LEINSTER SENIOR FOOTBALL FINAL
SUNDAY 9TH DECEMBER
KILMACUD CROKES 1-6 St. COLUMBA’S, MULLINALAGHTA 1-8
Match report by Diarmuid Coogan
Photographs by Darragh Hickey & Frances Mullin
Christmas came early today for Mullinanaghta who fashioned an unexpected win over Dublin Champions Crokes and became the 1st Longford team to win the Leinster title. Aided by a strong breeze in the 1st half, Mullinalaghta got off to a good start when midfielder John Keegan ran at the heart of the Crokes defence from the throw in before laying off to full forward Rian Brady who kicked a marvellous point from 40 metres with 10 seconds on the clock! (0-1 to 0-0)
Crokes could have equalised 30 seconds later following a surging run by captain Craig but Dublin star Paul Mannion missed narrowly with his shot from 30 metres out. Both sides squandered a few chances in the following minutes including a disallowed point by Crokes half forward Shane Cunningham who was harshly blown for over carrying the ball.
After 4 minutes, Crokes produced (what was to be for them) the highlight of the game. Stephen Williams (late replacement before the match for full forward Dara Mullin) pounced on a loose ball in midfield and quickly transferred it to midfielder Conor Casey who fed half forward Shane Horan; Horan carried before spraying a pass out to Paul Mannion on the right wing. At this stage Mannion had taken fullback Patrick Fox well away from his goal and he passed back inside to Casey inside the “D”. Casey evaded a few defenders before passing left to the supporting Williams who took the ball on the penalty spot with one defender and goal keeper ahead of him. As the defender was about to “envelope” him, Williams laid it off left to the veteran corner forward Pat Burke on the edge of the square. Burke stepped to the right and calmly placed the ball past the diving Patrick Rogers. (0-1 to 1-0)
Crokes should have added to that lead but a few promising attacks were wasted by a combination of silly turnovers and good defending by the Longford side who should have scored a goal themselves after 9 minutes when centre half forward James McGivney took a great high ball on the edge of the Crokes square; he passed quickly over the heads of the defenders to Rian Brady who was “one on one” with keeper David Nestor. Nestor (who had been Crokes’ saviour in the semi-final V Portlaoise) advanced very quickly to put pressure on Brady who rushed his shot and it flew over the bar. A let off for Crokes but a great example to all young goalkeepers and defenders of the importance of never giving up and putting pressure on the ball carrier!! ( 0-2 to 1-0)
In the 12th minute Crokes asserted themselves again when the dangerous Callum Pearson intercepted a loose clearance on the Mullinalaghta 45; he “rode” a few heavy challenges to the right side, soloing a few times with his right foot and when inside the 14 metre line, he turned towards the goal on his left and calmly struck the ball over with his left foot showing great skill and composure. (0-2 to 1-1)
After 16 minutes, Crokes right corner back Liam Flatman initiated a great counter attack from deep inside his own half but lost possession and pulled down corner forward Jayson Matthews who had tracked back. Referee David Gough had no hesitation in issuing Flatman “ an carta dubh” Although Aidan Jones was an able replacement, Flatman’s counterattacking pace was missed by Crokes for the remainder of the game.
From the resultant free out on 17 minutes, Mullinalaghta moved the ball right and found Rian Brady around half way; he launched a very speculative kick which went over the heads of the Crokes defenders and bounced over the cross bar for a fortuitous point! ( 0-3 to 1-1) A minute later, Mullinalaghta regained possession from the kick out on the left and fed inside to half back Donal McElligott who came onto the ball like a train 50 metres out ; he soloed unopposed to the edge of the Crokes square before hitting a great team lifting point. (0-4 to 1-1)
Corner forward Aidan McElligott fielded the subsequent kick out on the Crokes 45 and was fouled; the referee mysteriously brought the free 15 metres closer in and midfielder David McGivney kicked a fine point to put his side back into the lead on 19 minutes. (0-5 to 1-1)
In the following 10 minutes, neither side scored although the time was full of incident with a few flare ups between Paul Mannion and Patrick Fox; Fox was sticking to his “man marking” duty on Mannion and was fortunate not be shown a black card when he clearly pulled Mannion down as he(Mannion) won possession on the left touchline.
