Western Gaels 1-9 -
Clann na nGael 1-10
“Doing the double” is back in fashion around Johnstown. Not since the days of Ireland winning the Eurovision for fun or Bill Clinton becoming American President have Clann managed to put a league and championship on the mantelpiece in the same year. Much has changed since 1993, and only ten of the current panel were born 25 years ago, but the evidence that the landscape in Roscommon club football is returning to a once familiar narrative is pretty compelling.
With the club’s second team also tasting league success and the U-20s set for a battle royale against St. Brigid’s next Saturday evening, there will be plenty of silverware to he handed out at Clann’s dinner dance early next year.
Sunday’s triumph against a gutsy Western Gaels outfit wasn’t pretty but Clann managed to get the job done, which went some way towards atoning for their horror show against Corofin a month ago.
For the second game in succession against Clann, Western Gaels were foiled in the game’s dying embers. For the second week in a row, Donie Shine landed a free deep into injury time to snatch a dramatic win for his side. Just as he had done against Roscommon Gaels eight days earlier, Emmet Kenny covered every blade for grass for his side. More encouragingly, Ultan Harney produced another big showing. There were double takes everywhere.
To Western Gaels’ credit, they made light of their dearth of competitive action in recent months, and were right in contention as Sunday’s melodrama drew to a close. James McDonnell’s fine 40th minute goal hauled them back into contention but although they restored parity twice after that, getting ahead of the county champions proved beyond them, and it was left to Shine to break their hearts with a free 30 metres to the left of goal. Clann wouldn’t have wanted anyone else in that position, and the end result was predictable.
On a heavy surface and with squally showers battering Nash Park, this final was a slow burner. With Seán McDermott dropping back as a sweeper, the home side frustrated Clann for the opening quarter until Fergal Shine’s charges hit 1-4 without reply to put themselves very much on course for victory.
Playing with a gale behind them, Clann weren’t direct enough in the early stages and the ball was often held up around the middle, although Kenny managed to bisect the posts with the outside of his right boot in the third minute. But McDonnell brought the sides level a minute later before Kevin Higgins nudged his side ahead after 11 minutes.
Then Clann began to find their rhythm. Harney set up Shine for the equaliser before Clann stitched the best move of the afternoon together for the game’s opening goal after 20 minutes. Daire Finneran’s short kickout found Shane Pettit. The centre-back fed Harney who drove at goal, exchanged passes with David Connaughton before unselfishly squaring possession for Ross Naughton to palm the ball into an empty net. It was Harney at his brilliant best, and a hat-trick of frees from Shine left Clann 1-5 to 0-2 to the good after 29 minutes.
But Western Gaels were thrown a lifeline when two Derek Moran frees eroded the deficit to 1-5 to 0-4 at the break. With the wind to come, they were far from finished.
Kenny availed of Shine’s quick thinking from a free to open the second-half scoring. Kevin Higgins landed an effort from distance but it was McDonnell’s green flag that really ignited Gaels as he left the Clann defence trailing in his wake and finished to the corner of the net with aplomb.
Shine worked another short free, this time with Ciarán Lennon, before taking the return pass and scoring one of the points of the day. But rapid fire points from Moran (a free) and Cathal Cregg brought the sides level.
Darra Pettit and Lennon swapped points with Moran (two frees) in the final minutes as extra time loomed. But a fine fetch from Cathal Shine in the middle of the field allowed Lennon set up Connaughton who cleverly drew the foul.
With the wind in his face, the free was no gimme, but Shine judged it perfectly to confirm Clann as O’Rourke Cup champions.
Another title to be pencilled onto the clubhouse wall in Johnstown.
CLANN NA NGAEL: D. Finneran; D. Pettit (0-1), S. Flynn, D. Duff; R. Gavin, S. Pettit, D. Connaughton; U. Harney, G. Pettit; C. McManus, C. Callinan, E. Kenny (0-2); D. Shine (0-6, four frees), C. Lennon (0-1), R. Naughton (1-0). Subs used: C. Shine for Callinan (17 mins), S. Henry for Naughton (half-time), D. Sumner for McManus (46 mins)
WESTERN GAELS: A. Hardiman; T. Devine, A. Dowd, S. Conry; T. Gill, B. Cafferky, C. Cafferky; K. Higgins (0-2), B. Creighton; S. McDermott, J. McDonnell (1-1), C. Sampey; B. Casserly, D. Moran (0-5, all frees), C. Cregg (0-1). Subs used: J. Duffy for Sampey (25 mins), O. Hester for Casserly (51 mins),
Wides: Clann na nGael – 4; Western Gaels – 5.
Yellow Cards: Clann na nGael – Harney (18 mins), G. Pettit (55 mins), D. Pettit (55 mins), D. Shine (60 mins); Western Gaels – McDonnell (5 mins), Cregg (14 mins), K. Higgins (27 mins), Moran (55 mins).
Black Cards: Clann na nGael – D. Pettit (60 mins); Western Gaels – none.
Red Cards: Clann na nGael – D. Pettit (60 mins); Western Gaels – none.
Referee: G. Carmody.
Player of the Match: Emmet Kenny (Clann na nGael).
A hard call between Kenny, David Connaughton and Ultan Harney but, for the second week in succession, Kenny worked himself to a standstill for Clann’s cause. A key link between defence and attack, the wing-forward also landed two points over the hour.
Connaughton and Harney also carried the fight to Western Gaels — the latter showing flashes of individual brilliance, particularly for Ross Naughton’s 20th minute goal.
Damien Duff was coolness personified at corner-back. Donie Shine made another major contribution in the scoring stakes, while Cathal Shine’s introduction enabled Clann win some clean possession in the middle of the field in the second half.
Brian Cafferky, Seán Conry, Aidan Dowd, Kevin Higgins, Barry Creighton, James McDonnell and Cathal Cregg were best for Western Gaels.