Clonguish took another step on their road to redemption, and another step towards reclaiming the county title they surrendered in the group stages last year. Fr Manning Gaels, with a side that’s building for the future, were no match for the slick, pacy and sharp-shooting Clonguish, who ran out easy winners in the end.
The final scoreline won’t reflect the Gaels’ early efforts in this game when they matched their more experienced opponents for the opening twenty minutes on the scoreboard. They also matched the endeavour and workrate, but a lack of discipline in holding on to possession meant that Clonguish were eventually able to slot over scores at will in the closing stages of the half.
Leading 0-10 to 0-6 at the break, it could well have been more had several goal chances been taken. Paul Barden, again outstanding in the green colours of his club, thundered a shot that hit a combination of crossbar and post, before bouncing out in the 22nd minute. Minutes earlier Kevin Burke fisted a point and did so just before the half-time break when on both occasions a goal was on.
Fr Manning Gaels also had their goal chances in the opening half – John Fitzpatrick fired over when in on goal in the eighth minute, while David Cassidy attempted to catch out Clonguish with a quickly-taken free in the 28th minute, but his shot was straight at ‘keeper Stephen Watters. However, given the complexion of the first half, it was obvious that Clonguish were the better side.
The game ended, effectively, as a contest in the early stages of the second half. Ciaran Williams thought he had the game’s first goal in the 33rd minute, but his fisted effort from close range was ruled out for a square ball.
Three minutes later, David Barden intercepted a sloppy pass in the Gaels’ defence, and from 45 metres he raced through before laying the ball off to Joe O’Brien, who coolly slotted the ball into the left corner of the net.
From there Clonguish completely took over, adding more points to open up a 1-15 to 0-6 lead, before the Gaels responded with a goal in the 47th minute. A well-worked move through the forwards, at speed, put David Hannify in some space on the 13 metre line. His low shot was side-footed into the Clonguish net by James Noonan from close range.
By that stage, however, any intensity in the game had long evaporated thanks largely to Clonguish dominating proceedings.
Onlookers from both Colmcille and Longford Slashers will have been impressed by the Newtownforbes’ side performance and whoever advances on Sunday next will have to work hard to win a county title.
Twelve months on from their disastrous exit last year – at the hands of Mullinalaghta – the team have regrouped and focused on their strengths.
What makes Clonguish such a potent side is the options they have, coupled with an incredible turn of speed.
Paddy Dowd moved between midfield, full forward and half forward during the game; David Barden did the same, but largely featured around the middle where he was able to burst past defenders with ease. Both were excellent throughout.
Paul Barden, with five points from play, is a midfielder like few others in the county in terms of all around contribution to his team.
Joe O’Brien and Ciaran Williams are another two forwards who can win games, while the diminutive Kevin Burke – nicknamed the Gooch – put in a tireless evening’s work (much like his namesake earlier that day) before being hauled ashore having ran his legs off.
At centre back Enda Williams commands the defence superbly; he mops up the loose ball well and sets up attacks – and even chips in with the odd point, as he did on Sunday.
John O’Brien was impressive at full-back, with a number of key interceptions and clearances, as was Anthony Corcoran, who may be an absentee come county final day – a big loss for the team.
For Fr Manning Gaels, it has been a good championship for the club. Reaching the semi-final with a relatively young side is something that can be built on for the future.
Aaron Quinn was one of his side’s most impressive performer on the day – certainly on a par with Williams for Clonguish. Johnny Kane and David Hannify battled well around the middle, while up front David Cassidy was the stand-out player for the Gaels.
Fr Manning Gaels were most impressive when they moved the ball quickly. The problem was they couldn’t maintain that intensity for long enough periods.
Clonguish: Stephen Watters; Brendan Burke, John O’Brien, Anthony Watters; Ciaran McGuire, Enda Williams (0-1), Anthony Corcoran; Paul Barden (0-5), Paddy Dowd (0-5, 3f); David Barden (0-1), Joe O’Brien (1-1), Brendan Devine (0-1); Kevin Burke (0-2), Pauric Cooney, Ciaran Williams (0-2).
Subs: Niall O’Reilly for Burke (36 mins); David Faughnan for P. Dowd (53 mins); John Dowd for O’Brien (55 mins); Shane O’Brien for D. Barden (59 mins).
Fr Manning Gaels: Paddy Collum (0-1, ‘45); Darren Reilly, Mark Duffy, John Paul Farrelly; Brian Collum, Aaron Quinn, Emmet Collum; Johnny Kane, David Hannify (0-1); Darren Farrelly (0-1), Pauric Gill, John Fitzpatrick (0-1); Diarmuid Cooney, David Cassidy (0-2, 1f), James Noonan (1-0).
Subs: David Collum (0-1) for Fitzpatrick, Sean Whelan for D. Farrelly (both half-time); Sean Diffley for E Collum (44 mins); Petie Collum for Noonan (50 mins); Michael Mulleady for Whelan (55 mins).
Referee: John Bannon (Legan Sarsfields).