal of any this Sunday.
A passage of scrappy play was perhaps out of place in this epic encounter but it would lead to what proved to be the winning goal in the 75th minute. The ball ping-ponged around the Borrisokane box for several seconds before finding Billy Corcoran about 25 yards out. Despite the pace on the ball Corcoran flicked the spinning ball up with his left foot and cracked a stupendous volley with his right into the top right hand corner of the goal past the despairing reach of Norton. The home contingent on the sidelines were delirious. A real ‘goal of the season’ contender.
Borrisokane attacked now with everything they had but Gurtagarry left two strikers up front hoping to catch their rivals on the break and kill the game off. And this is what they did.
Paddy ‘Pio’ O’Rourke rarely leaves the field having failed to find the net and he produced a moment of brilliance in the 80th minute that ultimately finished the game off. Receiving the ball at the left corner of the penalty area O’Rourke spotted the keeper slightly off his line and with hardly any backlift he chipped the ball – with pace – straight into the top corner. The sizeable O’Rourke fan club went wild and the 3 points were in the bag for Gurtagarry.
Borrisokane contributed massively to a wonderful match and in truth neither side deserved to lose this clash of two fine young teams. Gurtagarry are now 6 points clear at the top but with just 11 games played there are another 11 still to go. One would be foolish to think that Borrisokane will not be there in contention at the business end of the season, not to mention Lough Derg ‘B’, Shannon Rangers and of course Ballymackey ‘B’. The return fixture in Ballyhaden will be eagerly anticipated.
Man Of The Match : Billy Corcoran