Drumkeerin sealed their place as group winners and maintained their 100% record when they overcame a stubborn Bornacoola in a high quality Smith Monumentals IFC Round 4 game played at a sunny Dromod on Saturday last.
Comfortable victories over Eslin & Aughnasheelin made the north Leitrim men strong favourites and while they ultimately triumphed, they were made to work all the way by a home team that continues to improve as the Championship progresses.
Drumkeerin had an outstanding performance from Jamie Langan, who scored 1-6, as the bedrock of this victory. Ross Harrison, wearing number 4 but with a roving commission, impressed throughout. The ever reliable Colm Clarke in defence, Declan Daly and James Gallagher in midfield and forwards Francie Davitt, Jerome Maguire and James Gallagher were others who caught the eye.
For the Bors, there were decent performances from Kevin Mulligan and Allan Croghan in defence and Liam Jones in midfield but the forward line relied too heavily on the free-taking of Shane Mallon with only Ronan Mulligan causing difficulties for the Drumkeerin rearguard.
Bornacoola will feel this was a game they could have, rather than should have, won and with a little more experience under their belt they might well have done so.
They can point to a huge improvement but ultimately rewards in football come the way of the winners and unless the Bors can pull off a victory in Aughnasheelin (tonight, Wednesday at 7.30) it is likely that for all their promise, they will be looking at a relegation battle to maintain their Intermediate status.
They got off to the worst possible start on Saturday evening – almost directly from the throw in, Drumkeerin cut through the Bornacoola rearguard and when Darragh Flynn was pulled down, referee Seamus Mulhern had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot.
Jamie Langan’s first touch of the game saw him clinically dispatch the penalty to the Bornacoola net and the visitors were off to the perfect start.
The Bors responded immediately as Sean O'Riordan and Shane Mallon reduced the gap to a point before Drumkeerin enjoyed their best period of the game. Between the 4th and 16th minute they added six points with the sole Bornacoola reply coming from the boot of Ronan Mulligan, as Ryan Gallagher, Ross Harrison, James Gallagher (twice), Jamie Langan and midfielder James Gallagher all pointed for the visitors
A trait of this year’s Bornacoola crop has been their ability to respond in adversity and, they managed a golden spell of their own. It began with a pointed 45 from goalkeeper Danny Farrell, before three Shane Mallon frees and a point from play reduced the gap to just a point with five minutes left in the half.
The impressive Ross Harrison kicked a great score to re-awaken Drumkeerin and while a Shane Mallon free again reduced the deficit, it was the visitors who closed out the half as they had begun it, with a Jamie Langan score to leave Drumkeerin 1-8 to 0-9 ahead at the interval.
After a hectic and pace filled opening period, one would have been forgiven for thinking the game might have slowed a little in the second period given the heat of a glorious evening, but if anything the start of the second half was even more hectic than the first period.
It was Bornacoola’s turn to shine. The unerring Shane Mallon reduced the deficit to a single point and the returning Damian Moran found himself behind the Drumkeerin rearguard but his goal bound effort was magnificently saved by Kevin Forde and ended up over the bar to level the scores.
A Liam Jones point put the Bors in front for the first and only time but Drumkeerin settled the ship with an inspirational Jerome Maguire point. Francie Davitt and Langan pointed to restore a two point advantage and this gap remained as the teams went to the final water break after Shane Mallon and James Gallagher had swapped scores.
On the resumption, Ronan Mulligan reduced the gap to a single point again before a great score from Jamie Langan gave Drumkeerin some breathing space. That lead was extended in controversial circumstances as a Langan free appeared to go wide and was signalled as such by the umpires. However the view of the linesman was that the ball had gone over the bar and after a short delay, referee Seamus Mulhern ordered that the white flag be raised.
There was no such controversy when Langan’s next free was coolly slotted over and suddenly Drumkeerin held a four point advantage with just 10 minutes remaining. The question now was whether the Bors could find one last drive to reel in Drumkeerin again.
A huge score from Liam Jones reduced the gap to three and suggested there might be one last twist in the tail. With just five minutes remaining, sub Philly Howard had the chance to level the game when Bornacoola turned over the ball coming out of the Drumkeerin defence.
Howard's scuffed his shot but it went beyond keeper Forde and appeared to be rolling into the empty net before a defender managed to clear the ball off the line.
It was a great chance for the Bors and might well have set them up for a shock result but it was not to be. Instead Drumkeerin again rallied and late points from Jerome Maguire and Francie Davitt were enough to see them over the line.
Scorers: Shane Mallon 0-8l Liam Jones & Ronan Mulligan 0-2 each; Danny Farrell, Sean O’Riordan, Damien Moran 0-1 each
Team: Danny Farrell, Damien McGuinness, David Mulligan, Brian Duffy, Sean O’Riordan, Allan Croghan, Kevin Mulligan, Anthony Mulligan, Liam Jones, Damian Moran, Conor McCauley, Cian Mallon, Jason Conroy, Ronan Mulligan, Shane Mallon. Subs used: Philip Howard and Sean McKeon
Scorers: Jamie Langan 1-6; James Gallagher 0-3; Ross Harrison, Francie Davitt & Jerome Maguire 0-2 each, Ryan Gallagher, James Gallagher 0-1 each
Team: Kevin Forde, Ryan Gallagher, Aidan Dolan, Ross Harrison (0-2), Jason Byrne, Colm Clarke, Darragh Flynn, Declan Daly, James Gallagher (0-1), Francie Davitt (0-2), Felim McHugh, Jerome Maguire (0-2), James Gallagher (0-3), Daniel Maguire, Jamie Langan (1-6).
Referee: Seamus Mulhern