Debutant Exiles push Clann na nGael all the way

Butler brothers Philip and Man of the Match Killian after their match with Clann na nGael in Roscommon

Connacht Club Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final

Clann na nGael 1-15
Tir Chonaill Gaels 1-10

Larry Cooney at Dr Hyde Park, Roscommon

Tir rChonaill Gaels did London GAA proud before finally succumbing to hosts Clann na nGael at a dry and sunny Dr Hyde Park, Roscommon last Sunday.

But even the most partisan Roscommon champions’ followers would admit that Clann na nGael’s five-point winning margin really flattered them in the end after a very exciting encounter that ebbed and flowed for much of the sixty plus minutes.

However, Clann na nGael also had the necessary guile and composure required to produce a strong finish that enabled them to see off the gallant Exiles who were also making their debut in this year’s Connacht club championship.

The Roscommon men have now set up a semi-final date with All-Ireland club champions Corofin who eventually saw off Mountbellew-Moylough in the replayed Galway county final also played last Sunday in Pearse Park, Salthill.

A tentative opening finally came to life in the fifth minute when Donie Shine converted the first of his seven successful placed balls.

But the visitors who were playing into the graveyard end were soon on level terms when Eoin Murray found the lurking Killian Butler for a splendid finish from just beyond the 20-metre line.

However, three unanswered points from the hosts including two more Donie Shine pointed frees and one from Ciaran Lennon seemed to settle the favourites by the eleventh minute.

Tir Chonail Gaels craving that winning feeling
Tir Chonaill Gaels. Photo: Sheila Fernandes

But the Tir Chonaill Gaels reply almost produced the opening goal of the game as Emmett Kenny ran on to through pass from Liam Gavaghan that just went wide of the left upright.

Another Killian Butler effort was also just off target before another Clann na nGael counter-attack resulted in another fine finish from Ciaran Lennon to open up a 0-4 to 0-1 lead after thirteen minutes.

But although Tir Chonaill Gaels were getting plenty of possession, especially in midfield through Brendan Friel, they were still waiting for their second score before Donie Shine’s third pointed free made it 0-5 to 0-1.

However, just as the game seemed to be getting out of the visitors reach three unanswered points in as many minutes really brought the contest to life. A foul on Liam Gavaghan just outside the parallelogram opened his own account from the resultant free before.

Adrian Hanlon provided an assist for Killian Butler’s second point. And when Jamie Fahy was penalised for over-carrying, Liam Gavanagh’s second free left just the minimum between the teams in the 21st minute.

Two more Gavaghan points, including a superb finish from play in the 24th minute, were cancelled out by a David Connaughton score and Donie Shine’s first score from play by the 26th minute.

And when a foul on Ciaran Lennon set up another scoring opportunity for Donie Shine it looked as Clann na nGael were set for at least a 0-2 interval lead.

However, after a cleverly-timed pass from Adrian Hanlon put Liam Gavaghan clear on goal defender Darra Pettit had no option but to concede a penalty almost on the stroke of half-time.

Tir Chonaill Gaels hit Kingdom Kerry Gaels for six
Adrian Hanlon for Tir Chonaill Gaels earlier this year. Photos: Sheila Fernandes

Wing-forward Eoin Murray took on the responsibility for the spot-kick and his confident kick to the goalkeeper’s right gave David Finneran no chance of saving for the opening goal of the game that also put the Exiles into a one-point lead as Leitrim referee Eamonn O’Grady blew the half-time whistle on a half-time score of: Tir Chonaill Gaels 1-6 Clann na nGael 0-8.

Although the goal was a timely boost for the visitors it also served notice for the Roscommon champions that they were also involved in a serious challenge as the teams headed back to their respective dressing rooms.

Not surprisingly then it was the hosts who made the better start on the resumption of play with three unanswered. Donie Shine points including his second from play to open up a 0-2 lead by the 37th minute.

Tir Chonaill Gaels also introduced their first substitute with the lively Liam Gallagher replacing late replacement Kevin Rafferty two minutes previously.

But although Clann na nGael were back in the lead they were far from out of the wood when the Exiles also kicked three unanswered points from a Liam Gavaghan free, a superb effort from Brian Mullin and Killian Butler’s third point to go back into the lead and really ‘put the fat in the fire’ of this very enjoyable and entertaining contest.

A major upset looked to be on the cards and there was genuine panic among the home supporters that an embarrassing defeat could not be ruled out with eighteen minutes to go, but a rather `soft’ Graham Pettit goal in the 44th minute turned the tide in Clann’s favour as they pulled clear down the home straight to set up a semi-final meeting with All-Ireland club kingpins Corofin, who completed a six-in-a-row of Galway SFC titles.

However, Pettit’s goal was the game’s defining moment as the fitter home side eventually closed out the game with late scores from Ultan Harney, Darra Pettit and Lennon.

Clann na nGael: David Finneran; Darra Pettit (0-1), Stephen Flynn, Ronan Gavin; Shane Pettit, Graham Pettit (1-0), David Connaughton (0-1); Ultan Harney (0-1), Cathal Shine; Cathal Callinan, Donal Shine (0-9, 7f), Emmet Kenny; David McManus, Ciaran Lennon (0-3), Jamie Fahy. Subs: Cian McManus for E Kenny, Jonathan Dunning for D McManus, Matt Scally for C Callinan, Ross Naughton for J Fahy, Niall Connaughton for D Connaughton, Dylan Sumner for C Shine.

Tir Chonaill Gaels: Gavin McEvoy; Michael McWilliams, Phil Butler, Shaun Burke; Marty McCoy, Anthony McDermott, Matthew Moynihan; Brendan Friel, Mark Gottsche; Eoin Murray (1-O, pen), Adrian Hanlon, Kevin Rafferty; Brian Mullin (0-1), Liam Gavaghan (0-6, 4f), Killian Butler (0-3). Subs: Liam Gallagher for K Rafferty, Ryan Elliott for S Burke, Eamon McConville for A McDermott, Adam Askin for A Hanlon, Eoin Mageean for E Murray, Adrian McGarvey for M McWilliams.

Referee – Eamonn O’Grady (Leitrim).

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