Conor McElligott surging forward for Mullinalaghta St Columba's in his bid to evade the challenge of Eire Og, Carlow opponent Sean Gannon. Photo: Declan Gilmore
Mullinalaghta are off and running in the race for the Leinster Club Senior Football Championship title and they got over the first hurdle with seven points to spare over Carlow’s Eire Og at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Sunday last.
Mullinalaghta St Columba’s . . . 1-14 Eire Og, Carlow . . . 1-7
The scoreline suggests a comfortable win for St Columba’s and while they dominated the first half to lead by 0-8 to 0-1 at the break, it developed into quite a struggle for the Longford champions on the changeover with their advantage cut to three points in the lengthy stoppage time.
Injuries to John Keegan and David McGivney saw the game held up for a couple of periods in the final quarter and Laois referee Seamus Mulhare added on a total of eight additional minutes.
It might well have been a different story had the crossbar not denied the 27 times Carlow champions a badly needed goal with four minutes gone in the second half after Derek Hayden was very unlucky not to find the back of the net.
While Eire Og were much improved on the resumption in making it a lot more difficult for Mullinalaghta, they were guilty of kicking six costly wides and even at that they were still in with a chance of salvaging the situation when they grabbed a goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
A shot from substitute Niall Quinlan was saved by Patrick Rogers but the ball deflected off Darragh O’Brien into the back of the net to leave just three points separating the sides, 0-13 to 1-7, in a tense finish.
Having gained considerable experience on their march to the Leinster semi-final last year, Mullinalaghta kept their composure and replied immediately with a marvellous point from Jayson Matthews to ease the pressure.
St Columba’s then put the issue beyond all doubt virtually on the stroke of the eventual final whistle when Gary Rogers (who worked extremely hard throughout the game) scored a cracking goal after receiving the perfect pass from John Keegan with James McGivney, substitute Aidan McElligott and Matthews also involved in this excellent attack.
The reward for the Mullinalaghta men is another home game at Pearse Park against the Westmeath three-in-a-row champions St Loman’s Mullingar on Sunday week, November 12, in a repeat of last year’s provincial quarter-final which was won by St Columba’s.
With inspirational captain Shane Mulligan a real driving force at centre-half-back and James McGivney excelling in kicking three great points from play (all inside the opening ten minutes) St Columba’s appeared to be cruising to an easy victory against the ultra defensive Eire Og outfit.
Mark Furey, supposed to start at full-forward, dropped right back to operate the role of an extra defender but there still no stopping Mullinalaghta who enjoyed the vast majority of the possession.
James McGivney started the ball rolling when he landed the opening point in the 2nd minute and his brother David also made a notable impact on the scoresheet in the first half. The younger McGivney fired over four frees while Rian Brady was also on target for St Columba’s who were dominating in most positions on the pitch.
Eire Og squandered a decent chance of a goal in the closing stages of the first half when Derek Hayden shot straight at St Columba’s keeper Patrick Rogers who made a good save to keep his net intact and the visitors had to wait until the 30th minute to register their first score - from a close range free converted by Darragh O’Brien.
Things could only get better for the Carlow champions in the second half and that’s what happened as Mullinalaghta became rather complacent.
A point apiece were exchanged between Cormac Mullins (a fine strike) and Jayson Matthews (free) early on the changeover before Eire Og enjoyed their best spell in the game which yielded three fine points in a row through impressive left-half-back Ross Dunphy, Darragh O’Brien and Sean Gannon between the 35th and 40th minutes.
Mullinalaghta were gifted a reprieve when a poor kick-out was intercepted by Rian Brady and he duly popped the ball over the bar in the 42nd minute but back came Eire Og with another point from midfielder Gannon who really made his presence felt in the second half with his side now trailing by 0-10 to 0-6.
St Columba’s replied with a point from a David McGivney free in the 45th minute and the game then developed into a very scrappy affair as the next score did not materialise until the 56th minute with Eire Og substitute Chris Blake shooting over the bar.
Mullinalaghta hit back with a couple of superb points in quick succession through James McGivney and Rian Brady to consolidate their grip on the game (0-13 to 0-7) and while Eire Og were then given a glimmer of hope when they scored a goal, St Columba’s tacked on another 1-1 to make absolutely certain of their place in the last eight of the Leinster Club Championship.
MULLINALAGHTA ST COLUMBA’S: Patrick Rogers; Simon Cadam, Patrick Fox, Conan Brady; Francis Mulligan, Shane Mulligan, Donal McElligott; Ruairi McElligott, John Keegan; Gary Rogers (1-0), James McGivney (0-4), David McGivney (0-5, all frees); Jayson Matthews (0-2, one free), Conor McElligott, Rian Brady (0-3).
Subs:- Aidan McElligott for R McElligott (44 mins); Michael Cunningham for J Keegan (49 mins); J Keegan for M Cunningham (51 mins); M Cunningham for D McGivney (55 mins); D McGivney for M Cunningham (56 mins).
EIRE OG CARLOW: Robbie Moore; Fiach O’Toole, Mark Fitzgerald, Brendan Kavanagh; Jordan Lowry, Paul McElligott, Ross Dunphy (0-1); Sean Gannon (0-2), Kelvin Chatten; Cormac Mullins (0-1), Jordan Morrissey, Eoghan Ruth; Derek Hayden, Mark Furey, Darragh O’Brien (1-2, one point from free).
Subs:- Chris Blake (0-1) for J Morrissey (44 mins); Evan Kelly for J Lowry (57 mins); Niall Quinlan for R Dunphy and Murtagh Ware for C Mullins (two minutes into stoppage time).
Referee: Seamus Mulhare (Laois).