While St. Mel’s College had the emphatic margin of eight points to spare in the finish, the highly entertaining Fr. McGee Cup Final was a much closer encounter than the scoreline would appear to suggest and the sides were actually all square until Cnoc Mhuire, Granard conceded a decisive second goal in the 53rd minute of this cracking contest at Maguire Park, Ballinalee on Thursday last.
St. Mel’s full-forward Brian Walsh showed a quick turn of foot in racing through to fire a fabulous strike into the back of the net and that proved to be the killer blow as the Gearoid Fay coached side pulled right away in the closing stages to register a further five points – a brace from second half substitute Killian Farrell (play and free) with Ronan McGowan, Paddy Kiernan and Ciaran Casserly (long range free) also on target.
Both teams produced some excellent passages of quality football during the course of the county post-primary schools senior football title decider and at one stage of the game the better-balanced St. Mel’s team had established a comfortable 1-5 to 0-2 lead with Larry Moran grabbing the goal in the 27th minute.
Brian Walsh had a point-blank shot saved by the opposing keeper Conor Mallon but the ball broke kindly for the completely unmarked Moran who was left with the simple task of shooting into the net. Wing forward Moran also registered three points (two frees) while Andrew Dalton (a difficult free) and Daniel Daly (a terrific effort) got the other scores for the Longford college in the first half.
That was really putting it up to Cnoc Mhuire, who were slow to settle and had to wait until the 15th minute for their opening score when Conor Madden converted a free and the same player shot over the bar again in the 22nd minute.
But the Granard school eventually got their act together in a storming finish to the first half that yielded four fine points (all from play) in quick succession through Conor Madden, Aidan McElligott, Michael Cullen and David McGivney, the latter on target in the third minute of stoppage time.
And so St. Mel’s had to settle for a slender 1-5 to 0-6 lead at the break and while they extended their advantage with a magnificent long range point from midfielder Ciaran Casserly in the early stages of the second half, Cnoc Mhuire then registered 1-1 in the space of sixty seconds with Conor Madden converting a free while Aidan McElligott got the vital touch to flick a goal in the 41st minute.
The McGee Cup Final was developing into a very exciting ding-dong battle and the Cnoc Mhuire lead (1-7 to 1-6) was shortlived as St. Mel’s hit the front again with a point apiece from Larry Moran (free) and Daniel Daly.
The action quickly switched to the other end of the pitch and after Conor Madden fired over a free to level matters, Rian Brady landed a great point from a tight angle in the 51st minute to leave Cnoc Mhuire ahead again and the pressure was on St. Mel’s to respond.
Almost immediately Paddy Kiernan burst through to fire over the equalising score and then came the tremendous goal from Brian Walsh that swung the issue firmly in St. Mel’s favour as they went on to dominate the remainder of the game with five points in a row.
ST. MEL’S COLLEGE: Colm Farrell (Longford Slashers); Shane Rodgers (Longford Slashers), Niall Keenan (Moydow), Adrian Duffy (Longford Slashers); Ronan Sweeney (Clonguish), Damien Bennett (Killoe), Brian Smith (Mostrim); Ciaran Casserly (St. Barry’s, Tarmonbarry, 0-2, one free), Andrew Dalton (Longford Slashers, 0-1, free); Larry Moran (Killoe, 1-4, three frees), Ronan McGowan (St. Barry’s, Tarmonbarry, 0-1), Darren Kelly (Longford Slashers); Daniel Daly (Shroid, 0-2), Brian Walsh (Longford Slashers, 1-0), Paddy Kiernan (Killoe, 0-2).
Sub:- Killian Farrell (Ardagh, 0-2, one free) for D Kelly (34 mins).
CNOC MHUIRE, GRANARD: Conor Mallon (Granard/Ballymore); John Gaffney (Mostrim), Ryan McGahern (Gowna), Israel ILungo (Castletown-Finea); Edmund Kelly (Granard/Ballymore), Darragh Kiernan (Ballymachugh), Liam Sullivan (Granard/Ballymore); David McGivney (Northern Gaels, 0-1), Timmy Jackson (Granard/Ballymore); Mattie Gorman (Granard/Ballymore), Michael Cullen (Mullahoran, 0-1), Nigel Rabbitte (Northern Gaels); Rian Brady (Northern Gaels, 0-1), Aidan McElligott (Northern Gaels, 1-1), Conor Madden (Gowna, 0-5, three frees).
Subs:- Aaron Earley (Northern Gaels) for E Kelly (half-time); James Brennan (Mullahoran) for M Gorman (half-time); Fionnan O’Reilly (Mullahoran) for M Cullen (45 mins).
Referee: Frank Toher (Killoe).