By Mike Fitzpatrick
Rockland 3-8, Offaly 2-10
It’s official. Rockland are the senior football champions of Div. II.
A mere 12 months after playing junior football, this young club will play with the big boys next year in what will be a historic season for the club. And how they deserved it.
Like the Westmeath vs Monaghan game, this too was a clash that almost didn’t occur. With torrential rain threatening to spoil the day, and ominous thunder clouds creeping over the stadium, it appeared as if there may not have been a game at all. But full credit must go to the players of both sides who contested one of the more exciting games witnessed at Gaelic Park in recent days.
It was not the most skilful game due to the weather conditions, which forced a number of errors and provided ample scoring opportunities for both sides. Rockland entered the season with high hopes, though there weren’t many Gaelic Park pundits who would have placed the mortgage on this young side reaching the top on their first attempt. They’ve proved the naysayers wrong however, with some vintage displays over their rivals.
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Offaly, as they have proved all season, were difficult opponents for the up state side. Attacking throughout the first half, the scoring exploits of Colm Quinn and Kieran McManus had them leading by five points going into the half time break.
Rockland’s persistence paid off however, and it was a fabulous team effort that saw Dave Fitzgerald and Paul Rowley combine for Fitzgerald’s first goal of the afternoon. Rockland were back in the hunt.
After the break, Offaly stormed forward in droves, with Pat Treacy, Quinn, Kieran McManus and Dave Reynolds all adding their names to the scoresheet.
Rockland trailed by seven points, with time running out. Adjusting the forward line by introducing veteran Mike Healy, Rockland manager Emmet Woods’ faith was rewarded when Healy latched on to a good ball from midfield and set up Fitzgerald for his second goal of the afternoon.
Further scores followed immediately from Mike Fitzpatrick and Paddy Corcoran and Offaly were shellshocked, albeit momentarily.
Offaly fought back once more, with scores from Dave Reynolds and Danny Leavy.
But Rockland was on a roll, moving in front thanks to Fitzgerald’s efforts to display one of the most exciting comebacks seen in recent years.
Offaly pressed on. They were a point behind in the last minute and try as they might, they could not restore their lead.
It was Rockland by a point.
Rockland: Jimmy Dwyer, Shay Forbes, Tom O’Riordan, Ciaran Lee, Tommy Acton, Ronan Keane, Jimmy O’Flynn, Paddy Corcoran (0-1), Tom McHugh, Gerry O’Riordan (0-1), Mike Fitzpatrick (1-2), Dave Fitzgerald (2-2), Paul Rowley (0-1), Leo Turley (0-1), Damien O’Brien. Subs: Mike Joe Hennessy, Mike Healy
Offaly: Tom Furlong, Mark Dolan, Colm Scanlon, Pat Leavy, Mike Dolan, Sean Nolan, John Higgins, Ciaran McManus (0-2), Colm Quinn (0-5), Danny Leavy (0-1), Darren Beatty, John Higgins, Ciaran McManus, Nigel Kearney, Pat Treacy (2-0), Dave Reynolds (0-2), Paul Glennon. Subs: Enda Condron, James Mitchell.