On 27 minutes, Crokes had an anxious moment when a high ball was deflected in the square but steady full back Andy McGowan gathered the ball and evaded some attackers before clearing.
20 seconds into 1st half injury time, Mullinalaghta keeper Rogers gave a loose hand pass to his left which was pounced on by Pearson; corner back Conan Brady made sure to “fell” him before he got inside the square and from the resultant free Mannion levelled the game with Crokes 1st score for 19 minutes. (0-5 to 1-2)
From the kick out, Crokes regained possession and attacked deep into the massed defence and had to recycle the ball several times in an attempt to work it into a scoring position. Although “at least” 2 minutes of injury time had been announced, referee Gough blew up an 32 minutes exactly much to the relief of Ballinalaghta as they were under the cosh at that stage.
Despite having the wind advantage in the 2nd half, it took until the 39th minute for Crokes to register the 1st score of the half when Nestor kicked out short to Cian O’Sullivan who passed right to Shane Cunningham on the 45; he carried inside before hand passing to Conor Casey on half way and Casey moved it back out to the right to Cillian O’Shea who switched inside and transferred to Dias who kicked a lovely point from the right corner of the “D” (0-5 to 1 -3)
Crokes missed a few chances just after and in the 42nd minute referee Gough showed major inconsistency when Rian Brady pulled down Pat Burke who had cleared up a Mullinalaghta attack on the Crokes 45; perhaps forgetting the black card issued in the 1st half to Flatman for a similar tackle or maybe just “bottling it”, he issued the relieved Brady a Yellow card!
For the next 8 minutes, Crokes played the best football of the match as they worked the ball up the pitch and found their passes until Pearson took the ball on the 45 to the left of goal; he “shimmied” inside his man and then kicked a great point from 30 metres after 43 minutes. (1-4 to 0-5)
On 47 minutes, sub corner back Aidan Jones made a great overlapping run down the right and hand passed across the goal but his pass was just inches from the incoming Conor Casey; however advantage was being played for an earlier infringement and Mannion steeled his nerve to push Crokes’s lead to 3 points after 48 minutes. ( 0-5 to 1-5)
Mullinalaghta managed to win their own kick out and worked the ball into the Crokes’ “zone”; Matthews hit a bit of a “Hail Mary” shot into the area which was going wide to the right and half forward McGivney did well to gather and work back towards the goal and was rather lucky to win a free after taking a liberal number of steps! The reprieved Brady kicked over from just to the right of the goal for his sides 1st point of the 2nd half after 50 minutes. ( 0-6 to 1-5)
Nestor found Cillian O’Shea on the left with an excellent kick out; O’Shea carried deep into Mullinalaghta territory before passing to Pearson on the left touchline; Pearson cut inside tormenting the defence and just as he dropped the ball to swing over the bar from in front of goal on the 20 metre line, he lost control; it wasn’t clear if it was a foot block by a defender but a free out was awarded and when Pearson got off the ground he was limping badly which was another blow for Crokes.
Crokes managed to turn over the Mullinalaghta break out and the industrious Horan gathered the ball before offloading to Pat Burke inside the 14 metre line close to the right hand touchline; Burke, with all his experience, backed himself and hit a lovely point from an acute angle with less than 10 minutes on the clock. ( 0-6 to 1-6)
2 minutes later Burke was inches wide with a fine effort from the left of goal. The Longford side rallied furiously to save the game but when Brady ballooned a shot wide on 53 minutes, it looked as if it wasn’t their day.
Nestor kicked out to McGowan who carried up to half way before passing to Casey who passed forward to sub Kevin Dyas who laid it off to Horan on the left. Horan drove at the defence and just as he gave a hand pass to the right he was very harshly blown for steps. With the Mullinalaghta defence “all over the place”, this was a welcome reprieve!!
