GAA | O’Connell’s heap more misery on the Clans as Flood Cup heads for ‘Bellingham
CTI Solutions Louth Intermediate Championship Final 2017 O’Connell’s 1–11 Clan na Gael 0–8
Clan na Gael’s wait for a return to senior football goes on after a six-point loss to the O’Connell’s in Sunday’s Louth Intermediate Championship final in Dunleer.
The match-up, a repeat of the 2012 decider, ended with the same outcome, the Bellingham outfit deserving winners against a Clans side that failed to do themselves justice on the biggest stage again.
The Castletown men have now lost four finals in the last seven years and they will look back and rue a a lacklustre first half showing that ended with them going in seven points adrift at the break.
Paddy Bates’ side were simply better in every department on the day, smothering the Clans attack while at the other end Niall Conlon and Jackie Agnew caused serious damage with their movement.
As was the case five years ago, the heavy rain and greasy conditions didn’t help both sets of players with a number of them losing their footing in the opening minutes.
Dean Stanfield opened the scoring with a good score from the right for the O’Connell’s and Niall Conlon added a second in the seventh minute but they registered three wides before the game had reached the ten-minute mark with Conlon, Robert Quigley and Agnew all off target.
Two frees from Billy Smith had the Clans on level terms after 10 minutes but they struggled to find their rhythm in open play with Mark Newell hitting a bad wide after space opened up on the right when James Clerkin lost his footing.
Newell opened to go elsewhere in the 13th minute, looking for Ray McCabe in the square. The big forward got a touch to take the ball goal wards but Stuart Reynolds dealt with it comfortably.
The score of the half arrived two minutes later to put the Clans in front for the first time in the game. Conall McKeever picked it up deep, showed great determination to hold off Emmet Byrne, and fired over in stylish fashion.
The O’Connell’s responded with a well hit Robert Quigley ’45 and they added two more in quickfire fashion with Conlon and a Quigley free putting two between the sides with 25 minutes on the clock.
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Conor Noonan floated a free past the upright and the Clans were really put under the cosh in the 26th minute when Sean Connolly rifled the ball into Sean Smyth’s net after the ‘keeper lost the ball from his grasp.
Quigley added a free to his tally and after Clans captain McGeown opted to take a quick free that broke down, the O’Connell’s punished them with Conlon’s third point of the day — a free — putting the outsiders seven up at the break — and deservedly so.
Clans boss Mark McCann reacted by bringing Stephen Coleman and Leo Martin in at the break for Ray McCabe and JJ Quigley respectively but it was the O’Connell’s who started where they left off at the end of the first half and but for three wides, the tie could have been put beyond doubt.
Newell landed an important score in the 37th minute and when Coleman followed it up with a free, it looked like the Clans might be finally sparking into life.
Conlon, however, took advantage of a mistake by Ian Carr to keep the Clans at arm’s length, 1–8 to 0–5, before the Ecco Road side then squandered two very scorable opportunities, Billy Smith with a free and Mark Newell from the left.
Conlon showed how it was done, making it five for the afternoon to inch the O’Connell’s closer to the line, and the confidence looked like it was starting to drain from the Clans when Paul Gore saw his driven effort blocked by James Clerkin.
Smith tapped over with a close range free but the Clans looked bereft of ideas until McGeown fired over in the 52nd minute to leave just five between the teams.
The O’Connell’s, however, responded like champions elect with Jackie Agnew hitting two scores within seconds of each other to extend the advantage back to seven with just eight minutes to play.
Smith dropped another close range free over the top but the Clans looked bereft of ideas and never looked like ever getting back into it and even though substitute Drew Duffy hit the butt of the post in the dying stages the O’Connell’s saw it out comfortably to seal their return to senior football at the first time of asking.
O’CONNELL’S: Stuart Reynolds, James Clerkin, Jason Carroll, Conor McGill, Jackie Agnew (0–2), Salem Rifiae, Keith Woods, Dean Stanfield (0–1), Sean Cairns, Emmet Byrne, Paul McKeever, Stuart Osborne, Robert Quigley (0–3, 1f, 1 ‘45), Niall Conlon (0–5, 1f), Dean Corrigan. Subs: Sean Connolly (1–0) for D Corrigan, 20 mins.
CLAN NA GAEL: Sean Smyth, Ian Carr, Leo Martin, Conor Noonan, Kevin Carroll, Stephen Fitzpatrick, Micheal McDonnell, Ray McCabe, JJ Quigley, Conall McKeever (0–1), Paul Gore, Mark McGeown (0–1), Paul Crewe, Mark Newell (0–1), Billy Smith (0–4, 4f). Subs: Leo Martin for JJ Quigley, HT; Stephen Coleman 0–1 for R McCabe, HT Robbie Curran for C Noonan, 46 mins; JJ Quigley for K Carroll, 50 mins; Drew Duffy for M Newell, 57 mins.
REFEREE: Des McDonnell.