BACK ON TOP The Crossmolina squad, management and some supporters are pictured after clinching the Welcome Inn Senior League Division 1 title last Sunday on their home pitch.
Third time lucky for Cross’
Moy Davitts 0-5
BRIAN BENSON illuminated this bleak winter’s day with a magnificent performance. The Crossmolina full-forward was at the heart of his club’s third major conquest this season, bringing to a conclusion, however belatedly, a year of unprecedented success for the North Mayo side.
Having already won the senior and junior county championships, Crossmolina were odds on to add the senior league trophy to their glistening showcase, and Benson set the pace with a range of skills on his home ground that earned him a goal and six points, and involvement in many others.
He was not the winners’ only star, but the Knockglass man was the team’s motivator, his predatory instincts admirably filling the gap left by Ciaran McDonald, one of a few regular stars missing from the side.
Ronan Rochford, Declan Keating, Damien Mulligan and Gabriel Walsh were also absent, but on the evidence of the enthusiasm and conviction of their replacements the regulars may have to fight hard to regain their places. Tommy Jordan will have noted in particular the excellent performances of Noel Hegarty, Michael Gallagher, Colm McDonnell and Paul Duffy.
Moy Davitts did not provide the sternest of opposition. Nor indeed could a top class performance have been expected from a side already safe in the competition and for whom winning was of little benefit.
To be fair, the losers looked like a side determined early on to make it difficult for the champions, but midday on a cold, dark winter’s Sunday was not an occasion for being at your best when nothing was at stake. In the end Moy Davitts looked a long way off the pace.
They did provide the opening score of the game when midfielder James Mulderrig, one of their keenest players, got the first of their total of three first-half points, and for the opening twelve minutes or so Moy Davitts’ big physical side held a slight edge. Indeed, it took a fine save from goalkeeper Paul O’Donnell to avert an early setback for Crossmolina when Daniel Igoe broke through their defence.
Peadar Gardiner, at centre-half back, had scored Crossmolina’s equalising point at that stage, but it was a full thirteen minutes before Mark Leonard shot them into the lead. Benson’s work on the edge of the square was beginning to take effect, however, and he had swung over a couple of points by the 19th minute.
Before running out of steam Moy Davitts, prompted by their old reliable centre-half back Gary Ruane, embarked on a few serious raids which yielded a couple of points by Pat Clarke, one from a free. But all the time Crossmolina were using the speed of their young players on the wings to telling effect. Not scoring a lot, but threatening.
Forced to foul them Moy Davitts’ less nimble backs conceded a few easy frees, and by half-time Benson had added three further points to his tally, all of them from frees, leaving them ahead by four (0-7 to 0-3) at the interval.
The growing dominance of the home side – their speed, their fitness, their teamwork – left little doubt about their prospects of victory. But we did not expect the game to collapse so quickly after the resumption.
The second half was no more than three minutes old when a well-timed centre from the right wing dropped over the heads of the defenders. It fell at the feet of Benson, ever alert. Goalkeeper Michael McNulty advanced, but the Crossmolina full-forward, sprightly and responsive, switched to his left foot, dug at the ball and it deceived the already committed McNulty.
From that moment, Crossmolina were well on their way to the end of another successful campaign. They were in control all over the field, running, combining, playing as if it were a training stint. At full-back Jonathan O’Boyle had one of his best games of the year, cleverly supported by corner men Noel Hegarty and Stephen Rochford.
Team captain Peadar Gardiner took over at centre-half back with his customary effectiveness, but while the Church Street man is never less than stirring it was his two new flankers who claimed most of our attention on this occasion. Michael Gallagher and Colm McDonnell are exciting new prospects to have come on the scene.
James Nallen and Enda Lavelle had matters in control at midfield, and all of the forwards – including the evergreen Johnny Leonard, who was part of all three successes – led so persuasively by Brian Benson left their mark.
When Benson completed his tally of 1-6 four minutes into the second half, Padraig Syron, Colm McDonnell and Gardiner added the rest. James Mulderrig, refusing to submit without a fight, and enthusiastically supported by Gary Ruane, Andrew Malee, and Brian Hughes, tossed over a couple of points for Moy Davitts. They also drew a few good saves from Paul O’Donnell.
But it was Padraig Syron, adding enterprise to the forward line, who capped it all with Crossmolina’s second goal in the dying minutes of the game. The pass was provided by Johnny Leonard.
It was the perfect end to a season of resounding success for the North Mayo club, and in many ways it compensated for their defeat by St Brigid’s in the Connacht semi-final.
P O’Donnell; N Hegarty, J O’Boyle, S Rochford; M Gallagher, P Gardiner (0-2), C McDonnell (0-1); E Lavelle, J Nallen; P Duffy, J Keane, M Leonard (0-1); P McGuinness, B Benson (1-6), P Syron (1-1). Subs used: J Leonard for P Duffy; J Garrett for J Nallen; F Costello for McDonnell; D Syron for M Leonard; D Hegarty for B Benson.
M McNulty; B Burke, C Quinn, A Malee; O Quinn, G Ruane, W McDonagh; R Healy, J Mulderrig (0-3); B King, B Hughes, F Molloy; P Clarke (0-2), E Gilmore, D Igoe. Subs used: L Mayock, C Jordan, D McDermott and M Quinn.
Referee: V Neary (Bonniconlon)