COMING THROUGH Crossmolina’s Tom Nallen shrugs aside the challenge of Castlebar’s Eamonn Tiernan last Sunday in Ballina.
Rampant Rovers maul Mitchels
WHILE all and sundry were lamenting the two-month close season that has just ended for club footballers in the county, it seems Crossmolina were plotting the downfall of the pretenders to their throne.Tommy Jordan’s team re-emerged last Sunday afternoon at James Stephens Park in rude health; running through their moves at pace, seizing control of the midfield diamond, and producing the finest thirty minutes of attacking football you could wish to see.
They were awesome in the first half. For thirty minutes the county champions rolled back the years to shoot 1-12 from play, held a shell-shocked Mitchels to 0-3, and did as they pleased with the football.
Central to this exhibition was the master craftsman himself, Ciaran McDonald. The centre-forward used his left foot like a scalpel to open up Castlebar’s porous defence and nailed four beautiful points to cap an outstanding first half display.
His departure at half-time due to injury deprived the neutrals of entertainment, Crossmolina of their talisman, and Castlebar of their tormentor-in-chief.
But the blonde received ample support from the rejuvenated Joe Keane and the wing-heeled duo of Brian Benson and Paul McGuinness in that opening half.
Such was the dominance of the imposing Tom Nallen, fit-again Damien Mulligan, flying wing-back Peadar Gardiner and midfielders Gabriel Walsh and James Nallen, the supply for Crossmolina’s insatiable attack was almost constant.
Keane clipped the game’s first point on 70 seconds and it was all one-way traffic from that moment on. McDonald did everything bar make the ball talk at times, and it was his defence-splitting pass that released Joe Keane in the third minute inside the Castlebar cover. Keane’s finish was emphatic, lashing the ball to the roof of the net, and the end was nigh for the Mitchels.
Colm Gavin did respond with a couple of points but they represented a false dawn for Paul Jordan’s beleaguered team. Normal service was quickly resumed and the Deel Rovers outscored Castlebar by 0-11 to 0-1 during the final 25 minutes of the half.
Mitchels’ anaemic performance was as surprising as it was woeful. All over the pitch they were in difficulty, as Crossmolina’s assured defending, purposeful bossing of the midfield, and slick attacking left their young opponents chasing shadows.
The irrepressible McDonald kickstarted the purple-patch when he drilled a point on the run after a neat one-two with the elusive Keane. The same two players then linked up to place Paul McGuinness for his first score and the points started to rain over from all angles.
McDonald (3), Benson (3), Keane (2) and McGuinness all split the posts with ease – all from open play – as Crossmolina threw the ball around with confidence and scored at will.
Kevin Filan’s lone free was all Mitchels could muster in reply as their defence came apart at the seams, Barry Moran and Shane Fitzmaurice laboured at midfield, and their toothless attack were second best to tigerish markers.
There were twelve points between the teams when the dust settled at half-time and the game was over as a contest. Mitchels’ championship run had ended.
Paul Jordan and his selectors made three changes at the interval and while these switches coincided with a vast improvement in Castlebar’s fortunes, it was too late to alter the outcome.
Mitchels actually shaded the second half – by 1-4 to 0-5 – but that will be scant consolation. Too many of their established players were off-colour and their inexperience and lack of physical presence were cruelly exposed in the opening period.
Joe Corcoran tried hard all through and deserved his two well-taken long-range points. Niall Lydon and Barry Moran also landed scores from distance but these were rare positive moments for two players capable of much more.
Mitchels were twelve points down when sub’ Dwayne Flynn smacked in a goal on 44 minutes and Crossmolina closed the game out with a string of points from Mark Leonard and the razor-sharp Brian Benson (2).
Tommy Jordan has his team coming to the boil at just the right time and their semi-final date with Ballina will be worth waiting for.
P O’Donnell; R Rochford, T Nallen, D Syron; P Gardiner, D Mulligan, D Keating; J Nallen, G Walsh; S Rochford, C McDonald (0-4), M Leonard (0-1); P McGuinness (0-2), J Keane (1-4), B Benson (0-6, 1f). Subs used: E Lavelle for McDonald (inj); H McLoughlin for Mulligan (inj); L Moffatt for Leonard (inj).
C Naughton; P Healy, D Larkin, A Joyce; R Burke, S Ryder, R Feeney; S Fitzmaurice, B Moran (0-1); J Corcoran (0-2), N Lydon (0-1), T Cunniffe; C Gavin (0-2), A Nolan, K Filan (0-1, 1f). Subs used: A Feeney for Joyce; D Flynn (1-0) for Nolan; J Conlon for Burke; N O’Hara for Healy; E Tiernan for Filan.
Referee: R Gurren (Aghamore)
THE MAIN MAN
No-one epitomises the perennial excellence of the county champions more than Keane. He was rewarded for his commitment and bravery with 1-4.