Lansdowne boss Eamonn Duffy had predicted a bloodbath of an encounter and nearly got one when a boxing match broke out between two players in the 65th minute.
Gaels defensive stalwart Eugene Kyne and a Lansdowne forward were red carded for the fisticuffs that added to the rainy afternoon’s drama.
For the Gaels, who fell behind to a John O’Driscoll penalty in the fifth minute, the result came on the back of some brilliant individual play.
There was goalie John “Spike” Walters, a second-half substitute, pulling off a superb penalty save from O’Driscoll to prevent the Bhoys from regaining the lead, and forward Nestor Allen’s virtuoso display that was capped by a spectacular 40-yard goal that iced the Gaels victory.
“This was a very good performance by our team,” Gaels manager Dave Browne said. “Lansdowne surprised us. They are a very good team and I’ve no doubt they will do well.”
For their part, Lansdowne were left ruing several missed chances, including O’Driscoll’s second penalty effort, which was awarded for a foul on the striker by unlucky Gaels defender Brendan O’Reilly, who had also given away the first spot kick.
“We didn’t take our chances and paid the price for it, even after dominating the first half,” Duffy lamented.
Admittedly, Gaels didn’t find their rhythm until late in the opening half. They returned after the interval a more cohesive side and didn’t take long to reap dividends when Derek McKenna was left unmarked at the far post to nod in the equalizer from a corner (50th).
Then came Walters’s dramatic penalty save, which Duffy said was the turning point for the Bhoys. For Gaels, however, the ejection of Kyne turned out to be their pivotal moment. They decided to go for the jugular with an offensive-minded 3-3-4 formation, which, spurred by Allen’s play, paid off.
In the 75th minute, Allen won a free kick outside the box that O’Reilly smashed into the net to put Gaels 2-1 up and atone for his two earlier penalty snafus.
Once ahead, Gaels switched to a defensive 4-4-1 formation with the aim of hitting the pressing Landsdowne on the break. Allen did just that five minutes from time when he beat the Bhoys’ goalie with a wicked, curling shot from some 40 yards.
Browne singled out Seamus Pilkington, who was outstanding in the center of midfield, for Man of the Match honors, and gave special mention to Allen and sweeper Niall Sugrue.
“He stepped up when Eugene was sent off. He was a tower of strength at the back,” he said of Sugrue.