Naomh Conaill are back in another county U-21 final - the club’s seventh in-a-row - following their ten point victory Cloughaneely in the semi-fnal meeting in O’Donnell Park yesterday.
Naomh Conaill 1-11
For all intent and purpose the boys in blue had a place in their seventh U-21 decider in seven years wrapped up by the half-way mark. By that stage they led by seven points, 1-6 to 0-2, thanks to points from Jamie McHugh (3), Christopher Molloy, Cathal Ellis, Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy and John O’Malley, who also scored the goal and had more or less dominated the first half exchanges.
In truth, the goal - a well worked ball out of defence before Brick Molloy carved open the Cloughaneely last line with pin point accuracy to find O’Malley - was the final nail in the Clouganeely coffin.
With the job as good as done and despite easing off in the second half, Cathal Ellis and company still dominated for most of the second half as they outscored a disappointing Cloughaneely by five points to two.
This was an accomplished performance from Naomh Conaill who were solid throughout at the back where Cathal Ellis was commanding at centre back in front of a very tight marking last line of defence in Seamus and Jason Campbell and Hugh Gallagher.
Except for the opening few minutes, Patrick Moss and Ciaran Thompson gave the winners the edge at midfield.
But the real stars of this victory were up front where Jamie McHugh, Christopher Molloy, John O’Malley and Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy tormented and teased the Cloughaneely rearguard for most of the hour.
O’Malley ended the contest as the game’s top scorer with 1-3 - all from play - and the Dermot Molloy posted 0-3. But their performances were overshadowed somewhat by Jamie McHugh at corner forward. This was especially the case in the opening 30 minutes as he hit three points from varying distances and angles and from both the left and right wings.
Cloughaneely opened well and promised much in the opening minutes with Shaun McGarvey scoring the game’s opening score inside three minutes.
But a couple wides from John Fitzgerald, one of them from close range, and two quick fire points from McHugh, Christopher Molloy and Cathal Ellis seemed to knock Cloughaneely back.
And while Stephen Rodden converted from 13 metres to make it a point game by the 13 minute mark, Naomh Conaill were already beginning to have the appearance of winners about them.
McHugh two, and Dermot Molloy had stretched the advantage out to 0-6 to 0-2, before O’Malley pounced for the game’s only goal in the first minute of injury time.
A long delivery with pinpoint accuracy found O’Malley in space and from close range the number 14 made no mistake from 13 metres.
In front by seven at the change over and having played most of the quality football, the second half was always only going to go one way.
And that is how it worked out. O’Malley and Brick hit early points on the resumption and before McGarvey, on 40 minutes, converted from 40 metres for one of Cloughaneely’s second half points.
But normal service was restored shortly afterwards and with the game fizzling out in the closing quarter O’Malley and Ciaran Thompson pointed for the winners with Rodden kicking a Cloughaneely point before Brick Molloy brought down the curtain on the scoring three minutes from the end. Naomh Conaill: Ronan O’Donnell; Seamus Campbell, Jason Campbell, Hugh Gallagher; Seamus Ellis, Cathal Ellis, Mark Molloy; Patrick Moss, Ciaran Thompson (0-1); Eunan Doherty, Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy (0-3), Christopher Molloy (0-1); Jamie McHugh (0-3), John O’Malley (1-3), John Molloy. Subs: Mickey Joe McMonagle for C. Molloy; Owen McGlynn for J. Molloy (both 53)
Clooughaneely: Sean McClafferty; Martin Ferry, Cian McFadden, Lee O’Brien; Seosamh Ferry, Kevin McFadden, Sean Gallagher; Sean McGarvey (0-2,1f), Stephen Rodden (0-2,1f); Cillian Gallagher, Darren Ferry, John Harley; John Fitzgerald, John McGarvey, P. J. McFadden.Subs: John Ferry for S. Gallagher (18); Ciaran Boyce for L. O’Brien (51).
Referee: Martin Coll (Gaoth Dobhair)
Man of the match
Cathal Ellis was in commanding form at centre half-back throughout and was the launching pad for a number of key scores in the first half. He even charged forward early on to kick his sides third point in a true man of the match performance.
Naomh Conaill leading 0-6 to 0-2 had taken a grip on the game by the time John O’Malley drilled home the game’s only goal deep in first half injury time. The goal stretched the Naomh Conaill lead out to seven points and realistically no way back for Cloughaneely.
Martin Coll may have given Cloughaneely a few frees on the softish side early on, but overall the Gaoth Dobhair man had a fine game in a display of sensible refereeing.