A Dillon Muldoon goal on 40 minutes was the critical score in a hotly contested local derby in Tirconaill Park on Monday afternoon.
Four Masters . . . . . . . . . . . . .1-7
St. Naul’s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-8
An effort from Patrick Reid for a point dropped short and ‘keeper Lee McBrearty fielded but Muldoon stole in to fist the ball out of McBrearty’s hands to the net to edge Masters into a 1-5 to 0-6 lead and they were able to maintain that lead to the finish.
The contest was hotly contested from the start and it took a certain patience from referee Seamus McGonagle to ensure that 30 players remained on the field at the end. Indeed, the odds on that at half-time would have been fairly short.
From the start there were plenty of strong tackles as both sides sought to exercise control. Barry Dunnion came in for some treatment early on and then by half-time he was lucky to escape a second yellow after a couple of rash challenges. Cathal Lowther was also in that lucky category (and he even escaped without a first half card, although he did enter McGonagle’s book in the second).
In all the referee flashed just five yellows although the free count in the second half was interesting - 19-5 in favour of St. Naul’s. It was more even in the opening half - 13-11 in favour of Four Masters.
With the emphasis on the tackle and defence, scores were few and far between in the opening half. Dillon Ward and Patrick Reid had Four Masters in control early on with the only reply being a Stephen Griffin free on 18 minutes.
Caolan Gaffney denied Darren Doherty a goal chance before Karl Lacey (45) and Peader Espey (free) opened the gap to 4-1 before Griffin punished a foul on Stuart Johnston to leave it 0-4 to 0-2 at the break in favour of the home side.
The talent of Karl Lacey and the driving runs of Barry Dunnion were the main reason for the Town boys being ahead, but then St. Naul’s hit a purple patch at the start of the second half with great points from Brian McGroary, Cathel Lowther (fist), Barry Rose and another Griffin free to edge two clear on 38 minutes.
Karl Lacey won a free for Espey to narrow the gap before the match-winning score arrived with Muldoon’s goal.
Barry Rose narrowed the gap to a point after more good work by Johnston but then Masters pushed the gap out to three with points from Darren Doherty and an Espey free with seven minutes left.
St. Naul’s kept coming forward but they only added a late Griffin free after Andrew Gallagher was fouled.
It was a much needed win for Kevin ‘Cookie’ Gallagher in his new role as Four Masters manager but St. Naul’s will feel that they could have got a share at least if the ball had bounced for them.
Four Masters: Paul Cannon; Dylan Kennedy, Dáire Quinn, Darren Walsh; Barry Dunnion, Karl Lacey (0-1,’45), Enda Bonner; Patrick Reid (0-1), Sean O’Kennedy; Darren Doherty (0-1), Conor McMonagle, Caolán Loughney; Sean Meehan, Dillon Ward (0-1), Peadar Espey (0-3,3f). Subs: Dillon Muldoon (1-0) for D Ward ht, John Boyle for Bonner 36, Emmett Doogan for Meehan 45, Kevin McBrearty for Reid 56.
St. Naul’s: Lee McBrearty; John Rose, Conor McBrearty, Caolan Gaffney; Cathal Lowther (0-1), Edward Kane, Stuart Johnston; Des McGroarty, Brendan McCole; Barry Rose (0-2), Stephen Griffin (0-4,4f), Jamie White; Brian McGroary (0-1), Andrew Gallagher, Shane Conneely. Subs: Eddie Gallagher for Conneely; Danny McDyre for McGroarty, both 48.
Referee: Seamus McGonigle (Aodh Ruadh)