Paul Carey of Pádraig Pearses celebrates one of his eight points in yesterday afternoon's AIB Connacht senior club final in Ballina.
Paul Carey of Pádraig Pearses celebrates one of his eight points in yesterday afternoon's AIB Connacht senior club final in Ballina.

Pádraig Pearses and Roscommon herald a new hero

By Kevin Egan

Paul Carey started yesterday’s game in Ballina as one of the brightest prospects in Roscommon club football. He ended it as Player of the Match, the topic of conversation all across the country, and a strong contender to feature prominently in Anthony Cunningham’s already-heavyweight attacking unit later this year.

Pádraig Pearses winning the AIB Connacht club football championship and becoming just the fifth club from the county to win the Shane McGettigan cup was the headline story of the afternoon, but anyone in attendance at James Stephens Park, or who tuned in to live coverage of the game on TG4, was blown away by the incredible display of scoring from the 21-year-old corner forward.

Two years ago, he played a key role as impact sub and eventually starter for Pearses when they won their first ever Roscommon title. Yesterday, he was earmarked as one of the main threats in their forward line, and still he ran riot, hitting the target with every shot on goal.

It was no less than manager Pat Flanagan expected.

“Paul had a super game today. He had a couple of quiet games in the past but he really stood up and showed the quality that he has. I said it to him before the game to have belief in himself” said the Offaly native.

“Sometimes Paul doesn’t believe in how good he can be but he really stood up to the mark today, I don’t know what he scored, but some of the points he kicked from play were exceptional”.

Flanagan particularly paid tribute to his score immediately after the water break, hooked over the bar from 30 metres out, that broke Knockmore’s run of scoring 1-2 without reply.

“It was the turning of the game. Had they scored another point straight after the water break it would have caused us a lot of tension and pressure on the pitch itself but for Paul to score that point, it kind of gave us back the initiative, and we needed every score we got at that stage of the game, as you saw at the end”.

Pat Flanagan, left, and selector Gerry Kelly celebrate after their side's victory.
Pat Flanagan, left, and selector Gerry Kelly celebrate after their side's victory.

In turn, Carey himself attributed a lot of his success to Flanagan, and the influence that the former Offaly, Westmeath and Sligo manager has had in his four years at the helm of the South Roscommon club.

“It’s just next ball, next ball, next ball, keep going” was how Carey described his approach to the game.

“Pat Flanagan is all about that, believe in yourself all the time. The chips were down out there, Knockmore were really coming back at us, and that’s a testament to them, they’re a great team. But we kept the scoreboard moving and that was vital in the end.

“I don’t know if there are many teams in Ireland that could overcome what we overcame out there. A keeper sent off, our full forward Hubert goes into goal – I don’t think he has too much goalkeeping experience but he went in there and did a good job – but we regrouped, got back up to 15 and then we drove on from there”.

That crucial score at the start of the fourth quarter to make it 1-10 to 1-7 came at the end of a lengthy spell of possession for the club, where the ball was worked over and back across the back line until the time was right to hit the danger zone. Carey said that showing patience and discipline like that is a vital part of this team’s strategy.

“It’s all about game management at times like that. We’ve the Dalys out there, David Murray, Niall Carty, extremely experienced players and they’ll hold on to the ball all day long. They’ve lads like Kevin McLoughlin, he put in some big hits and turned over a few balls, so it was nerve-wracking times when that happened. But we held on to the ball well and you just have to run down the clock and keep the scoreboard going”.

Roscommon supporters watching the game would have been thrilled to see yet another deadly inside forward put his hand up for selection, adding further headaches to Connacht championship and Allianz League Division Two counties who already have to play for Diarmuid and Ciaráin Murtagh, Conor Cox, Donie Smith and a host of other proven finishers.

However this win means Carey will be tied up with Pearses at least until January 29, when they play Kilmacud Crokes – and the rangy corner forward doesn’t want that to be the end of their journey either.

“Pat made it clear, we weren’t treating this is a final”.

“He said to us a final is an end of something, this is only the beginning. We were looking at it as a quarter-final, and now we’re into the last two hours of football and we want to play those two hours of football”.