Connacht IFC quarter-final

Sligo champions St John's storm past Leitrim's Aughnasheelin

Philip Rooney

Reporter:

Philip Rooney

Sligo champions St John's storm past Leitrim's Aughnasheelin

The Connacht Club Championships can often be sobering experiences for sides on a high after tasting championship success in Leitrim and that was very much the case for Aughnasheelin when they came up against Sligo champions St John's in the Connacht Intermediate Championship quarter-final last Saturday.


The decision to move the game from Markievicz Park to the Connacht Centre of Excellence did neither side any favours as the superb playing pitches in Bekan, Co Mayo are vulnerable to high winds in the middle of the summer. In the winter when a storm is brewing, playing football is challenging at best.
To their credit St John's were more than up to the challenge and with an incredibly strong wind at their backs they raced into what would prove to be an unassailable lead.


From an Aughnasheelin point of view it was one of those days where whatever could go wrong, did. Conor Cullen, who was so important to Aughnasheelin on their march to the Intermediate title, passed a late fitness test but was able to last no more than seven minutes and to make matters worse corner-back Paul Earley had to be withdrawn three minutes later.


By that stage the writing was already on the wall for Aughnasheelin as St John's came racing out of the traps. Inside the opening minute Charlie Harrison and Paul McNamara combined to release Alan Keane and the two time League of Ireland winner made no mistake as his shot sailed between the uprights.


St John's spurned chances to extend their lead but made up for those misses when Keane and centre-back David Rooney converted frees in quick succession and in the ninth minute the lead was stretched to four points when midfielder Paul McNamara pointed from distance, aided considerably by the wind at his back.


Aughnasheelin were in need of a breather or an opportunity to refocus their targets and somehow get to half-time with the game realistically within their reach.


Unfortunately, with two key players off injured and their opponents getting a sniff of blood, St John's struck decisively for the game's opening goal.


Having been a spectator for the majority of the opening 10 minutes St John's full-back Enda Roche drifted forward before picking out Keane. Aughnasheelin will be frustrated by the manner in which St. John's were able to find men with such ease but the Sligo side deserve credit for an incisive move which was finished with a clinical shot, low and hard across the face of goal and into the bottom corner.


Keane added to his and St John's tally when he converted a free shortly afterwards following a foul on him by Paddy McManus.


Playing in such conditions is never easy, but when you are losing it becomes considerably harder.

When reflecting on the game themselves Aughnasheelin will know there were areas in which they could have performed much better. The tackling could have been firmer, the passing could certainly have been more accurate and the tracking of runners should have been done with greater certainty.


However, it is equally true to say the conditions did Aughnasheelin no favours and the second goal, arriving in the 16th minute, simply confirmed it was not be Aughnasheelin's day.


This time Alan Keane was the provider as he dropped deep to pick out Conor Greene. With a powerful wind at his back Greene was right to fancy his chances from distance but he could not have been confident enough to expect his shot to dramatically dip at the last minute, taking the ball out of the reach of goalkeeper Dean Flanagan and just under the crossbar.


Moments later St John's should have scored goal number three but Brian McGowan blasted his close range shot over the bar.


The first half scoring was completed with two further scores from Alan Keane (one 45) and another Brian McGowan point to give St John's a 2-9 to no score lead at the break.


Although they had the wind at their backs for the second half, there was a feeling that Aughnasheelin would have to settle for damage limitation as the result appeared to be beyond doubt.


The task for Aughnasheelin became even more difficult when they lost a third key player. This time Sean McWeeney, along with St John's midfielder James Murphy were both shown red following a difference of opinions between the pair that led the referee with little option.


Two pointed frees from Aughnasheelin's Barry McWeeney gave their large travelling contingent something to shout about but St John's looked happy to contain their opponents and hit them on the counter-attack.


After Aughnasheelin were reduced to 13 players following Philip Dolan being issued with a second yellow card, David Rooney (free) and Brian McGowan pointed to extend the Sligo side's lead.


With seven minutes remaining Barry McWeeney scored a third pointed free but there was to be no denying St John's and in the 58th minute they struck for a third goal.


Just seconds after his introduction as a substitute for Keane, Cathal Jordan was picked out by Killian Sweeney and he showed great composure to emphatically find the Aughnasheelin net.

Game at a Glance

Main Man


On a day in which nothing went right for Leitrim Intermediate Champions Aughnasheelin, it was Alan Keane who was the main man for St John's. The former Sligo Rovers and Dundalk FC defender finished the game with a personal tally of 1-5.

Talking Point


The late change of venue from Markievicz Park to the Connacht Centre of Excellence left many unhappy but ultimately it had no bearing on the outcome as St John's bossed matters from start to finish.

Turning Point


The early injuries picked up by Conor Cullen and Paul Earley severely hampered Aughnasheelin but such was St John's dominance on the day it is difficult to say if having either player fully fit would have made any difference.

Ref Watch


Garyowen McMahon issued three red cards over the course of the game but there could be few complaints with the performance of the Mayo man.

Highlight


With the St John's defence underworked, full-back Enda Roche surged forward in the 10th minute and released Alan Keane who scored the game's opening goal.

Lowlight


On reflection the entire contest proved to be an anti-climax. The horrible conditions, with no protection for supporters took away from any potential atmosphere although the fact that the game was all but over as a contest after 10 minutes also added to this.

St John's
Scorers: Alan Keane 1-5, (2f, 1 45); , David Rooney 0-3, (2f); Brian McGowan 0-3, Conor Greene 1-0, Cathal Jordan 1-0, Paul McNamara 0-1
Team: Noel O'Donnell, Aaron Clerkin, Enda Roche, Robbie Fahy, Charlie Harrison, David Rooney, Oisin Cox, Paul McNamara, James Murphy, Tommy Kelly, Conor Greene, Shane Stenson, Brian McGowan, Alan Keane, Fiachra Grennan. Subs: Neal Hayes for Stenson (44), Daniel Smith for Robbie Fahy (49), David Burke for Clerkin (53), Cathal Jordan for Keane (57)

Aughnasheelin
Scorers: Barry McWeeney (0-3, (3f).
Team: Dean Flanagan, Paul Earley, Paddy McManus, Wayne Gilgunn, Philip Dolan, Sean McWeeney, Christy McNulty, Barry McWeeney, Conor Cullen, Niall Mulvanerty, Fintan Fitzpatrick, Keith Sammon, Fergal Earley, Brendan Mulvey, Gavin Sammon. Subs: Cormac Sammon for Cullen (7), Michael Domican for P. Earley (10), Gavin McWeeney for Mulvanerty (46)

Referee: Garyowen McMahon (Mayo)