Sean Connolly’s remarkable resurgence this season under the driving force of their inspirational team manager Colin Dalton continued at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Saturday evening last in the quest for championship glory.
The Ballinalee club, who were on the brink of dropping down into the Junior ranks, are currently enjoying a new lease of life and got the better of Rathcline to reach the Intermediate county final against Carrickedmond on Sunday September 28th.
In a most entertaining encounter at the local GAA headquarters, a cracking goal from Rathcline forward Liam Connerton in the 55th minute left the sides all square and a draw was looking the likely outcome before Trevor Murtagh fired over a glorious lead point for Connolly’s in the 59th minute.
Three minutes into stoppage time county minor Dessie Reynolds raced through to fist the ball over the bar to clinch a great win for Connolly’s who can now look forward to their first appearance in the Intermediate Championship decider since 1989 when they last won the title.
At stake is the Gerry Hennessy Cup (in memory of the former Connolly’s player) and their achievement in getting so far is a tremendous effort by the entire Connolly’s squad and their mentors.
However, things did not look good for the eventual winners at one stage in the first half as Rathcline completely dominated the opening quarter to establish a 0-5 to 0-1 lead with Michael Morrissey and Shane Casserly on top at centrefield.
Three of the points (one free) came from corner-forward James Hanley, with wing back Michael Hanley and David Rooney also on target for the Lanesboro outfit, while Connolly’s solitary score was registered by Trevor Murtagh in the 14th minute.
But the introduction of influential substitute Joe Heaney made an immediate impact with the youngster putting John McKenna clean through for a crucial goal in the 20th minute and Connolly’s ended up leading by 2-3 to 0-6 at the break with the impressive Dessie Reynolds weaving his way through to plant the ball in the back of the net in stoppage time.
Reynolds also converted a free with Paddy O’Neill on target from a tight angle while Rathcline could only manage one more score in the first half through James Hanley in the 24th minute.
Having said that, the shannonsiders did not deserve to be behind at the break and while their chances of getting to the final were boosted by the return of Liam Connerton (back home after his summer stint in the United States), the absence of the injured county minor captain Shane Kenny proved to be a big loss.
Connolly’s looked in complete control when Dessie Reynolds set up Joe Heaney for a third goal with six minutes gone on the changeover but moments later Rathcline were thrown a lifeline when a speculative long range effort from Michael Morrissey ended up in the back of the net, deceiving the opposing keeper Keith Molihan.
Kevin Chapman and Stephen Lynch (free) had exchanged a score apiece in the early stages of the second half and when Liam Connerton shot over the bar in the 40th minute, the gap was down to just two points, 3-4 to 1-8.
Dessie Reynolds then slotted over another free before Connerton, now a lot more menacing in attack, had a goal attempt deflected over the bar for what was Rathcline’s last point of the game in the 45th minute.
But a poor pass out of defence gifted Connolly’s a vital point through Stephen Lynch in the 47th minute and the Ballinalee side, back on top, were then guilty of shooting five wides in succession in failing to put the issue beyond all doubt.
Against the run of play, Rathcline got back on level terms with the Liam Connerton goal but Connolly’s were determined not to let victory slip from their grasp and two late points made sure of their place in the final.
SEAN CONNOLLY’S: Keith Molihan; Andy McNamee, Ciaran Mac Eoin, Thomas Keogh; Daniel Collum, Michael McGlynn, Dominic Watters; Stephen Lynch (0-2, one free), Frank Reynolds; John McKenna (1-0), Paddy O’Neill (0-1), Trevor Murtagh (0-2); Dessie Reynolds (1-3, two points from frees), Eugene Murtagh, Adrian Dalton.
Subs:- Joe Heaney (1-0) for A Dalton (19 mins); Greg Masterson for D Watters (19 mins); Brendan Treacy for E Murtagh (injured, 29 mins); Pauric Brady for D Collum (43 mins); David Brady for J McKenna (46 mins); D Collum for J Heaney (black card, 62 mins).
RATHCLINE: David Mulvihill; Shane Donoghue, Kevin Connaughton, James Carroll; Eamon Farrell, Blaine Fallon, Michael Hanley (0-1); Michael Morrissey (1-0), Shane Casserly; Kevin Chapman (0-1), David Rooney (0-1), Derek Casserly; Aaron Madden, Liam Connerton (1-2), James Hanley (0-4, one free).
Subs:- Kevin Sorohan for E Farrell (black card, 33 mins); Eoin Sorohan for K Chapman (46 mins); Ryan Fallon for S Casserly (54 mins); Stephen Farrell for M Hanley (57 mins).
Referee: Patrick Maguire (St. Mary’s Granard).