Northern Gaels achieved yet another underage success in Longford when they scored a comprehensive victory over Clonguish Og in the Juvenile (U-16) ‘A’ Football Championship Final at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Saturday last.
After losing this title to Killoe after a final replay last year, the Mullinalaghta/Abbeylara amalgamation were strongly fancied to take the crown on this occasion. Retaining all but two members of last year’s starting team, they justified their favourites tag in fairly emphatic fashion.
In truth, Northern Gaels did not have to play to their full potential as Clonguish disappointed. Both sides were littered with members of the Fr. Manning Cup winning Longford U-16 side. Two of those county starlets playing for Northern Gaels sparkled, namely Nigel Rabbitte and Rian Brady. Both were menacing, and between them scored nine points.
Clonguish opened the scoring after just sixteen seconds, with a point from play from midfielder Ronan Sweeney but by the sixth minute Northern Gaels were ahead and they never looked back thereafter.
Nigel Rabbitte opened his and his team’s account with a point from play in the second minute, while three minutes later Rian Brady pointed a free that he won. The first half was on the whole a turgid affair, but was intermittently lit up by moments of class from Ronan Sweeney and Rian Brady.
Sweeney scored a beautiful point with the outside of his right foot for Clonguish, while Brady’s consistent point scoring, from play and placed balls, was top class. Gaels led by seven points to three at the break, and were unfortunate not to have been further ahead as a Rabbitte effort rattled the crossbar.
Gaels upped the ante at the start of the second half, and Clonguish could not stand the heat. Rian Brady and Nigel Rabbitte were once again to the fore as Northern Gaels rattled off an unanswered 1-6 within nine minutes to effectively end the game as a contest.
Brady scored two points, once of them an excellent effort from play, and was joined on the scoresheet by Aidan McElligott (free), Michael Cunningham and Rabbitte. The goal came in the middle of the purple patch. Centre-half-back Aaron Early galloped into Clonguish territory, collected the ball 21 yards from goal and fired a powerful shot into the corner of the net.
Alan Gregg did reply for Clonguish with a pointed free, but this was soon bettered by points from Brady and Cunningham. With the game seemingly won, Gaels dropped their intensity and allowed Clonguish create some chances. The best of those was from the penalty spot, after Christopher Gordon was dragged down by Aidan Brady. Alan Gregg failed to capitalise however and dragged the penalty wide of the right-hand post. Gaels keeper Luke Meehan also smothered a close range shot by Colin Clarke.
Clonguish did manage to score a consolation goal when substitute Ciaran Madden pounced on a loose ball to find the net from close range two minutes from the end and they must take credit for working hard and adding some respectability to the scoreboard,
But it was a disappointing performance by the losers and they will feel that a much better showing was in them. At times they looked overawed against a side with as ferocious a reputation as Northern Gaels have.
This meant that the Mullinalaghta/Abbeylara side side escaped with a slightly subdued performance, as key players like Longford minors David McGivney and Aidan McElligott were relatively quiet. But through Rian Brady and Nigel Rabbitte however, Gaels had a potent strike force and they proved too hot for Clonguish to handle.
NORTHERN GAELS: Luke Meehan; Aidan Brady, James Mooney, Cian Brady; Russell Brady, Aaron Earley (1-0), Cathal Lynch; Barry McKiernan, David McGivney; Nigel Rabbitte (0-4), Conor Berry, Michael Cunningham (0-2); Rian Brady (0-5, three frees), Aidan McElligott (0-3, all frees), Jayson Matthews (0-1).
Subs:- Ultan O’Hara for N Rabbitte (56 mins); Killian Gallagher for A Earley (62 mins).
CLONGUISH OG: Liam Casey; Darren Sheridan, Kevin O’Boyle, Peter Hanley; Paul Gallagher, Darragh McLoughlin, Oisin Flanagan; Ronan Sweeney (0-3, one free), Ronan Duffy (0-1, one free); Alan Gregg (0-1, free), Alan Sorohan, Colin Farrell; Christopher Gordon, Colin Clarke, Michael Corcoran.
Subs:- Ciaran Madden (1-0) for A Sorohan (53 mins); Evan Glacken for P Gallagher (53 mins).
Referee: Tony Gaffney (Mostrim).