It will be hard to keep the favourites tag off Melvin Gaels after Emlyn Mulligan inspired them to deliver an almighty thumping to a shell-shocked Aughawillan in last Saturday’s Connacht Gold Senior Championship Semi-Final in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada.
Displaying a Donegal-like intensity, Melvin Gaels simply rolled over their opponents, their intensive game-plan seeing the man in possession with two or three options every time they got the ball and all moving at an incredible pace in one of the most complete displays turned in by the Kinlough men.
In an ironic twist, the years were rolled back last Saturday as one team completely on top of its game thoroughly dominated a Championship semi-final, the twist being that it was Aughawillan who used to deliver such beatings with regular and awe-inspiring monotony.
Melvin Gels themselves suffered a similar fate 20 years ago when the great Aughawillan three-in-a-row, at the height of their powers, demolished a young Kinlough team in the Senior semi-finals and one almost felt as if the Gaels were dishing out some long delayed revenge.
With Emlyn Mulligan dominating the contest, both in scoring terms and in influencing the contest, the Gaels set a tremendous pace from the very first ball and literally ran the young Aughawillan side off their feet, the fierce pace such that their opponents fell apart in the second half under the sustained pressure.
Many will simply dismiss the worth of Melvin Gaels victory due to its ease and size but you can’t dismiss the intensity the Kinlough men delivered, you can’t dismiss the incredible work-rate nor the strength in depth and you definitely can’t dismiss the obvious desire that permeates every inch of their play.
True they have areas to work on and when you are so dominant, scoring becomes easy – it won’t be so easy in the final when the pressure is on but the Kinlough men delivered an impressive a message to the champions that their crown is very much under threat.
A shell-shocked Aughawillan didn’t know what hit them and it was a chastening experience for a young team. When things don’t go right, they definitely do go right and despite their spirit and willingness, the movement, physical power and strength of the Gaels were far too much.
The fact that Melvin Gaels attacked Aughawillan’s strength, lining Paul Brennan up against Gary Plunkett and putting plenty of hard driving players in the middle of the field negated what Aughawillan were trying to achieve themselves.
Conor Sheridan and Gary Plunkett swapped scores in the first three minutes but Melvin Gaels were already beginning to dominate. Sheridan was inches away with a goal chance but 15 minutes in, Emlyn Mulligan demonstrated the work-rate that so typified his team, popping up in his own full-back line to intercept an Aughawillan attack.
Tom Lipsett, shortly before he was forced out with injury, popped over a point but the pressure began to tell as Mulligan put over two frees and Conor Sheridan broke through a couple of tackles to score with ten minutes to go.
Morgan Quinn tapped over a free for a late foul but the Kinlough men tagged on three points before the break, one from sub Jonathan Connolly and two from Mulligan, to leave Melvin Gaels with a commanding 0-9 to 0-2 halftime lead.
Aughawillan tried to force their way back into the game but Noel Plunkett blasted wide when put through on goal and the Gaels made them pay when keeper Colin Maguire tipped over Peter McGowan pile-driver.
Points quickly followed from David McSharry and Colm McGowan before Aughawillan broke through for another goal chance, Morgan Quinn setting him after a poor kick-out but Gareth Phelan redeemed himself with a great save to prevent a goal.
The willing Plunkett had a third chance of a goal but saw his shot hammer off the post and with that went Aughawillan’s chances. Conor Sheridan pointed before being denied a goal by another good Maguire swap on 12 minutes.
Sub Jesse McGuinness, barely a minute on the field, palmed the ball to the Aughawillan net after a pass from Mulligan and, following a McSharry point, Mulligan deservedly got his goal from the penalty spot after he himself was fouled following a pass from David McSharry.
An obviously fired up Melvin Gaels never let up and added further points from Mulligan, McSharry and McGuinness complete one of the most one-sided routs at the semi-final stages.
Gareth Phelan, Stephen Clancy, Fabian McMorrow, Shane Ryan, Paul McGurrin, Paul Brennan, Donal Clancy, Conor Sheridan (0-3), Brendan Brennan, Colm McGowan (0-1), Stephen McGurrin, Tom Lipsett (0-1), David McSharry (0-3), Emlyn Mulligan (1-7), Peter McGowan (0-1). Subs: Jonathan Connolly (0-1) for Lipsett (13 mins), Colin McGurrin & Jesse McGuinness (1-1) for P. McGurrin & C. McGowan (43 mins), Colin Regan for P. McGowan (45 mins), Patrick McGowan for Ryan (54 mins).
Colin Maguire, Declan McGovern, Kevin McTeague, Gary Deane, Niall Beirne, Sean Quinn, Stephen Gilheaney, Michael Quinn, Christy Prior, Ciaran Gilheaney, Gary Plunkett (0-1), Paul Prior, Morgan Quinn (0-1), Noel Plunkett, Gerard Conlon. Subs: Niall Doonan for Morgan Quinn (45 mins), Barry McBrien for S. Gilheaney (56 mins).
Referee: Eamon O’Grady.