Eight points from a magnificent Adrian Croal was enough to see a less than stellar Glencar/Manorhamilton into the Connacht Gold Senior Championship Semi-Finals in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada as they proved too strong for a defensive minded Allen Gaels.
A young Drumshanbo side had no answer to the battle hardened Champions who eased their way to a double scores lead at the break (0-6 to 0-3) and were in cruise control by the time that Allen Gaels temporarily put a halt to their gallop with a stroke of fortune in the shape of an own goal from Kieran O’Flynn.
That goal, coming eight minutes after the dismissal of James Flynn, midway through the second half briefly threatened but with Croal in such imperious form, the champions overcame the absence of James Glancy and the first half loss of Darren Sweeney to advance in style.
Croal gave an awesome display of score taking, either hooking over or over his own shoulder, were the finishing touch for a Glencar/Manorhamilton team that don’t quite seem to have their previous air of invincibility about them yet still had the strength to come through with something to spare.
Despite so many injuries and a few players struggling to find form, Manor did what they do best – their worked incredibly hard, moved the ball quickly to a proven scorer and hunted in packs in the middle of the park. They may be lacking the free-flowing form of past years but they will take some beating nevertheless.
Playing an extra defender, the Drumshanbo side invited the Champions to come onto them and with Manor dominating the middle of the park and Pat Gilmartin and Paddy Maguire dominating their defence, it meant that the Gaels were always under huge pressure.
Nicholas Moore fought a lonely battle in attack and showed great endeavour, as did Declan Gilhooley and sub Alan McKeon, but with Paddy Maguire the extra man and Pat Gilmartin in fantastic form, the Gaels were never going to threaten the champions enough to cause a shock.
With Allen Gaels dropping starting corner-forward Mark Gunning back as an extra defender, space was at a premium with Declan Gilhooley swapping two points with Darren Sweeney (fifty) and Adrian Croal, Kevin Nolan making a great save to deny Brian McDonald a goal.
But as Manor started to find room, two wonderful Croal points gave them breathing room despite losing Darren Sweeney through injury. Declan Gilhooley pulled back a point but as the champions hit some poor wides, a point apiece from Aaron Hickey and Croal left them 0-6 to 0-3 ahead at the break.
Croal and Michael McManus swapped points early in the second half but the champions started to put daylight between the teams with Croal (2), Brian McDonald and Aaron Hickey all pointing while the Gaels suffered a massive body blow when James Flynn was sent off for a second yellow card.
Allen Gaels were handed a lifeline on 15 minutes when Gary Loughlin came off his line to claim a ball ahead of Nicholas Moore but lost it in the sun. The ball clattered off Loughlin but then hit Kieran O’Flynn and rolled agonisingly into the net.
That left four between the teams as Hickey and Gilhooley swapped frees but it was the champions who finished off in style with two great Croal points, one set up by sub Shane Loughlin, although McManus did almost give his team a late consolation when he toe poked inches wide.
Gary Loughlin, Thomas McDonald, Pat Gilmartin, Paddy Maguire, Mark McGourty, Kieran O’Flynn (1-0, og), Adrian O’Flynn, Darren Sweeney (0-1), Aaron Hickey (0-4), James Rooney, Colin Ryan, Gerry Hickey, Brian McDonald (0-1), Anthony McDonald, Adrian Croal (0-8). Subs: Fintan McGourty for Sweeney (11 mins), Dominic Kelly for G. Hickey (41 mins), James O’Brien for K. O’Flynn (50 mins), Shane Loughlin for a. McDonald (53 mins), Michael Poinard for A. O’Flynn (57 mins).
Kevin Nolan, Ciaran Mattynnsenns, Adrian Sorohan, James Flynn, Martin Raftery, Colm McGovern, Thomas Mulvey, Alan Wynne, Michael McManus (0-1), Nicholas Moore, Declan Gilhooley (0-3), Emmet Burke, Sean Mulvey, Martin Beirne, Mark Gunning. Subs: Brian Mulvey for S. Mulvey (27 mins), Alan McKeon for Burke (HT), Shane Beirne for B. Mulvey (40 mins), S. Mulvey & Brian Moran for Raftery & Beirne (56 mins), Stephen Tiernan for Moore (61 mins).
Referee: Frank Flynn.