MAKING HIS MARK Crossmolina B’s Mark Loftus gets his kick off despite the attentions of Killala’s Jerome Farrell during Sunday’s Breaffy House Resort Mayo JFC final.
Crossmolina B’s edge past defiant Killala
Breaffy House Resort Mayo JFC Final
Crossmolina B 1-5
Crossmolina’s distinction as the leading club in the county was assured on Sunday when they added the Mayo junior title to a list already laden with honours.
With their seniors preparing to defend their county title next Sunday, the Deel Rovers club are enjoying a further unrivalled spell of prosperity, and this victory at MacHale Park set down a marker for their higher-ranking colleagues to follow.
But the juniors’ victory was not attained without a tense and anxious final quarter as Killala, awakening for the first time in the match, threatened to steal a game that Crossmolina had dominated in the first half.
The men in blue confined their North Mayo neighbours to a single point in the second half, and in a determined rally cut their own deficit to a single point. They had a couple of good chances to earn a draw at least, but in their anxiety to grab that vital leveling score, missed the target twice in the dying minutes.
It was not a contest to lift the heart of any potential Mayo manager who might have been watching. In the wet underfoot conditions the best use was not made of the ball. Both sides persisted with short-passing play which broke down time and again. The ball was like soap, and those who took to solo-running into the heart of the defences found themselves easily dispossessed.
In the circumstances it was only natural that the vital score should have been the consequence of a defensive blunder of which the most experienced player on the field took advantage.
That score came in the fourth minute, the first of the hour, and the most precious. The ball had come swirling in from a free out near the right-hand sideline, taken by Ian Rowland.
The defence should have killed it before Johnny Leonard grabbed the limelight. Instead, it skidded off the hands of the defenders, and before every gap was sealed, in rushed Crossmolina’s 39-year old marvel to fire himself at the ball . . . and stab it into the net with his right fist.
Johnny Leonard has been Crossmolina’s greatest servant, and still carries with him an enthusiasm for the game unequalled in many clubs. He is still a potent attacker and the fact that at 39 years of age he finished up as leading scorer is a tribute to his dedication.
Next Sunday he will be fighting for a place alongside his son Mark on the team to take the field against Ballaghaderreen, and while the evergreen Leonard is unlikely to start, he may well get a run before the 60 minutes are over.
That goal shocked Killala. They were only beginning to get the feel of the conditions when Leonard pounced, and in their efforts to get into a rhythm fell into the trap of too much individual effort. Instead of lofting the ball into the forwards where Rory Hannick showed his talent for high fielding, they stuck to the short-ball system, mostly by way of the wings.
The problem was that the Crossmolina backs were too sharp and too well prepared for the short game. They had done their homework, ensuring that no inch was conceded to Killala’s two danger men, brothers Marcus and Rory Hannick.
On each, Pierce Loftus and Ciaran O’Boyle were notably successful. And when Rory, in particular, was in possession, O’Boyle was given solid assistance by Noel and Derek Hegarty and Francis Costello in curtailing the full-forward’s options.
Mind you, Rory Hannick had more than his share of bad luck, especially in the first half.
In one of Killala’s best moves of the game, Marcus Hannick, Vinny Maguire and David Lowther worked the ball impressively up the left wing, but the final pass was inches too far for the inrushing full-forward to guide it to the net.
On two other occasions the woodwork came between him and vital scores, once when he fielded a cross from Kevin White only to see his shot crack back off the crossbar and cleared, and again when he blazed the ball against an upright.
If either of those chances wound up in the net, the outcome might have been different.
Yet, it was always clear that Crossmolina were the better side, more confident, more alert, and in the conditions more direct. If Killala were more tuned in they might have made their opponents pay for the 17 wides they accounted for, compared to their own seven, which itself is a telling indication of the difference between them.
In addition to the wily Johnny Leonard, Crossmolina had two sprightly forwards in Padraic Syron and Ian Rowland, who scored two points apiece, the only two to score apart from Leonard. Michael Heffernan worked extremely hard at midfield and got a lot of help from John Garrett.
Syron (2), Rowland and Leonard had the Deel Rovers side five points ahead by the 21st minute. In that time Marcus Hannick from a free was Killala’s only scorer. They added two further points, through Kevin White and David Lowther. But Syron’s second put Crossmolina in front by 1-4 to 0-3 at the interval.
It looked as if the winners were about to coast to victory when Rowland clipped over the first score of the second half. But against the wind they were unable to add to that for the remainder of the half. More importantly for them, Killala were unable to take full advantage of the wind.
Vinny Maguire flung over a point in the 42nd minute, and two minutes later sub Martin Farrell from a distant free swung over another. Killala suddenly came to life. Jerome Farrell and Micheal Dooher, who had been excellent all through, drove them into action. Karl Dooher, Lorcan Brennan and Gary Ferguson also did their best to force the pace. And when Noel Ryan and Farrell cut the lead to a single point, a draw looked possible. But they were denied by some faulty shooting in the dying seconds.
Man of the match
Crossmolina strengthened their defence for the second half while facing the wind by pulling back wing forward Michael Gallagher to help out. Largely unmarked, Gallagher was hugely successful as a sweeper, and chiefly responsible for holding out in the face of Killala’s late rally.
J O’Malley; N Hegarty, C O’Boyle, F Costello; D Hegarty, P Loftus, C McDonnell; M Heffernan, J Garrett; M Gallagher, N Convey, J Fergus; P Syron (0-2), J Leonard (1-1), I Rowland (0-2). Subs: M Loftus for J Fergus; S O’Malley for L Brennan; P Loftus for I Rowland; PJ Loftus for J Leonard.
D Walsh; J Walsh, K Dooher, M Dooher; G Ferguson, J Farrell, L Brennan; R Clarke, N Ryan (0-1); V Maguire (0-1), M Hannick (0-1), D Maguire; K White (0-1), R Hannick, D Lowther (0-1). Subs: M Farrell (0-2) for R Clarke; P Bilbow for J Walsh; B Garvin for N Ryan.
Ref: J Feeney (Castlebar)