The crowd was smaller, the conditions a lot colder and darker but few championship wins were celebrated by Glencar/Manorhamilton with as much gutso as last Sunday’s Gallogly Catering Division One Final victory as they gained a small mesure of revenge by defeating County Champions Melvin Gaels.
With a rivalry as intense as anything witnessed in Leitrim club football, Glencar/Manorhamilton avenged their Championship defeat to deny Melvin Gaels a League and championship double. The Manor men displayed all of the fervour and hunger for victory that has been lacking five weeks previously as the insatiable hunger that drove Melvin Gaels to the Fenagh Cup was down a vital notch.
For quality of football, this is not a game that will live long in the memory – Glencar/Manorhamilton were the better side and only looked in trouble when they were down a man after the dismissal of Adrian Croal. The sending off saw Melvin Gaels roar back into the game but crucially, they couldn’t get ahead and when Stephen Clancy was dismissed with a straight red card, the belief coursed through Glencar/Manorhamilton once more.
That Melvin Gaels took this game to the very wire of extra-time says much for their resolve – Emlyn Mulligan was their only scorer and the single-mind focus they displayed in the County Final was surprisingly absent.
Unfortunately, what will be remembered was the pettiness, the trash talking, the needless fouling and general all round air of nastiness that pervaded a game between the county’s two best teams. The banter that has got completely out of hand (on and off the field), the back and forth on local radio after the County Final, stoking the flames even further and the natural local rivalry combined to serve up an occasion that left neither team unsullied.
That bitterness extended to the stands and while some might pass it off as banter, part and parcel of the game, it created a rather unpleasant atmosphere that will linger for some time to come, perhaps affecting both club and county relations in the months ahead.
Referee Seamus Mulhern was the target of ire from both teams and their supporters but the St. Mary’s official had an almost impossible task to cope with the attitude taken by both teams, so much so that County Chairman Joe Flynn felt the need to pass comment in his post-match presentation speech!
The first half was typical of all this and so much more – two points for 30 plus minutes of action and eight yellow cards, a few who escaped sanction and some lucky to stay on the field. The fare improved, ever so slightly, for the rest of the day but as a football contest, it was nothing compared to the County Final.
Glencar/Manorhamilton will, after the glow of this victory fades, might wonder what might have happened had they displayed the same sort of intensity and desire in the County Final while, for Melvin Gaels, the loss will take a tiny sliver of gloss off their year but not too much – the championship is the big prize and they have it and if they can focus themselves in the years ahead, they should not have to wait another 14 years for ultimate triumph.
The first half was more notable for the litany of yellow cards than any scores – Emlyn Mulligan missed two early chances before James Glancy and Aaron Hickey frees in the first eight minutes gave an energised Glencar/Manorhamilton a two point lead.
The first yellow card arrived on 11 minutes, Donal Clancy for Melvin Gaels for dissent was followed by team-mates Colm McGowan, Tom Lipsett and Paul Brennan and Glencar/Manor’s Brian McDonald, Darren Sweeney, Thomas McDonald and Adrian Croal. Brian McDonald was very lucky not to earn a straight red card for swinging back at Paul Brennan.
Melvin Gaels had two great chances to score but Conor Sheridan & Paul McGurran hit terrible wides as the County Champions incredibly failed to score for the first half, leaving Glencar/Manor 0-2 to 0-0 ahead at the break.
Melvin Gaels opened their account just a minute into the second half when Mulligan pointed but Manor’s dominance was reflected with three unanswered points in the next five minutes from Evan Sweeney, Janes Glancy and Adrian Croal. Mulligan did pull back a point three minutes later but the Gaels’ challenge got a boost when Croal was dismissed for a second yellow card offence on 11 minutes.
The extra man saw Glencar/Manor withdraw deep into their half but the scores were not coming quickly enough for Melvin Gaels – three Mulligan points, two from frees, followed between the 14th and 24th minute saw the Kinlough men eventually draw level.
The Gaels had a chance to go in front but Paul Brennan shot wide before the game took another twist – Stephen Clancy met Thomas McDonald with a high challenge and referee Seamus Mulhern brandished a red card.
Now level in numbers, Glencar/Manor surged but despite three great chances, they needed sub Dominic Kelly to keep his cool to point after a long range free was punched clear as the game inched into added time. Melvin Gaels came back and Emlyn Mulligan managed to find some space, his huge shot hitting the top of the crossbar before going over to send the game to added time.
Both sides were back to 15 for extra-time and Glencar/Manorhamilton would only manage one score to Melvin Gaels’ two – crucially, that score was a goal just two minutes into the first half. A relieving free to the stand side of the pitch saw Darren Sweeney acrobatically keep the ball in play and play it into the path of Shane Loughlin as Gaels sub Colin Regan challenged.
Loughlin’s massive delivery got in behind Fabian McMorrow where arch poacher James Glancy gratefully grabbed the ball and buried it past an advancing Gareth Phelan for the crucial score.
Colin Regan saw a good effort hit the wood-work before Mulligan hit a lovely point to leave two between the teams when the first half of added time concluded.
The second half was tense as Manor were unlucky not to grab a second goal when a fallen body blocked a goal bound shot midway through the half. Mulligan hit a free wide but with less than two minutes to go, he converted another free to leave a point between the teams.
Melvin Gaels tried to get the ball back to work another equalising point but Glencar/Manor played the ball around and never allowed them any sort of opening and wild celebrations broke out once the final whistle sounded.
Colin Gilligan, Thomas McDonald, Pat Gilmartin, Mark McGourty, Adrian O’Flynn, Paddy Maguire, Shane Loughlin, Darren Sweeney, Aaron Hickey (0-1), Anthony McDonald, Colin Ryan, Brian McDonald, Adrian Croal (0-2), James Glancy (1-), Evan Sweeney (0-1). Subs: Gerry Hickey & Kieran O’Flynn for A. McDonald & McGourty (42 mins), Dominic Kelly (0-1) for A. O’Flynn (50 mins), James O’Brien for E. Sweeney (72 mins). (Michael Poniard starts extra-time).
Gareth Phelan, Stephen Clancy, Fabian McMorrow, Shane Ryan, Paul McGurrin, Paul Brennan, Donal Clancy, Stephen McGurrin, Brendan Brennan, Conor Sheridan, Emlyn Mulligan (0-8), Colm McGowan, Tom Lipsett, James Phelan, Jesse McGuinness. Subs: Peter McGowan for Lipsett (24 mins), Jonathan Connolly for D. Clancy (40 mins), Colin Regan for C. McGowan (41 mins), C. McGowan & Anthony Tiffoney for Phelan & P. McGurrin (70 mins). (Anthony Tiffoney starts extra-time).
Referee: Seamus Mulhern.