Despite a superlative man of the match display from Gary McCloskey that brought Bornacoola to within an inch of a shock, superior fitness and all round strength in depth was enough to see a far from convincing Melvin Gaels into the Connacht Gold Senior Championship Semi-Finals.
A late Mark McCloskey free bounced over the bar, just inches away from the touch that would have knocked hot favourites Melvin Gaels out of the Senior Championship after a match that swung one way and then another and literally had something for everyone.
We had a blistering start from Bornacoola, reminiscent of their best days as they used their awesome physical power and strength to devastating effect. We had a confused Melvin Gaels struggling to find any sort of accuracy until the final seconds of the first half when Emlyn Mulligan, who would go on to register an impressive eight points, scored their first of the game.
Equally impressive was the Gaels blitz in the opening ten minutes of the second half when they reeled off six unanswered points to take a two point lead. And just as inspiring was the refusal of a clearly tiring Bornacoola to lie down, the manner in which they fought back to twice level in the closing 15 minutes saw a lot about their resolve and spirit.
It was also a game that saw eight yellow cards in an uncompromising and hard hitting encounter with David McSharry for the Gaels and Brian Conroy for the Bors lucky not to see the line.
But at the end of the day, the superior fitness of the Kinlough men told the tale – Bornacoola tore into the Gaels for the first 20 minutes, had them on the back foot in all sectors, particularly midfield and the half-forward line, but they were unable to sustain it over the hour.
Gary McCloskey was the most influential man on the field as he used his strength to great effect and was peerless in the air but the duo of Conor Sheridan and Paul Brennan had a huge influence for the Gaels, driving their team on and keeping them in the game when many of their colleagues were clearly below par.
With David O’Connor and the half-forward line winning all the breaking ball in the middle of the park, Bornacoola looked as if they were going to do it but as the Gaels upped the tempo in the second half, they were clearly the superior team even if they struggled to show it on the scoreboard.
Bornacoola delivered an awesome opening eight minutes – Michael Duignan thumped over a fifty before Damien Moran drilled a low shot to the Gaels net on three minutes. Five minutes later, Philip Howard fisted over when a goal seemed on the cards.
Melvin Gaels were all at sea as they missed six scoring chances before, with the game in the dying seconds of the half, Emlyn Mulligan got their first point from 50 yards. In added time, Mulligan added another as Bornacoola led 1-2 to 0-2, a lead extended when Duignan converted a free just a minute into the half.
But the Gaels went into over-drive with six unanswered points in a six minute spell. Conor Sheridan, Paul McGurran and four from Mulligan transformed the score-line as the Gaels went from four down to two in front.
Crucially, the Gaels never kicked on and a poor Gaels free was pounced on by Brian Conroy who pointed to leave a point between the teams. Conroy showed great persistence to fight his way through a tackle to point with less than nine minutes to go to level the scores.
Mulligan and Mark McCloskey swapped points but a wasteful Kinlough side opened a two point gap with points from Brendan Brennan and Mulligan in added time.
Bornacoola refused to capitulate and Mark McCloskey launched a massive free at the Gaels goal that bounced over the bar, within inches of getting a touch that would have sent it to the net.
Gareth Phelan, Stephen Clancy, Fabian McMorrow, Shane Ryan, Paul Brennan, Paul McGurran (0-1), Donal Clancy, Stephen McGurran, B.B. Brennan (0-1), Conor Sheridan (0-1), Emlyn Mulligan (0-8), James Bredin, Thomas Lipsett, Peter McGowan, David McSharry. Subs: Jesse McGuinness for Bredin (47 mins), Jonathan Connolly for McGowan (61 mins), McGowan for Connolly (63 mins).
Bobby Shanley, Morgan Shanley, Jason Conroy, Damien McGuinness, Niall O’Connor, John McGuinness, Paul Hackett, Gary McCloskey, David O’Connor, Oliver Vaughan, Trevor Howard, Philip Howard (0-1), Brian Conroy (0-2), Michael Duignan (0-2), Damien Moran (1-0). Subs: Mark McCloskey (0-2) for P. Howard (HT), Declan Shanley for N. O’Connor (39 mins), Sean McKeon for T. Howard (50 mins), Kevin Shanley for Vaughan (52 mins).
Referee: Seamus Mulhern.