GAA | Classy Clans see off O’Mahony’s in dramatic Dundalk derby

Division One League | Clan na Gael 2–10 Sean O’Mahony’s 2–7

Clan na Gael’s Billy Smith turns away from Sean O’Mahonys’ Ronan Byrne. PICTURE: CIARAN CULLIGAN

Gavin McLaughlin reports from Clan na Gael Park

Clan na Gael’s impressive return to Division One continued on Sunday afternoon as they held off a late rally by the Sean O’Mahony’s to run out deserving winners of an enthralling Dundalk derby on the Ecco Road.

Confidence was high in the Clans camp following a good performance against the Dreadnots in Clogherhead a week previously where they were denied the two points because of a controversial penalty decision.

And they backed that up with another fine display here with their forward line of Billy Smith, Mark McGeown and Conall McKeever — along with the impressive Stephen Coleman — all playing influential roles in their three-point win.

A frantic first half yielded just six scores in total as both sides, especially the visitors, lacked composure in front of the posts.

Sean O’Mahonys’ Conor Crawley beats Ray McCabe to this ball to score his side’s opening goal. PICTURE: CIARAN CULLIGAN

The O’Mahony’s did get off to the best possible start when the returning Conor Crawley anticipated John O’Brien’s high ball to divert an effort past Sean Smith after just three minutes.

However, that proved to be their final score of the half as Ray McCabe did a good job shackling the big O’Mahony’s full-forward while the Point Road outfit also racked up seven wides in total.

When it did look as though they had found their range, the woodwork denied them with Stephen Fisher and Stephen Kilcoyne both left frustrated at various stages.

The hosts proved to be a bit more clinical with Stephen Coleman feeding Mark McGeown for their first score in the fifth minute of play.

Mark McCann’s side then pulled in front when a well worked move involving McGeown, JJ Quigley and McKeever ended with the Louth player injecting a bit of pace to set up Smith for a well-struck effort into the top corner of Seamus Quigley’s net.

McGeown fired over with a free before Coleman scored the point of the half, showing great strength to hold off Conor Martin and send the hosts in 1–4 to 1–0 ahead at the interval.

The woodwork shook again just seconds after the restart when Smith saw another attempt come back off the upright but the Clans continued to look the more likely with a McGeown free and a Coleman point extending their lead to six points.

Johnny Connolly pulled another effort off target as the O’Mahony’s continued to struggle in front of goal but Kurt Murphy ended their lengthy sequence without a score with a composed drive over the top from a central position in the 43rd minute.

Crawley finally found a yard of space on McCabe to tee up Stephen Kilcoyne for a point minutes later but the O’Mahony’s just couldn’t build up a head of steam.

It was the home side that moved with verve in the final third and McKeever showcased his ability by holding off Conor Martin before selling a beautiful dummy to Ronan Byrne just as he was about to pull the trigger. Bamboozled Byrne bought it, taking the Clans forward to the ground for a penalty.

Ronan Byrne pulls Clan na Gael’s Conall McKeever to the ground just as he is about to shoot. PICTURE: CIARAN CULLIGAN

The drama didn’t stop there. Referee Gerard Corrigan took centre stage, brandishing a second yellow card to Pat O’Brien — who had nothing to do with the incident.

O’Brien’s pleas looked to have fallen on deaf ears but Corrigan acknowledged his error, offering the O’Mahony’s man a reprieve before changing the colour of his card from yellow to black and dismissing Byrne!

After a lengthy delay, Smith sent Seamus Quigley the wrong way to put the Clans 2–6 to 1–2 ahead with just over 10 minutes to play.

A McGeown free that followed looked to have sealed the win but the O’Mahony’s dug deep and scores from Kilcoyne and substitute Barry Mackin either side of a McKeever point kept them clinging to the home side’s coattails.

Finnegan’s free eroded the gap ever so slightly but a goal was what the senior champions needed and it arrived in the 59th minute when another substitute, Paddy Byrne buried a loose ball past Sean Smith to leave just three between them, 2–8 to 2–5.

Another Finnegan free brought it back to two but with oceans of space appearing in the O’Mahony’s backline, the Clans were able to tag on vital scores through Coleman and Smith before Liam McKenny hit a consolation for the Seans deep into stoppage time.

CLAN NA GAEL: Sean Smith; Ian Carr, Ray McCabe, Paul Crewe, Donal Boyle; Craig Long, Stephen Fitzpatrick, Micheal McDonnell; Craig Noonan, Robbie Curran (0–1, 1f); Stephen Coleman (0–3), JJ Quigley, Conall McKeever (0–1); Mark McGeown (0–4, 3f), Billy Smith (2–1, 1 pen). Subs: Kevin Carroll for JJ Quigley, 43 mins.

SEAN O’MAHONY’S: Seamus Quigley; Chris O’Neill, Ronan Byrne, Pat O’Brien; Kurt Murphy (0–1), John O’Brien, Johnny Connolly; Conor Martin, Shane Brennan; Conor Finnegan (0–2, 1f), Stephen Fisher, Liam Dullaghan, Stephen Kilcoyne (0–2), Conor Crawley (1–0), Colin Finan. Subs: Barry Mackin (0–1) for L Dullaghan, 40 mins; Paddy Byrne (1–0) for S Fisher, 46 mins; Owen Farrell for R Byrne (BC), 48 mins; Liam McKenny (0–1) for C Finan, 52 mins; Kyle Carroll for J Connolly, 56 mins.

REFEREE: Gerard Corrigan.

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