Extremely fortunate to snatch a last gasp equalising point in the drawn encounter the previous week, there was just no stopping Northern Gaels in the Minor ‘A’ Football Championship Final replay as they crushed Clonguish in the title decider at Pearse Park on Saturday evening last.
The superior Abbeylara/Mullinalaghta amalgamation improved greatly to make no mistake at the second attempt and from the moment they scored a very early goal the Harte Cup holders were on course to retain the county minor title with Conor Berry a commanding figure at full-back and the David McGivney/Aidan McElligott pairing in control at centrefield.
Thus Northern Gaels are the first team to complete the U-18 championship two-in-a-row triumph since Longford Slashers won back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2001. And all their key players made the desired impact on this occasion, particularly corner-forward Jayson Matthews who clocked up the impressive total of 2-5 with just one of his seven scores coming from a free.
Matthews deflected the ball into the net for the opening goal in the 2nd minute, after the Clonguish keeper Liam Casey had made a fine save to stop a shot from Nigel Rabbitte, and then came a crucial moment in the match when Clonguish midfielder Peter Hanley had a great chance to find the back of the net.
Hanley was denied by the Northern Gaels keeper Luke Meehan in the 6th minute and while Clonguish got their first score in the 9th minute when Alan Gregg shot over the bar they lost their way thereafter to end up trailing by 1-6 to 0-3 at the break.
While the underdogs were guilty of kicking fives wides in the first half, the boys in green had a lucky escape when Rian Brady hit the crossbar with a cracking shot in the 12th minute.
But the most impressive Northern Gaels team were on top in most positions on the pitch with Aidan McElligott (2), Barry McKiernan (2), Jayson Matthews (free) and Nigel Rabbitte accounting for their points in the first half while the other couple of Clonguish scores were registered by Alan Gregg (free) and Colin Clarke.
Clonguish were in serious trouble and they failed to raise a gallop in the second half as Northern Gaels eased their way to victory with the wide margin of 19 points separating the sides in the finish - hard to believe really in view of the close contest seven days earlier.
The highly charged Abbeylara/Mullinalaghta minors were in no mood to show any mercy and it was basically target practise for them on the changeover as they added a further 1-11 to their most emphatic tally and could have scored at least one more goal when prominent wing back Cathal Lynch surged forward to shoot into the sidenetting.
Jayson Matthews was left with the simple task of slotting the ball into the empty net for the second goal in the 53rd minute in a well-worked move that involved the other dangermen in a slick attack, Rian Brady and Nigel Rabbitte, and all Clonguish got was a single score from Alan Gregg (free) in the 56th minute.
Jayson Matthews and Rian Brady got four points apiece in the second half, with Barry McKiernan (also much to the fore up front), Tom Meehan and Nigel Rabbitte the others on target for the runaway winners who finished with 14 players after McKiernan was sent-off (second yellow card) in the final minute of normal time.
NORTHERN GAELS: Luke Meehan; James Mooney, Conor Berry, Cian Brady; Killian Gallagher, Russell Brady, Cathal Lynch; David McGivney, Aidan McElligott (0-2); Nigel Rabbitte (0-2), Barry McKiernan (0-3), Tom Meehan (0-1); Ultan O’Hara, Rian Brady (0-4), Jayson Matthews (2-5, one point from free).
Subs:- PJ Masterson for K Gallagher (35 mins); Dan Masterson for T Meehan (54 mins); Aaron Earley for U O’Hara (56 mins); Michael Cunningham for J Mooney (56 mins); K Gallagher for J Matthews (60 mins).
CLONGUISH OG: Liam Casey; Darragh McLoughlin, Kevin O’Boyle, Neil Devlin; Alan Sorohan, Ronan Duffy, Oisin Flanagan; Peter Hanley, Ronan Sweeney; Christopher Gordon, Colin Clarke (0-1), Evan Glacken; Colin Farrell, Michael Corcoran, Alan Gregg (0-3, two frees).
Subs:- Daniel McHugh for E Glacken (half-time); Brian Sweeney for A Sorohan (40 mins); Packie Molloy for C Farrell (59 mins).
Referee: Ger Carberry
(Killoe Emmet Og).