Four Masters Feile team in Sligo
Reigning U-13A county champions Four Masters travelled to the Sligo GAA Centre of Excellence at Scarden on Saturday to participate in this years U-14 All-Ireland Division 1 Feile competition.
Buoyed by a large travelling support, the young Pairc Thir Chonaill men acquitted themselves excellently, coming up against two extremely strong sides in their pool group and progressing to the All-Ireland Plate final, eventually going down to Benbulben Gaels by seven points. Playing against the top U14 sides in the country, they finished the weekend ranked 10th on the national stage.
v O'Donovan Rossa Magherafelt
Goals win matches and against a very physically strong Magherafelt group, Four Masters carved out four clear cut goal scoring chances but a mixture of bad luck and good goalkeeping ensured a shut out for the young Derry men. On the subject of goalkeepers, one must give mention to Oisin McCallig who gave a demonstration of superb goal keeping in this game. In a club rich with a history of producing top level goalkeepers, this young man has kick out intelligence, is comfortable under a high ball, stands up on one on one shots and has all the angles sorted. In a tournament where the average goals scored per game totals 6 -7, Magherafelt had to resort to long range points as Liam McLaughlin, Lee Murchan, Calum Stewart, Andrew Monaghan and the afore mentioned Oisin McCallig were a strong presence in protection of their goal.
An injury to Frank Cornyn earlier in the week was a big setback, and when introduced, the young man from the Holmes made an instant impact with good ball delivery into Dermot Slevin and Mark Jordan, but it wasn't to be and Magherafelt ran out 12 point winners.
Kildare champions Clane were next up and somewhat unfairly, came into this game fresh being their first outing, whilst the Four Masters lads had a 15 minute turnaround from a tough battle with O'Donovan Rossa. A middle third crew of Josh McCrea, Diarmuid O'Donnell, Ultan O'Grady, Senan Quinn and Jamie Gorrell ensured a better start to this one but Clane's kick passing game was proving difficult to defend against and superior physical strength began to take a grip on the game with three swift goals before half time.
Four Masters clawed back the lead with two goals from Mark Jordan and Ultan O'Grady, with Conor Reid also going close. Jordan, gathering an excellent pass from Evan Gallagher, sold a superb dummy solo and sent the entire Clane defence on holiday before burying a rasping shot to the net from 14 metres.
The game was now very much in the balance but on the next attack, Clane turned over the Four Masters ball moved swiftly downfield to goal, adding a second from the resulting kickout. As Four Masters tired, Clane ran out 13 point winners.
v St Eunans
Ironically, the closest game of the day was a rematch of the 2016 U-13 county final as Four Masters were drawn against their old adversary St Eunans.
A two hour break to get some sustenance made the difference as Four Masters moved through the gears to ease into a half time lead of 1-4 to 0-2 against the lads from the cathedral town. In a much tighter second half against the breeze, Four Masters registered just one more point but had all the hard work done in the first 15 minutes as they held on to win by two and take their place in a historic All Ireland plate final, the key score a well taken Ultan O'Grady penalty.
Four Masters supporters in Sligo
v Benbulben Gaels
For the final game of the day the Masters were nine points down at one stage but never gave up clawing the deficit back to two, assisted by two goals from Senan Quinn and Ultan O'Grady. The young O'Grady man has a habit of finding the net and scored goals in three of the four games on the day from his midfield berth.
Dan Dunnion was again introduced, as were Patrick Gallagher, Michael Gallagher, Adam Gillespie, Ryan Dullea and Ethan McNulty all to good effect.
Unfortunately, Four Masters were out on their feet and with the squad being rotated again to ensure everyone participated, Benbulben Gaels tagged on late points to get over the line by 7.
Overall a great experience for these young men as they will now refocus their endeavours on wiNning the U-14A league and championships. The squad has strengthened since last years U-13 final and the experience of playing in an All Ireland tournament will stand to them as they progress through 2017.
Full squad on the day as follows:- Oisin McCallig, Lee Murchan, Liam McLaughlin, Andrew Monaghan, Josh McCrea, Calum Stewart, Diarmuid ODonnell, Ultan O'Grady, Senan Quinn, Evan Gallagher, Ethan Potter, Jamie Gorrell, Mark Jordan, Frank Cornyn, Dermot Slevin, Michael Gallagher, Conor Reid, Conor Gillespie, Ethan McNulty, Dan Dunnion, Adam Gillespie, Ryan Dullea, Ross O'Keeney, Patrick Lyons, Adam Miziri, Jack Myers, Dylan MacHugh and Daithi Ward.