O'Malley the hero as Naomh Conaill regain U-21 crown

Naomh Conaill are celebrating silverware once again following Sunday's narrow U-21A final victory over St. Michael's in O'Donnell Park.

Naomh Conaill are celebrating silverware once again following Sunday's narrow U-21A final victory over St. Michael's in O'Donnell Park.

In a tight struggle that was only finally decided in the closing minutes the champions not only avenged last year's defeat to St. Michael's, they also claimed their fourth U-21 crown in five seasons.

This is a marvellous record for a club who have also in recent years played in five minor finals in-a-row.

While St. Michael's edged it on the scoreboard for three quarter of the game, there was little between the sides throughout in terms of possession on a day both sides left their scoring boots on the bus.

It was so close that it looked to be heading into extra-time.

That was before teenage sensation John O'Malley stepped up to the mark to clinch it with a last gasp point in the first minute of injury time.

Five minutes earlier O'Malley, who was the champion's top scorer with three points, kicked Naomh Conaill into the lead for the first time.

But with St. Michael's in no mood to give up their crown it was all square again going into injury time after Michael McGinley - with the game's only score from a placed ball - tied up matters for a third time.

And with extra-time looming O'Malley found the space in the second minute of injury time to split the posts for the deciding score and celebration time for the men in blue and white.

St. Michael's got off to a dream start courtesy of an early Raymond McLaughlin goal. And they shaded the first half to go in at the break 1-1 to 0-2 in front and were still ahead 1-3 to 0-5 with six minutes left on the clock.

But a late surge from Leo McLoone, including the score of the game (a brilliant long range effort) and two late strikes from O'Malley turned the tide in favour of Naomh Conaill.

McLaughlin's goal arrived on four minutes to give the defending champions the early initiative.

The number 11 took full advantage of a slip up in the Naomh Conaill defence when Ciaran Boyle failed to judge the flight of a Daniel McLaughlin cross in front of the posts to fist home and the perfect start for the men from the Bridge.

Daniel McLaughlin, who was St. Michael's best player, scored his side's first point on 13 minutes as both sides struggled to find their shooting boots.

Sixteen minutes passed before Naomh Conaill, who threatened early on only to fluff their lines, raised their first white flag.

Hero O'Malley got the champions off the mark after a sustained period of pressure and A.J. Gallagher kicked the second on 22 minutes in what was a low scoring first half.

The strike rate did not improve greatly in the second period either as Dermot 'Brick' Molloy and Lee Carr traded scores before Leo McLoone made it a one point game on 44 minutes.

A.J. Gallagher tied it up for the first time on 48 minutes as Naomh Conaill began to enjoy more possession around midfield and Seamus Corcoran was denied a goal by a point blank save from Michael Cannon that had a strong hint of a foot block about it.

St. Michael's response was swift and they were back in front again within a matter of minutes after another Daniel McLaughlin penetrating run.

However, with Leo McLoone raising his game it was all aboard again when McLoone landed from long range.

With the sides all square O'Malley kicked Naomh Conaill into the lead for the first time, only to see it cancelled out by a Michael McGinley free.

But Naomh Conaill were not finished and O'Malley produced the goods in the closing seconds.

Naomh Conaill: Stephen McGrath; Jason Campbell, Ciaran Boyle, Stephen Molloy; Jamie Gallagher, Cathal Ellis, Hughie Gallagher; Leo McLoone (0-2), Jamie Molloy; Dermot Molloy (0-1), Seamus Corcoran, A.J.Gallagher (0-2); Eunan Doherty, John O'Malley (0-3), David Gallagher. Sub: Jamie McHugh for E. Doherty (55).

St. Michael's: Michael Cannon; James Alcorn, Stephen Doak, Ben Kyle; Antoin McFadden, Ryan Langan, Andrew Kelly; Lorcan McDaid, Barry McGinley; Daniel McLaughlin (0-2), Raymond McLaughlin (1-0), John McFadden; Lee Carr (0-1), Michael McGinley (0-1,1f), Jamie McCarry. Subs: Paul Creamer for J. McCarry (49); Kealan McGee for R. McLaughlin inj.(50); Raymond McLaughlin for K. McGee (60).

Referee: Seamus McGonagle ( Aodh Ruadh)