Keith Keegan and Jack Gilheaney rise highest for the ball during the U21 Final. Photo Willie Donnellan
ST. MANCHAN'S 1-11 FENAGH GORTLETTERAGH 1-8
Despite receiving a late scare from Fenagh-Gortletteragh, St. Manchan's retained their U21 A title with three points to spare in Páirc Seán on Saturday.
In what was Leitrim’s last club game in this grade, which commenced in 1964, St. Manchan's bossed this contest nearly all the way. A late surge by Fenagh-Gortletteragh made them look somewhat vulnerable but the Mohill-Eslin-Cloone outfit held out for victory.
Matters were evenly matched in the opening four minutes after Ryan O’Rourke opened Fenagh Gortletteragh’s account with a point which was answered by a St. Manchan's Keith Beirne free after Oisin Madden had been fouled.
Fenagh-Gortletteragh had a let off shortly afterwards when Keith Beirne drove a goal chance inches wide after being put through by Oisin Madden. However St. Manchan's began to stamp their authority on the game.
Keith Beirne added a point from play and then flicked a delivery from Eoghan Keegan to the Fenagh-Gortletteragh net.
A 16th minute Jack Heslin point kept his side in touch before, over the next 12 minutes, points were swapped by Keith Keegan & Ronan Gordon with Jack Heslin & Riordan O’Rourke.
Before the break, the St. Manchan's men put more daylight between the teams after Keith Beirne converted a free and Jordan Reynolds fired over from play, leaving St. Manchan’s 1-6 to 0-4 ahead at the halftime break.
After the restart, the St. Manchan's defence firmly repulsed some early and determined Fenagh-Gortletteragh attacks that were launched in a bid to turn the tables their favour after playing second fiddle for most of the first half.
St. Manchan's stretched their lead to seven points by the 37th minute after Keith Beirne and Keith Keegan both pointed. Fenagh-Gortletteragh fluffed a golden chance to get back into contention when Keoghan McGovern drove a goal chance from two yards out inches wide.
Ryan O’Rourke opened their second half account when he put over a 43rd minute free for a foul on Riordan O’Rourke. A minute later Jack Heslin picked up a ‘broken ball’ near midfield following the kick-out and soloed through almost 40 metres to fire over a wonderful point.
St. Manchan's restored their seven point advantage by the 50th minute thanks to Oisin Madden who shot over from play and Keith Beirne who tapped over his third free of the afternoon.
Two minutes later St. Manchan's fullback James Mitchell received a black card and was replaced by Jack McGarry. Ryan O’Rourke converted the resultant free from the foul committed by Mitchell.
Five minutes later Ronan Gordon shot St. Manchan's last score when he fired over from play. Over five minutes of added time was played at the end of the second half, and it was in this period that Fenagh-Gortletteragh came fairly close to forcing a replay, despite St. Manchan's dominance for the previous 57 minutes.
The late Fenagh-Gortletteragh surge yielded fruit when Riordan O’Rourke fired home a 61st minute goal. Three minutes later Oisin McLoughlin closed the gap on St. Manchan's to three when he put over a free.
In this closing phase of the game Fenagh-Gortletteragh also had a goal chance deflected out for a ’45.’ Before the end St. Manchan's Keith Beirne received a yellow card.
GAME AT A GLANCE
Main Man: Keith Keegan was director of operations for St. Manchan's at midfield and it was his winning of a large amount of possession that laid the foundation for many of his side’s scores.
Talking Point: A degree of lack of belief amongst the Fenagh-Gortletteragh men for 57 minutes certainly seemed to make things much easier for St. Manchan's. When Fenagh-Gortletteragh surged near the end, St. Manchan's began to struggle quite noticeably.
Turning Point: The 12th minute goal that Keith Beirne flicked to the net kept St. Manchan's on top until the final whistle.
Ref Watch: Eamonn O’Grady did an effective job as the man in the middle. The amount of stoppage time he allowed at the end of the second half was justified as there had been quite a few minor injury incidents during the second half.
Highlight: Jack Heslin’s 44th minute point was perhaps the game’s most impressive score. Heslin carried the ball for almost 40 metres on a fine solo run before he successfully pulled the trigger.
Lowlight: The failure of Fenagh-Gortletteragh for most of the game to put it up to St. Manchan's was disappointing for their mentors and supporters who, at the end, were left wondering what might have been had their team performed like they did in the closing minutes of the action
TEAMS & SCORERS
Scorers: Keith Beirne 1-5, 3f; Keith Keegan & Ronan Gordon 0-2 each; Oisin Madden & Jordan Reynolds 0-1 each
Team: Alan Keenan; David Mitchell, James Mitchell, Liam Rowley; Sean Harkin, Shane McGowan. Oisin Madden; Keith Keegan, Tadgh Mulligan; Eoghan Keegan, Ronan Gordon; Ethan Harkin; Jordan Reynolds, Keith Beirne, Fiachra McGuinness. Subs: Jamie Stenson for Rowley (48); Jack McGarry for J. Mitchell (BC 52) Alan Tuthill for E. Keegan (58); Darren Keegan for Reynolds (62)
Scorers: Riordan O’Rourke 1-1; Ryan O’Rourke (f) & Jack Heslin 0-3 each; Oisin McLoughlin 0-1 (f)
Team: Kyle McNabola; Cillian O’Rourke, David Mulvey, Sean Keegan; Mark Keegan, Aaron McLoughlin, Oisin McLoughlin: Jack Gilheaney, Francis Flynn; Evan Ward, Nathan O’Rourke, Ryan O’Rourke; Riordan O’Rourke, Keoghan McGovern, Jack Heslin
Referee: Eamonn O'Grady