LOCC Intermediate Championship
Naomh Éanna 0-15 Gort na Mona 1-7
Saturday October 20
Brendan McTaggart reports from Corrigan Park, Belfast
Naomh Éanna produced a polished performance on Saturday afternoon to claim the LOCC Intermediate Championship. Five points separated the Hightown Road side and Gort na Mona at the full-time whistle as Naomh Éanna crushed the Turf Lodge side’s hopes of a league and championship double.
Played on the pristine surface of Corrigan Park, the Gort’s were more than a match for their opponents for long periods of the first half. Naomh Éanna were playing with the aid of a healthy wind at their back but the organisation and tenacious defending of the Gorts were keeping the slick Naomh Éanna men at bay. A first half goal from midfielder Paul Conlon and an inspired performance from Thomas McGoran in defence helped the Turf Lodge men trail by three at half time and well in the game.
It was the second half where Naomh Éanna showed their class. Playing and holding their own in Division One for 2018 had the Hightown Road side coming into the Final as favourites and after the half time whistle, Naomh Éanna upped their game. With Joe Maskey and Philly Curran beginning to dominate in midfield along with man of the match Odhran Eastwood and Ruairi Scott beginning to pull the strings, Naomh Éanna never looked behind them.
Gort na Mona’s Paul Conlon palms home the games only goal
The Gorts briefly threatened to stage a comeback midway through the second half with Patrick McCaffrey landing a brace of inspiring and audacious points and Darren Boyd and Padraig McHugh also getting in on the act to bring them to within two points but Naomh Éanna put in an accomplished performance at the business end of the hour. The Gorts were reduced to 14 men in the third of four minutes of injury time, McGoran seeing red for an innocuous challenge but a yellow card by the letter of the law to accompany his earlier booking at the end of the first half. A huge disappointment for the Gort defender who was outstanding during the final but his sending off had little impact on the outcome of the final though with time not the Gorts friend at that stage.
The opening quarter was a game of cat and mouse. The Hightown Road side were showing their attacking prowess and negotiating the Gort na Mona defence but they had little joy, just points from the lively Eoin Nagle and Donal Walsh in the opening seven minutes to give them an early lead.
Any Gort na Mona attacks were fleeting at best in the early exchanges. Their first shot at the Naomh Éanna goals came from a Boyd free, ‘Diesel’ opening the Gorts account for the final after a foul on Patrick McCaffrey in the tenth minute but with Naomh Éanna dominating possession, Odhran Eastwood restored their two point lead with the next attack after some patient build-up play trying to penetrate the Gort na Mona defence.
The Turf Lodge men were easing their way into the contest. Doing what they do best, putting in 100% work-rate and showing desire to fight for their shirt. They brought their large support at Corrigan to life however when they scored the only goal of the final in the 18th minute and it was a goal to grace any final this year, last or next. McGoran collected the ball around midfield before putting in a rampaging run. The Naomh Éanna men couldn’t stop him as he surged his way through the heart of their defence. Spotting Dermot McVeigh in space, McGoran passed to the right where McVeigh showed ingenuity to palm the ball into the path of Patrick McCaffrey. With the goal in his sight and Paddy Flood charging at him, McCaffrey passed to his left where Conlon was on hand to palm the ball to the back of the net. An outstanding move that lit up the final and gave the Turf Lodge men the lead for the first time in the final.
The Naomh Éanna response was one of resounding confidence and inner self belief. They continued to probe and press the Gort na Mona defence, dominating the ball and keeping a high press on and restricting the Gorts where they could. Defensively astute while creative and inventive in attack, Naomh Éanna were back on terms when Odhran Eastwood fired over a free soon after while further points from Donal Walsh and Ruairi Scott (two ‘45’s) gave Naomh Éanna a three point lead at the interval.
The closing stages to the first half were clinical from Naomh Éanna with Odhran Eastwood inspirational. The Naomh Éanna forward was dropping deep and getting on the ball more often, using his creative flair and guile to pick apart the Gort defence.
Christopher Carson, Gort na Mona climbs above the pack to make a spectacular catch.
Unfortunately for the Gort na Mona though, Naomh Éanna picked up after the restart from where they left off in the first half. Peter Healy opening the scoring in the first minute of the second period before Nagle’s second point of the final opened a five point lead by the 33rd minute.
