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N.Y. GAA Fitzgerald, Fitzpatrick grab victory for Rockland

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Mike Fitzpatrick

Rockland 2-15, Stamford 2-13

Coming into this senior football championship quarter final, it was very much a case of upstate upstarts versus the out of state outsiders.

The young Rockland club, playing their first ever season as a senior football club, faced an experienced Stamford side which were no doubt favorites for this tie, having reached the knockout stage courtesy of some fine performances over their peers in the senior Div. 1.

Rockland are the surprise package, having waltzed to the Div. II title, despite having only made the grade from the junior ranks last season.

So what of the game?

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Well, it’s not often that we have back to back weeks where we witness nailbiting finishes to games involving top notch clubs, but that’s exactly what we have experienced this past two Sundays at Gaelic Park. Last week it was old enemies Leitrim and Tyrone who fought a bitter battle to the death, with former champs Leitrim eventually succumbing to the Red Handers with the last kick of the game in a one point victory for Tyrone.

The game between Rockland and Stamford was the first to go to overtime this season. So well matched were the two sides on display, that it’s certainly a pity that one of them had to go out of the championship.

The game opened with both sides swapping early scores, Stamford through Ronan O’Connor and Richie Purcell, and Rockland replying through Dessie Dola, Paul Rowley and Mike Fitzpatrick, who went on to have an outstanding game for the Rockies.

All the way up to five points each, neither side could punish the other enough to put the game beyond reach, as every time an attack broke down, a counter attack immediately ensued. It was thanks in no small part to goalkeepers James McAlavey of Stamford and Jimmy Dwyer of Rockland that we witnessed no early goals. Dwyer blocked Evan Kelly’s efforts, whilst McAlavey prevented Fitzpatrick and Dolan from grabbing a three pointer before the break.

It was always likely to happen though, and in the last minute of the first half, Paul Galvin stole through the Rockland backline to whip a shot past Dwyer to give the Connecticut side a four-point lead going into the interval.

Stamford clung to their lead with Keith Hennessy grabbing a fine point, and Ronan O’Connor hitting another.

Enter veteran Rockland player Mike Joe Hennessy. Mike Joe grabbed one point, and was instrumental in a number of other attacks that witnessed the upstate side clawing back into the game.

A Mike Healy goal put Rockland in front, but Stamford refused to lie down and levelled through O’Connor.

Richie Power gave Stamford a late one-point lead, only to see Rockland level once more through Fitzpatrick. Overtime arrived, with both sides matching each other score for score, until O’Connor punched under the bar for Stamford to give his side a two point lead.

The Rockies weren’t rolling over though. Mike Fitz hit a couple to level things, and late in the game, the Rockland crowd shook Gaelic Park to it’s very foundations when Dave Fitzgerald, finding himself in space with his side a point behind, cracked a shot over the line to give the Rockies a memorably two point victory.

Bring on the Kingdom.

Rockland meet Kerry in the semi final.

Stamford: James McAlavey, Martin McDermott, Pat Coyne, Mark Comerford, Philip Wickham, Richie Purcell, Keith Hennessy (0-1), Paul Galvin (1-3), Richie Powers (0-2), Adrian Carney, Evan Kelly (0-1), Justin O’Halloran, Declan Curtin, Ronan O’Connor (1-6). Sub: Mike Martin.

Rockland: Jimmy Dwyer, Tom O’Riordan, Jimmy O’Flynn, Ciaran Lee, Tommy Acton, Ronan Keane, Shay Forbes, Tom McHugh, Paddy Corcoran, Dave Fitzgerald (1-1), Mike Fitzpatrick (0-7), Gerry O’Riordan, Damian O’Brien, Dessie Dolan (0-3), Paul Rowley (0-2). Subs: Mike Joe Hennessy (0-2), Mike Healy (1-0), Billy Horan, Dermot Yorke.

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