Naomh Columba were worthy winners of the U-16 Division Two Championship with an impressive display against Cloughaneely in Ardara on Friday night.
Naomh Columba 4-11
Under the stewardship of Anthony Molloy, Sean Gavigan, Paddy Hegarty and Damien Carr, this impressive Naomh Columba side took control after a shaky opening ten minutes where they left gaps at the back. But once Brian Gallagher hit the first goal, they never looked back. Cloughaneely led by 0-3 to 0-1 after six minutes, Michael McGee, Jason McGee (free) and Aidan Doohan had points (two of them could have been goals, such were the gaps), while Pauric O’Neill pointed a free for Naomh Columba.
Conditions were far from ideal with driving rain at the start and again in the second half, but these sides served up an excellent game of football with attack, rather than defence, to the fore.
Ronan O’Hare began to exert influence at midfield and that led to Gallagher’s goal. O’Hare was involved in the next two points, finished well by Lanty Molloy and Pauric O’Neill before O’Neill put daylight between the sides when he finished the second goal from an angle with five minutes left to half-time.
Before the break, O’Neill and the impressive Aaron Doherty added points while Tadhg McGinley underlined some great defending with a great block to deny Cloughaneely.
Half-time: Naomh Columba 2-5, Cloughaneely 0-3.
Before there was a minute on the clock in the second half, Aaron Doherty started and finished a point but Cloughaneely hit back with Aaron Carton firing to the net after a long delivery was let hop in front of the Naomh Columba goal.
The Naomh Columba response was immediately with Pauric O’Neill pointing a free and then Ronan O’Hare released Lanty Molloy with a quick free and he coolly slotted home the third goal.
Jason McGee pointed a free, but Pauric O’Neill cancelled it before Aaron Carton got in for a second Cloughaneely goal on 46 minutes.
Aaron Doherty got forward to added another point while O’Hare was just wide when he first timed on the ground from close range. He did find the range on 50 minutes when he got on the end of an Aaron Doherty effort for a point to deflect home the fourth goal and a 4-9 to 2-4 lead.
Cloughaneely lost full-back Denis Coll to a second yellow card while Lanty Molloy and O’Hare added points, the latter’s effort lobbing the ‘keeper but going just over the crossbar.
With time running out Jason McGee got a third Cloughaneely goal, but it was only a consolation score.
The win represents a major title for Naomh Columba, who are working hard at underage level. Among this side are some exceptionally talented footballers, not least two U-14s Aaron Doherty and Lanty Molloy, playing in the pivotal centre half-back and centre half-forward positions. Molloy is a nephew of All-Ireland winning captain, Anthony, and has the drive of his famous uncle.
Aaron Doherty looks like a special talent. He would probably have earned the man of the match for this final, covering every blade of grass in Ardara and also scoring three points.
Ronan O’Hare and captain Pauric O’Neill also played a major part while Conor Carr, Jordan Burns and Tadhg McGinley were excellent defenders.
For Cloughaneely Jason McGee, Aiden Doohan and Aaron Carton were the stand-out players.
Naomh Columba: Colm McElroy; Jordan Burns, Conor Carr, Owen Gillespie; Owen McIntyre, Aaron Doherty (0-3), Tadhg McGinley; Finn Gallagher, Ronan O’Hare (1-1); Brian Gallagher (1-0), Lanty Molloy (1-2), Michael Lyons; James Heeney, Pauric O’Neill (1-5,4f), Dylan Kelly. Subs., Oisin Byrne for Heeney 48; Liam Donnegan for D Kelly 58.
Cloughaneely: Andrew Doohan; Jonathan Harkin, Denis Coll, Brian Boyle; Conor Doogan, Noel Sweeney, Diarmuid Coyle; Jason McGee (1-2,2f), Michael Mulhern; Shane Coll, Ciaran McFadden, Aiden Doohan (0-1); Aaron Carton (2-0), Michael Fitzgerald, Michael McHugh (0-1). Subs., Keelan McGinty for S Coll 37; Cian Catterson for McHugh 50; Neil Kelly for Harkin; Michael Ferry for Coyle, both 58.
Referee: Eugene McHale (Bundoran)