Naomh Conaill manager Paddy Campbell was a relieved man following Naomh Conaill’s narrow two point victory over Naomh Muire at the Banks.
Naomh Conaill 0-12
Naomh Muire 0-10
Former county man Campbell had watched his men slowly and patiently break down last year’s Intermediate champions’ blanket defence and led by six points with a little over 13 minutes remaining. Naomh Muire played with 13 and sometimes 14 players in their own half of the field with their two wing forwards and the two midfielders forming a defensive wall across their own 45. And centre half-forward Padraig McCafferty played a sweeping role in front of the full-back line.
But then in the closing ten minutes they almost let it all fritter away as 14 man Naomh Muire stormed back into the game with four late point to have the large Banks’ crowd on their toes right to the final blow of Mickey Mulhern’s final whistle.
Padraig McCafferty, Darragh White, Sean ‘Yank’ Boyle and Harry Harden threw off the shackles and went for broke in a frantic finish to a game that will not live long in the memory for the quality of the football.
Nevertheless the tie was sprinkled with a number of quality points, both from long range and tight angles from both sides. Padraig McCafferty’s two late strikes hit on the run from 40 metres were off the top shelf while Naomh Muire’s and the game’s last score four minutes from the end off the boot of Harry Harden’s was a brilliant strike. It was all the more special as Harden was kicking straight into a stiff breeze.
Naomh Conaill knocked over a number of quality scores too with Darragh Gallagher, Johnny McLoone, Dermot Molloy. Leo McLoone and Leon Thompson all landing scores fit for any occasion.
The Lower Rosses men lost Paul ‘Yank’ Boyle after Ciaran Brennan was levelled in his own goalmouth. After consulting with his umpires and one of his linesmen, Mulhern who had his hands full to keep a lid on a feisty contest, that was sprinkled with a number of minor flare-ups, flashed red. Three minutes earlier Naomh Muire had lost experienced wing back Brian Gillespie, to the game’s only black card.
With Naomh Muire, despite playing with the stiff breeze in their backs, setting out their defensive stall scores were few and far between in the opening quarter. The locals led 0-2 to 0-1 after 15 minutes with Sean ‘Yank’ Boyle curling over the first on two minutes and Darragh White - who enjoyed a good first half on the right wing - the second 13 minutes later.
In between Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy opened Naomh Conaill’s account on six minutes. And it was Molloy who posted Naomh Conaill’s second on 17 minutes to tie up the contest on 0-2 each. The sides were level on 0-3 each after Darragh Gallagher and White traded points before Naomh Conaill finally found the key and they reeled off three unanswered points in the closing ten minutes of the half to go in 0-6 to 0-3 in front at half-time. Dermot Molloy from a 35 metre free and Anthony Thompson and Darragh Gallagher from play provided the three point interval cushion.
And when the ageless Johnny McLoone and Brick landed quickfire points at the start of the second half to open up a six point advantage, 0-9 to 0-3, the game seemed to be going according to script.
Despite the loss of Paul ‘Yank’ Boyle to the straight red Darragh White from a sweetly struck 45 metre free and Patrick Gillespie from play had the margin down to four.
Leon Thompson, who carried a big threat up front, and Darragh Gallagher made it a six point game once more as it entered the closing quarter.
White converted from 44 metres before the Brick polished off a sweeping move. That was on 47 minutes, but amazingly Naomh Conaill did not score again in the remaining 17 minutes of play as McCafferty, White and company cranked up a gear or two to land those late four points to have Naomh Conaill nerves jangling.
Naomh Conaill: S McGrath; S Molloy, J Campbell, J Bonner; C Ellis, C Brennan, M Boyle; J McLoone (0-1), A Thompson (0-1); J Molloy, D ‘Brick’ Molloy (0-5,1f), M Regan; D Gallagher (0-3,2f), L Thompson (0-2), L McLoone. Subs: E Doherty for J McLoone (47); E Waide for C Ellis(48); E O’Donnell for J O’Malley (62).
Naomh Muire: T Duffy; P Rogers, A O’Gara, D Gallagher; R O’Donnell, J O’Brien, B Gillespie; P Gillespie (0-1), D White (0-4, 1,45,1f); S Gallagher, P McCafferty (0-2), H ‘Yank’ Boyle; S ‘Yank’ Boyle (0-2,1f) H Harden (0-1). Subs: S G Boyle for B Gillespie (black card 35); S Burns for S Gallagher (44); J Ferry for H ‘Yank’ Boyle (53).
Referee: M Mulhern (St Eunan’s).