In a match as strange as it was extraordinary, Fenagh St. Caillin’s won their first ever Leitrim U-14 Championship 15-a-side title with a second half display that left a previously dominant Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s shell-shocked and stunned in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada last Friday evening.
The score-line gives the impression of a cake-walk for the victors but it was far from that as Ballinamore, led by the game’s outstanding figure in Kevin Mullen, dominated the first half and should have been out of sight such was their dominance.
Goals change games and it certainly changed this game’s and when the equally outstanding Riordan O’Rourke fired home a rocket of goal, seven minutes into the second half, the entire world shifted as Fenagh visibily grew in confidence as they out-scored their neighbours by 4-6 to 0-2 for the rest of the game.
Mullen, a maurading, unstoppable force for Ballinamore in the first half, was brought out the field to stop Fenagh’s growing influence but the move back-fired as Sean Keegan and Nathan O’Rourke, detailed to defence to try and stop the Ballinamore youngster, cut loose, Keegan actually drilling home his team’s second goal.
A shell-shocked Ballinamore kept plugging away but lost their chance of victory midway through the second half when Mullen punched a free on, Fenagh keeper Tom Gilheaney saving the shot to set in train a move that Jim McGuinness’s Donegal would be proud of as they moved the ball the length of the field for Aaron McLoughlin to drill home.
It was an extraordinary transformation, strange in the complete turn-around in fortunes and yet another chapter in an fascinating rivalry between two neighbours, a rivalry that looks set to endure for years to come.
Kevin Mullen illuminated the early stages, driving over a point that could have been a goal had he advanced further and then launching a canon of a shot from 30 yards that found the back of the net inside three minutes.
Fenagh hit back with points from Conor Reynolds & Riordan O’Rourke but with Ballinamore wasting a lot of good chance, they only added points from Mullen (free), Tom Prior and Niall McGovern as Fenagh keeper denied Conor McGrath a goal.
Two Riordan O’Rourke frees followed either side of a missed goal chance for the full-forward but Fenagh were dealt a body blow when Jamie Sweeney’s long range shot swerved and dipped, deceiving the keeper to end up in the net.
Jack Gilheaney and Mullen swapped points as O’Heslin’s led 2-5 to 0-5 at the break, the same two players repeating their scores early in the second half. Gilheaney added another free before Fenagh forced their way back into the game when O’Rourke gathered a long ball on his chest, turned, ran and placed a great shot in the net.
Gilheaney and Mullen swapped points once more as Ballinamore keeper Darren Maxwell made a great save from Alan Wrynne but Fenagh’s second goal arrives seconds later as Sean Keegan, following Mullen out the field, charged through the centre to blast home a goal on 11 minutes.
Gilheaney added a free before Tom Gilheaney made a vital save from a punched effort, the ball moving the length of the field for Aaron McLoughlin to finish to the net, prompting a blizzard of Feangh points from O’Rourke, Reynolds, Gilheaney and Conor Dwyer.
Kevin Mullen had Ballinamore’s last with seven minutes to go but Fenagh weren’t finished and added two more goals from Kyle McNabola and Aaron McLoughlin to seal a famous win.
Feangh St. Caillin’s
Tom Gilheaney, Alan Doonan, Sean Keegan (1-0), Oisin McLoughlin, Jarlath Scollan, Caillin’s O’Rourke, Mark Keegan, Jack Gilheaney (0-6), Aaron McLoughlin (2-0), Conor Reynolds (0-2), Alan Wrynne, Kyle McNabola (1-0), Conor Dwyer, Nathan O’Rourke, Riordan O’Rourke (1-4).
Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s
Darren Maxwell, Darragh Reynolds, James Hamill, Mark Maguire, Cathal McHugh, Damien Creaven, Christy Maguire, Daragh Murphy, Niall McGovern (0-1), Conor McGrath, Adam Goldrick, Barry McGovern, Tom Prior (0-1), Kevin Mullen (1-6), Jamie Sweeney (1-0). Subs: Daire Glesson for Sweeney (45 mins), Stephen Flynn for Reynolds (58 mins).
Referee: Ray McBrien.