A couple of decisive factors in the space of a minute in the first half swung the issue in favour of Mullinalaghta, who gradually got the better of neighbouring rivals Granard in the Senior Football Championship quarter-final at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Saturday evening last.
Given little chance of causing an upset going into this local derby, St. Mary’s played really well to race into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead in the early stages of the game with excellent points coming from Stephen Lynch (2), Darren Gallagher and Liam Sullivan.
St. Columba’s, who had opened the scoring when Jayson Matthews shot over the bar, were on the backfoot and looking a little worried but they got right back into contention with a well struck goal from county minor Matthews in the 12th minute.
John Keegan surged forward and after linking up with Conan Brady the Longford midfielder played the ball into the influential Matthews, who made no mistake in finding the back of the net from point-blank range to leave the sides all square.
Moments later St. Mary’s suffered another significant setback when one of their defenders, Vinny Nally, was sent-off after receiving a second yellow card and from there on the extra man advantage was always going to count for St. Columba’s.
But despite having to play the remainder of the game with 14 players, Granard showed a lot of character to keep their hopes alive with three further points from Liam O’Rourke, Stephen Lynch (free) and wing back Brian Sheridan, the latter on target from a tight angle in the 26th minute.
St. Mary’s held a slender 0-7 to 1-3 advantage at this stage, with another county minor David McGivney firing over a couple of frees for St. Columba’s, and he ended up with a total of 0-8 (all frees) in playing a key role in the eventual victory.
A strong finish to the first half yielded three points in a row through McGivney (2) and Conor McElligott (who had a goal chance) for Mullinalaghta, who hardly deserved to be leading by 1-6 to 0-7 at the break.
While Granard made a great start to the second half with a cracking point from the menacing Liam Sullivan in attack, their cause was hampered by some poor finishing and St. Mary’s ended up kicking a total of seven costly wides on the changeover - compared to just three for St. Columba’s.
Three more points followed from David McGivney as Mullinalaghta established a tight grip on the contest (1-9 to 0-8) before Granard eventually scored again in the 56th minute with the prominent Stephen Lynch landing his fourth score - a great long range effort from play.
But to go 23 minutes without a score was not good enough at this level as St. Mary’s made their exit from the senior championship with Darren Gallagher getting their final point when blasting a close range free over the bar in stoppage time in his attempt for a last gasp goal.
However, Mullinalaghta were four points in front at that late stage after David McGivney fired over another free in the 59th minute and with the last kick of the game substitute Kevin Mulligan shot over the bar.
The return of former county player Mulligan is a timely boost for St. Columba’s and with other talented forwards JJ Matthews and Rian Brady listed among the substitutes on Saturday, manager Gerry Lynn would appear to have a full strength squad at his disposal in the quest to qualify for the county final.
Credit also to Niall Sheridan for guiding St. Mary’s into the quarter-finals and they produced a courageous performance last weekend in what has been a good season for them and still in with a chance of reaching the Leader Cup quarter-finals.
MULLINALAGHTA ST. COLUMBA’S: Patrick Rogers; Conan Brady, Patrick Fox, Simon Cadam; Francis Mulligan, James McGivney, Shane Mulligan; Ruairi McElligott, John Keegan; Conor McElligott (0-1), Gary Rogers, Donal McElligott; Jayson Matthews (1-1), Aidan McElligott, David McGivney (0-8, all frees).
Subs:- Kevin Mulligan (0-1) for F Mulligan (44 mins); Bernard Donohoe for C McElligott (59 mins).
ST. MARY’S GRANARD: Gary Carroll; Joseph Connolly, Thomas Gallagher, Vinny Nally; Brian Sheridan (0-1), Mark Tully, Eoin Higgins; David Blessington, Liam O’Rourke (0-1); Paul Smyth, Liam Sullivan (0-2), Stephen Lynch (0-4, one free); David Hynes, Darren Gallagher (0-2, one free), Derek Sheridan.
Subs:- Declan Hynes for David Hynes (injured, half-time); Fergus Kelly for D Blessington (44 mins); Thomas Devaney for J Connolly (49 mins); Bernard Clyne for M Tully (54 mins); Timmy Jackson for D Sheridan (57 mins).
Referee: Michael O’Brien (Longford Slashers).