First half goals from the McElligott brothers Donal and Aidan proved to be the crucial matchwinning scores as Mullinalaghta got the better of neighbouring rivals Abbeylara in the Senior Football Championship first round clash at Maguire Park, Ballinalee on Sunday last.
The game was originally scheduled for the same venue on Friday evening but was postponed due to the death of Billy Lynn, father of St. Columba’s manager Gerry Lynn. His team were full value for a five points win over a disappointing Abbeylara outfit who never really got going and were unable to close the gap after conceding the goals.
Mullinalaghta started really well with Jayson Matthews kicking a great point from a tight angle after just 20 seconds and that was quickly followed by a free converted by David McGivney in the 2nd minute before Abbeylara gradually got their act together.
A brace of scores in quick sucession from centre-half-forward James McEntire left the sides all square before Donal Ledwith’s side hit the front for the only time in the match when Jason Kelly shot over the bar in the 7th minute.
But it did not take long for St. Columba’s to get back on top and after Donal McElligott made no mistake from a well struck penalty in the 9th minute, they went on to register another goal in the 25th minute when Aidan McElligott shot to the back of the net.
Prior to that most significant score, the sides had exchanged points twice with Robbie Smyth and Conor Berry on target for Abbeylara while John Keegan and Aidan McElligott replied for St. Columba’s - four excellent efforts to entertain the small attendance.
It was Conor McElligott who created the killer second goal for Mullinalaghta, floating a high centre in the direction of his younger brother Aidan who rose to catch the ball in front of the posts before hitting the target from close range.
While the lead was quickly extended as David McGivney converted a free, Abbeylara had the last say in the first half when Jason Kelly landed another point to leave his side trailing by 2-5 to 0-6 at the break.
Mullinalaghta made a good start to the second half when centre-half-back James McGivney sidestepped Derek Smith before shooting over the bar (a cracking strike) but Abbeylara hit back with a point apiece from Robbie Smyth (free) and Conor Berry in the space of a minute.
Then came a crucial moment in the match when Sean Murphy had a goal attempt blocked in the 40th minute before David McGivney converted a free to ease the pressure on St. Columba’s midway through the second half.
While Abbeylara replied immediately with a point from a free converted by Robbie Smyth, they failed to register another score and the closest they came to getting a badly needed goal was when Colm P Smyth had a flicked attempt cleared off the line by Shane Mulligan.
Mullinalaghta added another score to their tally when David McGivney fired over a fourth free and they will be very pleased with this victory in gaining revenge for the defeat by Abbeylara in the quarter-final replay last year.
MULLINALAGHTA ST. COLUMBA’S: Patrick Rogers; Conan Brady, Patrick Fox, Simon Cadam; Francis Mulligan, James McGivney (0-1), Shane Mulligan; Ruairi McElligott, John Keegan (0-1); Conor McElligott, Gary Rogers, Donal McElligott (1-0, penalty); David McGivney (0-4, all frees), Jayson Matthews (0-1), Aidan McElligott (1-1).
Subs:- Bernard Donohoe for C McElligott (black card, 30 mins); Aaron Earley for P Fox (injured, 41 mins); Luke Meehan for J Matthews (62 mins).
ABBEYLARA: Damien O’Connor; Brian Smyth, Fergal Battrim, Eamon Gallagher; Colm P Smyth, Arthur O’Connor, Colm Dalton; Derek Smith, Jason Kelly (0-2); Sean Murphy, James McEntire (0-2), Barry Smyth; Robbie Smyth (0-3, two frees), Shane Mahon, Conor Berry (0-2).
Subs:- Anthony McBrien for Brian Smyth (black card, 26 mins); Enda Ledwith for S Mahon (46 mins); Michael McHugh for D Smith (53 mins); Nigel Rabbitte for S Murphy (53 mins); Cormac Smyth for R Smyth (black card, 54 mins).
Referee: Michael O’Brien (Longford Slashers).