AIB Connacht Club SFC Quarter-Final
Clann na nGael 1-15
Tir Chonnaill 1-10
The final score would indicate a routine win for Clann na nGael, but this was no walk in the park for Fergal Shine’s men as a plucky and well organised Tir Chonaill Gaels team gave the Roscommon champions plenty to think about in this very competitive quarter-final played in perfect weather conditions at Hyde Park last Sunday.
Clann never reached the level of performance we saw in the county final, and with 18 minutes to go the exiles led by 1-9 to 0-11 and were full value for that narrow lead. But all credit to Clann, they kept going, they got a crucial goal from Graham Pettit, and kicked on in the final quarter.
Clann certainly won’t need me to tell them that a similar performance against the All-Ireland champions Corofin next Sunday in the Connacht semi-final will not be good enough. Their full-back line were in trouble all through. They struggled at midfield and they can be very thankful to Donie Shine and Ciarán Lennon who were exceptional on the day.
The London champions caused all kinds of trouble for the Clann defence for three quarters of the game. Liam Gavigan was excellent from frees and play but it was Killian Butler who was the main concern for Clann. His superb movement and ball winning ability caused mayhem in the Clann rearguard, which will have to tighten up considerably ahead of next weekend’s game against Corofin.
But in fairness to the Roscommon champions, they found a way to win and they were able to respond when they were under pressure which is an admirable trait. Shine was immense all through and Lennon was always a threat. Ultan Harney came into the game in the second half and David McManus and sub Johnny Dunning also contributed to this victory.
Clann were by far the better side in the opening quarter and they led by 0-5 to 0-1 after 15 minutes. Donie Shine (3 frees) and Ciaran Lennon (2) on target for the Johnstown men. But the Gaels came roaring back into the game in the second quarter, Butler and Gavigan were leading the charge and by the 21st minute the gap was down to one. Donie Shine kicked another two points to help his side into a 0-8 to 0-6 lead coming up to half-time.
But the enterprising attacking play we had seen from the London champions paid off in injury-time when Gavigan was fouled by Graham Pettit and Eoin Murray planted the resultant penalty past David Finneran. Half-time score: Tir Chonaill Gaels 1-6 Clann na nGael 0-8.
Clann responded well on the restart and three pointed frees from Donie Shine saw them lead by two after 36 minutes. But it was proving difficult to shake off the London men who scored three points on the bounce to lead by 1-9 to 0-11 after 42 minutes.
The decisive score of the game came in the 44th minute. A high ball from Donie Shine was grabbed by Graham Pettit 10 metres from goal and the centre half-back swivelled and smashed the ball into the roof of the net. It gave Clann the breathing space they needed and they were able to kick for home after that, Points from Ultan Harney, Donie Shine, Darra Pettit and another peach from Ciarán Lennon saw the Roscommon champions through, but not without a scare or two.
This was not a great display from Clann but maybe it’s the perfect way to go into a clash with the All-Ireland champions next Sunday. They know that a huge improvement will be needed but they also know that they are well capable of playing much better than we saw on Sunday last. A win is a win, and now they can move on. But all credit to the Tir Chonaill Gaels men. They didn’t come to Hyde Park to make up the numbers and they did themselves proud.
Clann na nGael: David Finneran; Darra Pettit (0-1), Stephen Flynn, Ronan Gavin; David Connaughton, Graham Pettit (1-0), Shane Pettit; Ultan Harney (0-1), Cathal Shine; Cathal Callinan, Donie Shine (0-9, 7 frees), Emmet Kenny; David McManus, Ciarán Lennon (0-3), Jamie Fahy.
Subs: Cian McManus for Kenny (h/t), Johnny Dunning for McManus (38), Matt Scally for Callinan (43), Ross Naughton for Fahy (55), Niall Connaughton for D Connaughton (62), Dylan Sumner for Shine (65).
Tir Chonaill Gaels: Gavin McEvoy; Michael McWilliams, Phil Butler, Shaun Burke; Marty McCoy, Anthony McDermott, Matthew Moynihan; Mark Gottsche, Brendan Friel; Eoin Murray (1-0, pen), Adrian Hanlon, Kevin Raftery; Brian Mullin (0-1), Liam Gavigan (0-6, 5 frees), Killian Butler (0-3).
Subs: Liam Gallagher for Raftery (36), Ryan Elliot for Burke (41), Eamon McConville for McDermott (48), Adam Askin for Hanlon (55), Eoin MaGeean for Murray (55), Aidan McGarvey for McWilliams (65).
Referee: Eamon O’Grady (Leitrim)