Rathcline were looking good to spring a big surprise when Liam Connerton fired home a cracking goal in the 55th minute to leave his side leading by 2-8 to 1-9 but the title holders Mullinalaghta showed a lot of character in refusing to panic and proceeded to produce a storming finish which yielded four points without reply – all from James McGivney – to complete the U-21 ‘B’ Football Championship title three-in-a-row.
This was a tremendous achievement by St. Columba’s, who lined-out with just two substitutes after injuries ruled out Rory Mulligan and James Rogers, and the outstanding McGivney was very much the saviour as the men from Mullinalaghta just got the better of a gritty Rathcline outfit who were five points down (1-9 to 1-4) at one stage of the 13-a-side final played in front of a small attendance at bitterly cold Pearse Park on Sunday last.
But inspired by a well struck point from Mel Shanley with 11 minutes gone in the second half, Rathcline went on to enjoy their best spell of the game which yielded a further 1-3 on the trot. Aaron Madden cut in from the right to land a glorious score in the 48th minute and moments later Paddy Mullooly shot over the bar before midfielder Shane Casserly burst through to register a point when a goal was there for the taking.
A well-worked move involving Shanley and Mullooly then created the opening for Liam Connerton to blast the ball to the back of the Mullinalaghta net but James McGivney got the reigning champions back on level terms when converting a couple of frees (57 and 59 mins) awarded for fouls on JJ Matthews who also had an excellent game for St. Columba’s.
A draw looked the likely outcome at this late stage, particularly after St. Columba’s were reduced to 12 players when JJ Matthews was sent-off after receiving a second yellow card in the second minute of stoppage time. But almost immediately a terrific strike from play by McGivney gave Mullinalaghta the edge and the same player clinched the hard earned victory when converting a free with virtually the last kick of this entertaining encounter.
Ironically, St. Columba’s scored three points in the six minutes of stoppage time that referee Patrick Maguire added on at the end of the first half but Rathcline have really only themselves to blame for falling at the final hurdle as they were guilty of kicking a total of nine wides during the course of the game as compared to five for the opposition.
Managed by Dan McElligott, Mullinalaghta deserved to come out on top and got off to a great start to lead by 1-2 to 0-1 after eight minutes. James McGivney scored a brilliant goal while the points came from JJ Matthews and he was a constant threat to the Rathcline defence who suffered the setback of losing David Rooney - forced to retire injured with just six minutes gone on the clock.
James Hilton got the opening score for Rathcline in the 2nd minute and a brace of points followed from Paddy Mullooly (free and ‘45’) as the gap was closed. While St. Columba’s hit back with great scores from JJ Matthews and John Keegan to lead by 1-4 to 0-3, Rathcline were thrown a lifeline with a quality goal from influential substitute Liam Connerton (set up by Aaron Madden) in the 25th minute, Connerton coming on for the unfortunate Rooney.
Mullinalaghta regained the upper hand with a couple of points from James McGivney (frees) while Tommy Fox also got his name on the scoresheet in stoppage time to leave the north Longford side leading by 1-7 to 1-3 at the break and that advantage was extended when Enda Rabbitte shot over the bar in the early stages of the second half.
James Hilton was then off target from a very tight angle in his attempt to score a goal for Rathcline and while Paddy Mullooly fired over a close range free in the 35th minute, St. Columba’s replied with a point from a James McGivney free and were looking in a comfortable position.
But Rathcline (with Longford Slashers supremo Denis Connerton part of their management team) enjoyed a new lease of life in clocking up 1-4 to take the lead, only for man-of-the-match James McGivney to rescue Mullinalaghta with four points in a row in the closing stages of this cracking end of season contest.
MULLINALAGHTA: David O’Rourke; Patrick Fox, Myles Matthews; Simon Cadam, Conan Brady, James McGivney (1-7, six points from frees); John Keegan (0-1), David Donohoe; Enda Rabbitte (0-1), Gary Rogers, Brendan Fox; Tommy Fox (0-1), JJ Matthews (0-3).
RATHCLINE: Tony Mulligan; James Casey, Cathal Greene; Michael Rhatigan, David Rooney, Fiachra Beirne; Shane Casserly (0-1), David Mulvihill; James Carroll, Paddy Mullooly (0-4, two frees, one ‘45’, one play), James Hilton (0-1); Aaron Madden (0-1), Mel Shanley (0-1).
Sub:- Liam Connerton (2-0) for D Rooney (injured, 6 mins).
Referee: Patrick Maguire (Granard St. Mary’s).