ST NAUL’S are celebrating again this week after they added the Division Two Minor Championship crown to the Intermediate title they won last week, with Sunday’s final victory over Four Masters.
In what was a closely contested affair in difficult conditions of heavy rain and a greasy sod the winne’’s greater firepower and spread of scorers was the difference between the sides at the final whistle.
The tie was close up to the three quarter mark with the sides level twice in the opening 45 minutes. Except for a brief period in the first half when Four Masters led by three points, there was never more than a point between the sides for much of the rest of the time.
It was all square, 0-4 to 1-1, at half-time and it was still level at 0-6 to 1-3 on 40 minutes until St. Naul’s pulled away in the closing 15 minutes. But even if the winners did enjoy the better of the final quarter, Masters were still within striking distance right up to the end.
And it took injury time points from James Flynn, Ciaran Quigley and Jamie White to finally clinch the victory.
The game, which was originally fixed for Sean MacCumhaill Park, was played in Davy Brennan Memorial Park, after the number one county ground was deemed unplayable.
While St.Naul’s were first out of the blocks when Flynn converted from 30 metres on seven minutes, it came after Gary Blain denied Gavin Emmett at the other end.
With Naul’s showing all the early promise they were hit on the break when Bennett first timed to the net after Blain could only parry from Stephen Graham. That was on eight minutes and when Bennett split the posts after a good move involving Ciaran Cornyn and Jason Carr, the Masters were three up, 1-1 to 0-1.
But St. Naul’s did not panic and with Barry Griffin and Lee McBrearty giving them the edge at midfield they clawed their way back into the tie.
Griffin from play and Flynn from a free both pointed to reduce the margin to one by the 18th minute. And when Brian McDaid clipped over from a tight angle after good play from Conor McDevitt and Aidan Meehan, the sides were level 0-4 to 1-1 at half-time.
Griffin powered his way through the Masters defence in quick succession at the start of the second half to open up a two point advantage, 0-6 to 1-1.
But two quickfire points from Dillon Ward and Ciaran Cornyn meant it was all square again by the 40 minute mark.
However, with Naul’s inspired by Rose, Griffin and McBrearty, they took a grip on the game in the closing quarter hour.
White got the cavalry charge under way on 45 minutes when he split the posts after Rose snapped up possession at midfield and drove deep into Masters territory and eight minutes later he edged his side two ahead for the first time.
Leading 0-8 to 1-3, approaching the hour mark and doing most of the pressing, Flynn, Quigley and White rounded off the scoring in time added on.
St. Naul’s: Gary Blain; Glen Campbell, Enda Kenny, Martin Gillespie; Conor McDevitt, John Rose, Kenny McDaid; Barry Griffin (0-3), Lee McBrearty; Kevin Gallagher, Aidan Meehan, Emmett O’Neill; Jamie White (0-3,1f), James Flynn (0-3,13f), Brian McDaid (0-1). Subs: Ciaran Quigley (0-1) for A. Meehan (39); James McGowan for K. Gallagher.
Four Masters: Pauric Carr; Leo McHugh, Daniel Harley, Laughlin Casey; Kevin Breslin, John Boyle, Caolan Loughney; Dillon Muldoon, Jason Carr; Dylan Ward (0-1), Gavin Bennett (1-1), Ciaran Cornyn (0-1); Emmett Doogan, Stephen Graham, Darragh Doogan. Subs: Razak Balogan for D. Doogan (h/t); Darragh Brogan for R. Balogan (53).
Referee: Tony Gallagher (Red Hughs)
Man of the match
Barry Griffin kicked three points from midfield and drove at the Four Masters defence at every opportunity and along with Lee McBrearty provided St. Naul’s with the launching pad. He receives the vote ahead of his teammates McBrearty, John Rose and Jamie White.
Gavin Bennett, Stephen Graham, John Boyle and Ciaran Cornyn were the most prominent for Four Masters.
With the sides level 0-6 to 1-3 on 40 minutes, John Rose snapped on possession just inside his own half drove forward before releasing Jamie White who duly split the posts for the lead point; a lead St. Naul’s never relinquished.
Tony Gallagher was a little inconsistent on overcarrying and also tended to call back play after a player had broken the tackle when it would have been more advantageous to allow play continue. But in difficult conditions he did not make any calls that affected the outcome.
Full marks to the Coiste Na nOg for producing a good quality programme for game with pen picture details on all the players and referee Tony Gallagher. The programme also included welcomes from the Coiste chairman, youth officer Sean Connaughton and secretary Michelle Bennett and pieces from both managers and captains. A special feature was head and shoulder pictures of the starting 15 in both teams.