Clann na nGael……………………………0-16
Hodson Bay Hotel Group Senior Football Championship (Section A)
Ian Cooney at Johnstown
It was billed as the ‘game of the weekend’, a repeat of last October’s county senior football final, but only one team turned up in front of a good crowd at Johnstown on Saturday evening last. Clann bossed this game from start to finish. Yet they never had to extend themselves to overcome a desperately poor Padraig Pearses side.
In many ways it was a return to the good, old days for Clann — matches where, as defending champions, they suffocated teams and did as they pleased. With pretty much a full hand to choose from for the first time this season, manager Paul Curran saw his side deliver a solid showing that should kickstart their season. A nine-point winning margin didn’t flatter them. Indeed if the winners had been more ruthless in front of goal, it would have been embarrassing for Pearses.
As it was, there wasn’t much solace for Shane Curran’s side afterwards. Perhaps, having won their first game against Brigid’s, Pearses saw this contest as a “free hit” in the hope that everything will be all right on the night when Conor and Ronan Daly return from America later in the summer.
With the championship taking a mid-season siesta until August, momentum isn’t paramount at the moment but the worry for Pearses is that they displayed an alarming lack of intensity and belief throughout this contest. Against their neighbours with an opportunity to set the record straight, their supporters would have expected more.
Clann prevailed at their leisure because the spine of their team ruled matters with an iron fist. They had plenty of energy on the wings too, especially down their right flank where Jack Connaughton, Cathal Callinan and Cian McManus were to the fore. But it was players like Stephen Flynn, David Flynn and Donie Shine that set the tone. Ultan Harney made a welcome return from injury too but, not surprisingly, he ran out of gas and was withdrawn in the second half.
Apart from the opening ten minutes when Pearses hit the post twice, Clann were never rocked from their comfort zone. Aaron Feehily opened the scoring in the fifth minute after his free cannoned back off the post. But a foul on Harney, who started brightly, saw Shine judge a 40-metre free from the left wing to perfection. When David Connaugton won back possession in the tenth minute, Clann broke quickly. Ruaidhri McManus was fouled by Eamon Donoghue and Shine gave his side the lead from the resultant free.
Then it was Cian McManus’ turn to snatch possession from Pearses, and Callinan engineered the space to land a good score. The margin became four points in the 19th minute when Shine expertly slotted over a ’45.
Niall Daly stopped the rot momentarily with a good score but Clann kept coming. Cian McManus and David Connaughton set up Jack Connaughton for a point before Shine nailed his second ’45 of the evening in the 25th minute.
Shine added two more frees before Emmet Kelly replied from a placed ball after possession was moved forward by referee Declan Hunt for dissent to leave his side trailing by 0-8 to 0-3 at the break.
The second half was a non-event as Pearses continued to look terribly short on ideas. Indeed the only murmur in the crowd was triggered by Galway’s magnificent result against Mayo. At the same time, Roscommon defender David Murray left the field with a shoulder injury, subsequently departing Johnstown with his arm in a sling. But he should be fit for the Connacht final against Galway on July 10th.
Emmet Kelly and Emmet Kenny swapped points at the start of the new half. By the time Pearses scored again, Clann were out of sight as Cian McManus (2) and Shine (2) found the target. Shine’s effort in the 47th minute was particularly eyecatching as he found the range spectacularly from the right wing.
With the Flynn brothers, Stephen and David, keeping tabs on Pearses’ subdued attack, Clann continued to probe for scores. Their shooting was erratic at times but substitutes Shane Pettit and Jamie Fahy alongside Cian McManus tagged on further scores.
Pearses’ reply arrived in the form of points from Feehily, Kelly (a free) and half-time substitute David Grehan. But those scores failed to disguise the gulf in class between the two sides.
One suspect that August can’t come quick enough for both teams, but for very different reasons.
CLANN NA NGAEL: R. O’Reilly; D. Pettit, S. Flynn, R. Gavin; J. Connaughton (0-1), D. Flynn, E. Kenny (0-1); C. Shine, G. Pettit; C. Callinan, D. Shine (0-8, five frees, two ‘45s), D. Connaughton; C. McManus (0-3), R. McManus, U. Harney (0-1). Subs used: J. Dunning for Harney (40 mins), S. Pettit (0-1) for D. Pettit (42 mins), J. Fahy (0-1) for R. McManus (52 mins), A. Reilly for Kenny (53 mins), S. McManus for D. Connaughton (59 mins).
PADRAIG PEARSES: A. McManus; M. Richardson, A. Butler, D. Murray; S. Carty, N. Carty, G. Downey; N. Daly (0-1), E. Donoghue; T. Butler, D. Whelan, D. Reilly; E. Kelly (0-3, two frees), H. Darcy, A. Feehily (0-2). Subs used: D. Grehan (0-1) for Reilly (half-time), C. Payne for Downey (40 mins), P. Kelly for Murray (45 mins).
Wides: Clann na nGael – 14; Padraig Pearses – 3.
Yellow Cards: Clann na nGael – C. McManus (27 mins), G. Pettit (34 mins); Padraig Pearses – Donoghue (12 mins)
Black Cards: Clann na nGael – none; Padraig Pearses – none.
Red Cards: Clann na nGael – none; Padraig Pearses – none.
Referee: D. Hunt.
Player of the Match: David Flynn (Clann na nGael). On an evening when Clann produced an accomplished team performance, the county champions’ central spine was strong, best emphasised by David Flynn’s solid showing over the 60 minutes.
Stephen Flynn, Jack Connaughton, Cathal Callinan and Cian McManus contributed handsomely to the home side’s success, as did Donie Shine who kicked 0-8, more than Pearses’ final tally.
Best for a poor Pearses side were Anthony Butler, Niall Daly and Aaron Feehily.