So near and yet so far for Scotland’s Connollys

Scotland’s Dunedin Connollys produce gallant display

All Ireland Club Junior Football Championship Quarter-Final

Naomh Colmcille 1-10
Dunedin Connollys 2-06

By Patrick McPartlin
at Granton Road, Edinburgh

Dunedin Connollys came agonisingly close to repeating their feat last year of defeating Irish opposition in the All-Ireland Club JFC quarter-final, but were edged out by Naomh Colmcille at Granton Road on Saturday.

The Donegal outfit took a while to get into their stride, and after a cagey first period – during which Ryan McKinley’s men hit seven wides – Connollys held a slender one-point lead going into the half-time break thanks to points from Damien Keane and Sean Malee, and a brace from former Mayo panellist Frank Molloy.

Willie Gillespie posted two points with Daniel Clarke adding the third for Naomh Colmcille.

But the first-time Ulster champions, backed by a healthy travelling support in the Scottish capital, found their feet in the opening minutes of the second half with Daniel Clarke adding a point to level the scores before a pass from John Fullerton set up Ryan McErlean, who unleashed a powerful shot that Marty Hanna in the Connollys goal was powerless to do anything about.

McErlean’s goal allowed Naomh Colmcille to get their noses in front, taking a three-point lead with the second period barely five minutes old.

Scotland’s Dunedin Connollys produce gallant display

The goal seemed to spark something in Connollys and the British champions surged upfield, with Roulston saving well from Molloy when the veteran looked certain to score.

Connollys were then awarded a penalty following an incident between Naomh Colmcille ‘keeper John Roulston and Sean Malee.

Malee converted the penalty himself, sending Roulston the wrong way as he placed the ball in the top right hand corner of the goal, squaring the tie once more.

The former Kilitmagh clubman then added a free, handing the advantage to Connollys once again with time running out, and the winter light fading fast.

But Naomh Colmcille hadn’t come to Scotland to leave empty handed, and got their noses in front again with three points in a breathless five minutes from Fullerton, Gillespie and Gerard Curran to give the Newtowncunningham men a two-point lead.

 

McErlean increased the lead with an impressive point, giving Naomh Colmcille a three-point lead as the clock ticked into time added on for injuries.

Connollys manager Alan Ward threw on Fintan Kearney and Seamus Mulvihill in a bid to get the Edinburgh side back into the game.

And the double switch worked well as it was Mulvihill, on for Will Stevenson, who added a second Connollys goal after great work from Molloy, bringing the scores level yet again.

But Naomh Colmcille dug deep, and two more points from McErlean and Clarke gave them a two-point lead with time running out.

Connollys had one final chance at the death, Malee reducing the deficit to just a single point from a free with virtually the last kick of the game.

But referee Brendan Cawley blew for time as Roulston hit the kick out, sparking scenes of jubilation from the Naomh Colmcille supporters.

The Donegal champions will now face Knocknagree of Cork in the last four of the competition.

Dunedin Connollys captain Dan O’Brien, said: “Everyone gave it 100 percent and put their heads where most people wouldn’t put their foot, but at certain times during the game we just didn’t get the break of the ball.

“In the second half we were a point ahead but they got a goal, which took a deflection off one of our corner backs, and rifled into the top corner. After that we were always chasing the game.

“Fair play Naomh Colmcille. They came across with a game plan and that was evident from the first whistle, and they executed it. We wish them all the best going forwards.”

Having gone out to St Patrick’s Rock of Tyrone in last year’s All Ireland semifinals, this was a much better showing against the Ulster champions from the Edinburgh side, but for O’Brien it was an opportunity missed.

Improvement

“Some people will look at it that we played the Ulster champions last year and lost by nine points and to lose by just one on Saturday was an improvement, but for us it was a chance missed.

“We’ve put in nine months of work and truly believed we could win,” added O’Brien, for whom motivation next year won’t be a problem.

“We’re very disappointed, but all we can do is use that disappointment as fuel moving forwards. Next year we’ll be hungrier than ever….we’ll give it another lash.

“We know we’re bound to lose a few players, so there’s a little bit of uncertainty about our squad for next year and we can’t reassess that until March when we get back out on the field.

“But there’s a core group of 10-12 players who’ll be there next year and I can guarantee that they’re as hungry as I am.

“We all take up football at the age of five or six and the dream is to get to Croke Park. We really felt we could do that this year, and that’s where the immense disappointment comes from.

“We do still look at this year as a success, we’re the first Dunedin Connollys team to retain the All Britain, and we’ve put on a good performance in an All Ireland quarter-final, but the break of a ball and we could have been looking forward to a semi-final in January.”

NAOMH COLMCILLE: John Roulston; Ricky Hegarty, Alex Devenney, Paul Friel; Gerard Curran (0-1), Ciaran Devine, Kevin Gallagher; Michael Lynch, Daniel Clarke (0-3, 2f); John Fullerton (0-1), Ryan McErlean (1-2), Oran Hilley; Matthew Crossan, Willie Gillespie (0-3, 2f), William Lynch. SUBS: Don Hegarty for Gallagher (20), Michael Friel for Don Hegarty (black card, 48), Eddie Gillespie for Curran (60).

DUNEDIN CONNOLLYS: Marty Hanna; Will Stevenson, Daniel O’Brien, Brendan Parsons; Tom Fitzgerald, Arran Moore, Conor Horan; Brian McAteer, Vinnie Moriarty; Aldo Matassa, Paul Reen, Ronan McGurk; Sean Malee (1-3, 1 pen, 3f), Frank Molloy (0-2), Damien Keane (0-1, 1f). SUBS: Eoin O’Neill for Moriarty (33), Eanna Newton for McGurk (33), Daniel Loftus for Keane (47), Seamus Mulvihill (1-0) for Stevenson (54), Fintan Kearney for Reen (54), Adam McKeever for O’Neill (black card, 56).

REFEREE: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).


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