Allianz NHL Div 3B Rnd 4
By Larry Cooney
At Markievicz Park
Lancashire duly qualified for the league final after a thoroughly deserved nine-point victory over Sligo at a glacial Markievicz Park last Saturday afternoon.
And in the words of their manager Stan Murray-Hession it has been a wonderful achievement for the players over the past five weekends having had to travel to Ireland for all their games with minimal training.
But although the final is not until 11 March the team will use their free week for additional training and preparation in the hope that they remain unbeaten and thereby gain promotion to Division 3A in their inaugural season.
The Exiles soon settled after losing the toss and began by defending the pavilion end and playing into the town goal. League top scorer Ronan Crowley was in fine form and added a further 2-9 to his impressive tally.
It was a fine finish from Crowley in the 18th minute for the opening goal that really began to put daylight between the teams.
The visitors had opened up a 1- 5 to 0-1 lead in the opening quarter with the hosts only score coming from a Ruairi Brennan free after five minutes.
The first of Ronan Crowley’s seven successful frees opened the scoring in the third minute and after he doubled the Exiles’ advantage from play a minute later, full forward Martin Hawley made it 0-3 to 0-0 in the fifth minute.
But a foul on Ruari Brennan gave the Sligo corner forward an opportunity to open the scoring for the men from the Yeats County.
Another well-worked score involving Tommy Duane and Daire Maskey provided wing back David Power with a chance for a fourth point before Ronan Crowley converted a sideline for a sublime score after twelve minutes.
But Crowley showcased his skill once again in the eighteenth minute despite a valiant effort from goalkeeper Declan Reidy to prevent Lancashire’s opening goal.
Another Ronan Crowley free following a foul on Daire Maskey followed by the first three superb finishes from Darren Crowley extended Lancashire’s lead before Ruairi Brennan converted another Sligo free in the twenty-third minute.
However Sligo had to wait until the twenty-seventh minute for their first score from play when an unmarked Ronan McNamara was on target. But that score was soon ‘snuffed out’ by another piece of sublime skill from Ronan Crowley.
A minute later his brother Darren Crowley provided the assist for Martin Hawley to rattle the net and put the Exiles in sight of their fourth consecutive victory as half-time beckoned.
Although Ruairi Brennan hit his third successful free Darren Crowley completed the first half scoring with two quality points to leave the half-time score: Lancashire 2-10 Sligo 0-4
Sligo would surely not be as bad in the second-half. That was the general consensus from the few observers who braved the bitter cold weather conditions as the second half got under way.
But no sooner had play resumed when goal-keeper Declan Reidy was picking the sliotar out of the Sligo net after an uncharacteristic fumble from a Ronan Crowley effort to drop over the goal-line.
Sligo introduced two substitutes at half-time with Tony O’Kelly-Lynch and Kevin Gilmartin replacing corner back Mark Comerford and half forward Ronan McNamara.
And it was a goal from O’Kelly-Lynch after a pointed free from Ruairi Brennan and score from Ronan McNamee that gave Sligo some hope within four minutes of the re-start.
But three unanswered points from Ronan Crowley, including two frees, in response to a score from Kevin Gilmartin left the winners feeling comfortable midway through the second half.
Sligo then made another double substitution with Kevin Prior and Frankie O’Flynn replacing Ruairi Brennan and Conor O’Mahony approaching the final quarter.
But although Sligo added scores from Kevin Banks and a late O’Flynn goal Lancashire were already looking forward to their league final date long before the final whistle.
It was another superb team victory for the Exiles with full back Edmond Kenny really catching the eye in defence as well as numerous dropping balls. Kenny, Jacob, the midfield partnership of James Fitzmaurice and Stephen Duncan along with Tommy Duane and Martin Hawley in attack form a very strong spine in this team and look well capable of lifting silverware this year.
Scorers: Lancashire – Ronan Crowley 2-9(0-7)f, (0-1)s/l, Martin Hawley 1-1, Darren Crowley 0- 3, Stephen Duncan and David Power 0-1 each. Sligo – Ruari Brennan 0-4(0-4)f, Tony O’Kelly-Lynch and Frankie O’Flynn 1-0 each, Kevin Gilmartin 0-2, Ronan McNamara, Joe McHugh and Kevin Banks 0-1 each.
LANCASHIRE: Pa Coates; Liam Knocker, Edmond Kenny, Simonn Wallace; David Power, Greg Jacob, Nathan Unwin; James Fitzmaurice, Stephen Duncan; Darren Crowley, Tommy Duane, Daire Maskey; Patrick Duggan, Martin Hawley, Ronan Crowley. Subs: S Hannon for Duggan 52, J Cleere for Knocker 55, S Dunne for Maskey 60, S Power for Hawley 65.
SLIGO: Declan Reidy; Mark Comerford, Danny Keown, Tom Brennan; James Weir, Ronan Cox, Aidan Morrison; Gary Cadden, Eoin Comerford; Ronan McNamara, Kevin Banks, David Collery; Joe McHugh, Conor O’Mahony, Ruari Brennan. Subs: T O’Kelly-Lynch for MacNamara h-t, K Gilmartin for Comerford h-t, K Prior for Brennan 50, F O’Flynn for O’Mahony 55, T O’Callaghan for Morrison 63.
REFEREE: Liam Gordon.