Dropping deeper to leave Nagle and Walsh on the inside forward line, Naomh Éanna relied on their ability to win dirty ball in rucks and when Odhran Eastwood broke free to land his third point of the match, the lead was six points with 22 minutes remaining and the writing was on the wall for the Gorts at that early stage.
The Turf Lodge side found a second wind however. Boyd landed his second free of the match to open their account for the second half, their first score for over 20 minutes, but it was Patrick McCaffrey’s point shortly after that renewed their belief. Wide on the left and over 40 yards from goal, McCaffrey judge the elements to perfection with one swing of his cultured right peg he dissected the posts for the score of the final.
Further scores from ‘Poggy’ McHugh and Diesel Boyd (free)reduced the Naomh Éanna lead to two points midway through the second half and with the Gorts having all the momentum, the Naomh Éanna lead was beginning to look precarious.
Oran Eastwood, who was outstanding for St. Enda’s bends to gain possession.
Championship winning sides are often defined by how they react to adversity. Naomh Éanna’s response underlined their credentials. Four of the next five scores came via the Hightown Road side, Scott, Walsh, Healy and Nagle splitting the uprights with Gort na Mona’s sole response coming from another audacious score from Patrick McCaffrey. It could have been better for the Hightown Road men but a flowing move involving James McAuley, Scott and Nagle saw the Naomh Éanna captain’s effort come back off the upright in the 45th minute.
Gort na Mona pressed to eat into the five point lead held by Naomh Éanna in the final quarter but their radar let them down when they needed it most. Dermot McVeigh did manage to land another point for his side via a ’45 but the Gorts were going to need another major. The Naomh Éanna men were in no mood to oblige. Solid in defence, mindful in possession and with professional game management, the Hightown Road men saw out the remaining time with little alarm. Another flowing move created the last score of the game for Joe Maskey, fisting over the bar in the second minute of injury time before McGoran’s game was ended moments later.
Credit to Gort na Mona who put everything into the final but they came up against a slick Naomh Éanna side who were worthy of their five point victory, their first senior title at any level. A special mention goes to the Turf Lodge men who waited by the gate at Corrigan Park to give Naomg Éanna a guard of honour after their celebrations as they left the pitch. They may not have won the title, but the Turf Lodge side showed their class in the face of bitter disappointment, reminding us all that the GAA ethos is alive and well despite recent scenes depicting the contrary. They now turn their attentions to a date with Moneyglass and the prospect of Division One football while Naomh Éanna will play the winners of the Monaghan championship next day out.
Naomh Éanna: Paddy Flood; Killian Jennings, Mick McNamee, Cormac Eastwood; Conan Lyttle, James McAuley, Conor McAuley; Philly Curran, Joe Maskey; Peter Healy, Ruairi Scott, Kristian Healy; Donal Walsh, Odhran Eastwood, Eoin Nagle.
Subs: Ryan Kennedy for C McAuley (49); Ethan Gibson for P Curran (55); Ciaran O’Neill for D Walsh (57)
Black Cards: None
Yellow Cards: C Lyttle (60)
Red Cards: None
Scorers: E Nagle 0-3; D Walsh 0-3; O Eastwood 0-3 (1f); R Scott 0-3 (2 ‘45’s); P Healy 0-2; J Maskey 0-1
Gort na Mona: Thomas McCaffrey; Conor Connolly, Thomas McGoran, Christopher Devlin; Aodhan McDonagh, Gary Doyle, Brendan Burns; Christopher Carson, Paul Conlon; Brendan Corr, Darren Boyd, David McErlean; Dermot McVeigh, Patrick McCaffrey, Padraig McHugh.
Subs: Desi McClean for C Connolly (34); Shay McStravick for A McDonagh (36); Decky Hughes for P Conlon (60)
Black Cards: None
Yellow Cards: T McGoran (30, 60); P McCaffrey (37); P McHugh (50)
Red Cards: T McGoran (60)
Scorers: P Conlon 1-00; D Boyd 0-3 (3 f’s); P McCaffrey 0-2; P McHugh 0-1; D McVeigh 0-1 (1 ’45)
Referee: Eamonn McAuley (Cargin)
County chairman, Collie Donnelly presents the IFC cup to St. Enda’s captain, James McAuley