Strong second half performance paves the way for Cloney victory

ACHL Div. 2A

Cloney Gaels 3-16 Tir na nOg 0-18

Cloney Gaels produced a strong second half performance to overcome the challenge of Tir na nOg in this Division 2A clash at Clooney tonight. The sides were meeting for the first time since last year’s Intermediate final where the Whitehill men overcame tonight’s opponents but only briefly during the opening half did they look like repeating that famous centenary victory.

PJ O’Connell gave a flavour of what was to come when he opened the scoring with a point after 30 seconds with Ciaran O’Neill levelling matters with four minutes on the clock. It was end to end stuff as both sides opened at breakneck speed and James O’Connell from a free and Sean Duffin with a great point from play for the Whitehill side tied the contest for the second time.

PJ O’Connell for the home side and Ciaran Logan for the visitors had matters level again by the 9th minute before the mercurial PJ soloed through the Tir na nOg defence and batted the sliotar overhead past Kevin Sheerin for the game’s opening goal.

Three ahead for the first time the momentum appeared to have swung in the direction of the Clooney men but they wouldn’t score again for another 21 minutes as Tir na nOg took control. Sean Duffin started the comeback from a 13th minute free and one from play and points from Aaron McNeilly and Duffin again from a free and then from play had his side one in front after 21 minutes.

Duffin extended the visitors lead to two after a foul on Niall Devlin which saw the corner-forward unable to continue and be replaced by Declan Mallon before James O’Connell finally got the Clooney men on the scoreboard again from a 30th minute free.

Kevin Kerr from play and James O’Connell from another free exchanged further points but the home side struck a decisive blow in the minutes leading up to half time when a tantalising side-line cut from James O’Connell landed in the danger zone and Dan O’Connell got the vital touch in the frantic goalmouth scramble that followed.

Sean Duffin pointed a late free to leave his side trailing by the minimum as Vincent Boyle sounded his half time whistle and it looked anybody’s game at this stage with all still to play for in the second half.

The early exchanges in the second half mirrored those of the first with James O’Connell for the Gaels and Sean McKinley for the Randalstown men exchanging early points and Owen Neeson and Ciaran Logan exchanging further minors before PJ O’Connell showed his predatory instincts when he flicked the ball to the Tir na nOg net with seven minutes of the new half gone.

This score seemed to lift the home side with the splendid PJ O’Connell adding a couple of points in answer to one from Ciaran Logan to leave the home side five in front by the 10th minute and they were showing much greater hunger than their opponents as they hunted in packs to close down their opponents.

Sean Duffin pointed a 12th minute free before Bobby Magee for the home side and Sean McKinley for Tir na nOg saw Red as things began to hot up. It was Clooney Gaels who continued to call the shots when things got going again with James O’Connell and Francis Neeson adding further points.

 Tir na nOg tried to respond and it took an excellent interception by Stephen O’Connell to deny Darragh Fagan a goal opportunity at the expense of a ‘65’ which Sean Duffin converted.

There was to be no way back however for the Whitehill side as PJ O’Connell replied with another massive point and youngster Colla McDonnell and Ronan Graham added two more to put further daylight between the sides with five minutes remaining.

The visitors did keep going and were rewarded with points from Ciaran McKeown and Aaron McNeilly but the final score of the game fell to Colla McDonnell after Ronan Graham got his marching orders for a second yellow card.

Clooney Gaels: Martin Graham, Stephen O’Connell, Bernard Graham, James Magee, Fionnbar O’Neill, Neil O’Connell, Eamonn Brady, Francis Neeson, Gerard Graham, Eoin Graham, Patrick Graham, PJ O’Connell, Dan O’Neill, Ronan Graham, James O’Connell. Subs: Oqwen Neeson and Colla McDonnell

Tir na nOg: Kevin Sheerin, Tony Martin, Ryan O’Neill, Daniel Martin, Ciaran O’Neill, Caoimhin Duffin, Manus Smith, Ciaran McKeown, Aaron McNeilly, Sean Duffin, Ciaran Logan, Darragh Fagan, Niall Devlin, Kevin Kerr, Sean McKinley. Subs: Declan Mallon for Niall Devlin

Referee: Vincent Boyle (Dunloy)

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