Mullinalaghta worked the ball up the pitch and found midfielder James McGivney free about 30 metres out from goal and he kicked a great point to give his side a glimmer and also to create doubts in the Crokes ranks with less than 5 minutes of normal time left. (0-7 to 1-6)
At this stage former Dubs star Mark Vaughan came on for the injured Callum Pearson.
Nestor kicked out short and patiently worked the ball up the field where they eventually won a free on the Mullinalaghta 65 with 57 minutes on the clock. Who’s to say what the right option is at this stage of a match but instead of launching an attack, Crokes kicked backwards in a “keep ball” manner and although they moved it forward again they were quickly turned over and Mullinalaghta smelt blood; Keegan fed half forward McGivney and he kicked long to Matthews in the left corner who fed dynamic ½ back Donal McElligott who carried into the square before feeding Aidan McElligott who fell over Cian O’Sullivan’s arm.
Whether it was a penalty or not, the referee had no doubt and he issued a yellow card to Cian just to reinforce his view.
Gary Rogers must have studied Nestor’s penalty save against Portlaoise as he showed nerves of steel, sending Nestor the wrong way before he placed the ball into the left corner.
With 1 minute of normal time to go and plenty of injury time to follow, this was not beyond Crokes IF they kept their composure.
Nestor, kicked out short to O’Sullivan on the left who played a “one two” with him but as they tried to play it out of defence, it all unravelled. Mullinalaghta, for the 1st time in the match, had pressed up and managed to intercept a defensive clearance and the industrious half forward McGivney combined with corner forward McElligott who calmly slotted over from the left with 30 seconds of normal time left! (1-8 to 1-6)
(it was announced “ at least 4 minutes of injury time”.)
Panic set in among the Crokes ranks at this stage as Mullinalaghta won the kick out. There followed a few unsavoury incidents as Mullinalaghta kept Crokes pinned deep with their own territory. On 61 minutes, Cian O’Sullivan had been the victim of a very dangerous tackle from McGivney (with no sanction)while in the air and a minute later following a collision with Matthews, he and Matthews were issued yellow cards which in O’Sullivan’s case meant red (having already received yellow). (At this stage the stoppages were taking more time than the injury time!)
To their credit, Crokes didn’t give up; from a line ball on his own 20 metre line, O’Shea played a “one two” with Nestor before carrying as far as the 65 and passing to McGowan in the centre. McGowan easily beat his man and passed right to Cunningham in a scoring position but his shot went wide. Keeper Rogers took over a minute with his kick out at which time referee Gough sounded the final whistle.
For Mullinalaghta and their jubilant supporters, it was an historic occasion which will never be forgotten; for Crokes, it was one that slipped away.
Mullinalaghta St Columba's: Patrick Rogers; Simon Cadam, Patrick Fox, Conan Brady; Donal McElligott (0-01), Shane Mulligan, Francis Mulligan; Aidan McElligott (0-01), John Keegan; Gary Rogers (1-00), James McGivney, Brendan Fox; David McGivney (0-02, 0-01f), Rian Brady (0-04, 0-01f), Jayson Matthews.
Subs: Michael Cunningham for Francis Mulligan (48).
Kilmacud Crokes: David Nestor; Liam Flatman, Ross McGowan, Andrew McGowan; Cian O'Connor, Cillian O'Shea, Cian O'Sullivan; Craig Dias (0-01), Conor Casey; Shane Horan, Stephen Williams, Shane Cunningham; Pat Burke (1-01), Paul Mannion (0-02, 0-02f), Callum Pearson (0-02).
Subs: Aidan Jones for Flatman (18, black card), Kevin Dyas for Williams (48), Mark Vaughan for Pearson (56), Nathan Nolan for Ross McGowan (66).
Referee: David Gough (Meath).
Click on the links below for media reports: