Captain Danny Beck & Man of the Match Keith Beirne pictured with the Fenagh Cup Picture: Willie Donnellan
The power and the experience of favourites Mohill carried them to a deserved triumph over a battling St Mary’s Kiltoghert in Sunday’s absorbing Connacht Gold Leitrim Senior Football Championship Final in Avantcard Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada.
Despite crowd restrictions meaning this was a very different day for both teams, Mohill players and fans celebrated wildly after the final whistle as they claimed their third title over the last six years.
An absorbing and fascinating first half saw St Mary’s take the game to the favourites and frustrate them, tying up dangermen Keith Beirne and Ronan Kennedy while closing down the usual Mohill avenues of attack.
With Paul Keaney hitting over from frees, the Carrick men led by a point at the break, 0-6 to 0-5, but after halftime, it was a very different story as Liam Keenan’s Mohill hit seven unanswered points to put one hand firmly on the Fenagh Cup.
Instead of their usual second quarter surge, this time the surge came after the halftime interval, inspired by a massive Danny Beck hit on Paul Keaney straight after the throw-in. The hit, which could easily have led to a second yellow card for the Mohill captain, really lifted Mohill as they dramatically upped their intensity.
Shane Quinn and Keith Keegan, largely anonymous in the first half, roared into the game, Caillin Canning played 20 yards further up the field to pen St Mary’s back into their own half and defenders like David Mitchell and Oisin Madden made huge interceptions and blocks to stall desperately needed St Mary’s scores.
It wasn’t until the water break that St Mary’s found their feet again but when they did, they rattled off three quick fire points to cut Mohill’s lead in half.
Keith Beirne's shot crashes off the St Mary's crossbar during the first half Picture: Willie Donnellan
But just as he has so many times in the past, Ronan Kennedy scored a wonder point to halt the Carrick comeback in its tracks and with Mohill content to flood their defence, turn the ball over and attack at speed, the brave efforts of the Carrick men were to no avail.
Keith Beirne deservedly won man of the match with eight points, one from a mark and four from play, but he was pushed hard by Kennedy and Beck for their game defining moments. Big performances too from Shane Quinn, Keith Keegan, Caillin Canning and Domhnaill Flynn in the second half and from David Mitchell and Oisin Madden all through.
For St Mary’s, their young lads did not look out of place on the big stage and all they lacked was the physical power the Mohill men possessed. Paul Keaney was obviously hampered early on from a knock to the leg but still played a big role.
James Glancy, Conor Farrell, Paddy McKenna, Mark Diffley, Daire Farrell and Nicholas McWeeney all had big games for St Mary’s who have got to take a lot of positives from this encounter.
The main area that divided these teams was, as we predicted last week, the power and physicality that Mohill have built up over the years. St Mary’s are a couple of years behind them in that regard but if they close the gap in power, the raw talent is definitely there.
As it stands, Mohill claim the Covid Cup of 2020 and while not detracting anything from any previous winners, this was undoubtedly the best championship and toughest to win in years. They set out their stall from day one, a last gasp loss to Ballinamore, and they have maintained the highest standards throughout and are definitely worthy champions.
A few positional switches from St Mary’s but no major surprises as referee Michael McGirl threw in the ball, Paul Keaney making a huge catch but then getting turned over. Ronan Kennedy had the first chance, fisting the all wide in the first minute after good work from Evan Harkin.
Paul Keaney dropped a free that was called for a square infringement before David Tiernan made a good block on Keith Beirne’s first attempt. Jordan Reynolds also shot wide in the third minute after a period of Mohill possession before Robbie Lowe shanked his shot into Padraig Tighe.
Caillin Canning also had a very bad wide as both teams struggled to get their rhythm going. Shane Quinn went into the book for a heavy hit on Paul Keaney on five minutes and two minutes later, the Carrick men was on the heavy end of a challenge, Sean Harkin earning yellow.
Keaney did open the scoring from a 51 yard free after a foul on Daire Farrell on nine minutes but St Mary’s had an escape when Jordan Reynolds shot dipped, hit the crossbar and then rebounded off Domhnaill Flynn and clear on ten minutes.
Mohill then showed the scoring power they possessed when Keith Beirne put over a free after a foul on Domhnaill Flynn before a long Canning pass saw Beirne claim a mark in the first bit of space he had got, the County man firing over the bar on 12 minutes.
A Keaney wide for St Mary’s followed but the Carrick men levelled on 13 minutes when Brian Farrell dispossessed a Mohill defender after a short kick out. A soccer style run, followed by a pick led to a pass to David O’Connell who managed to get the ball away under huge pressure to Daire Farrell but his shot rose too high over the bar.
Good work from Mark Diffley and Ray Mulvey allowed Alan Doherty edge a point in front on 14 minutes. Both sides then swapped wides before we had what looked like a costly miss when Keith Beirne cracked a thunderous shot off the Mary’s crossbar after being put clear through.
The water break followed and after a yellow card for Daniel Beck, Paul Keaney put over the resulting free to put Mary’s two up. Mohill needed a steady hand and got it from veteran Ronan Kennedy who pointed after a move that went the length of the field and had good work from Sean Harkin.
Almost immediately, Keith Beirne played a give and go to work the space to score but Mohill had a let off when a great move found Robbie Lowe in space but two flying Mohill defenders managed to get in front of his shot to block on the ball on 23 minutes.
Lowe did win a free when he cut across Alan Armstrong in a race to the ball, Keaney putting over the free before a small moment of controversy. With Oisin Madden leaving the field with a blood injury, Alan McLoughlin raced onto the field without going to the third official.
A Caillin Canning mark from the kickout soon became a long ball to an unmarked McLoughlin who set up Keith Beirne for a vital score, despite the protestations of the St Mary’s bench that McLoughlin hadn’t been properly waved into play.
Mohill's Oisin Madden blocks the shot of St Mary's Daire Farrell Picture: Willie Donnellan
However, with the game ticking into added time, a foul on David O’Connell by Keith Keegan resulted in Alan Doherty pointing a free to give St Mary’s a 0-6 to 0-5 halftime lead.
With the game so finely balanced, Mohill used the halftime break very effectively because they came out the second half a very different team - but it could have been oh so different had referee Michael McGirl adjudged an incident straight after the throw-in in a different light.
Paul Keaney rose highest to claim a huge catch but turned straight into a ferocious challenge from Daniel Beck, the sound of which resounded all over the stadium and knocked the St Mary’s youngster to the ground where he lost the ball.
Beck, who was already on a yellow card, held off James Glancy and Keith Keegan set in train a move that led to a free for a foul on Ronan Kennedy, Keith Beirne converting.
St Mary’s players and management were incensed that the challenge went unpunished, it was borderline and wouldn’t have surprised anyone had a free being awarded to Keaney, nine times out of ten it probably would have been, but referee McGirl gave Beck the benefit of the doubt.
Spending so long talking about one incidence is important for one reason - it was not the winning of the game but it was Beck’s message to his Mohill teammates and they responded over the next quarter to hit six unanswered points and establish a match winning lead.
Jordan Reynolds dropped a shot short while Ray Mulvey’s high effort looked as if it would yield a point for Daire Farrell when he won the ball and turned to shoot but an inspired Mohilll saw Oisin Madden make a flying block.
Brian Farrell got a yellow card, Paul Keaney shot wide and Keith Beirne saw a free batted out but the ball was won back by Mohill, now playing much higher up the field, so much so that centre-back Caillin Canning set up Shane Quinn for a point.
Keith Beirne then fired a monster effort from 45 yards over the bar and added a free after just seven minutes of the second half, St Mary’s helpless as their one point lead turned into a three point Mohill advantage.
Ray Mulvey saw a high dropping shot fisted clear out for a fifty but Mark Diffley’s well struck fifty was caught on the line by Shane Quinn. Quinn then went up the other end of the field to hit his second point, a poor kickout worked across to space for the score.
St Mary’s looked as if they were in disarray, an unmarked Domhnaill Flynn gathering the ball in space to score easily and when Robbie Lowe saw what looked like a simple free hit the post and be cleared, the Carrick men seemed a beaten docket.
The water break came at the right time with St Mary’s bringing on Brian O’Donnell and Joe O’Rourke and they made a bit of difference but not straight away as a period of great possession play from Mohill ended with a Ronan Kennedy score.
Ronan Kennedy strikes for a point late in the second half Picture: Willie Donnellan
St Mary’s refused to throw-in the towel - Nicholas McWeeney finished off a patient move with a good point on 49 minutes and when Caillin Canning was penalised for barging a minute later, Paul Keaney swept over the free.
Two minutes later, the pressure was starting to build as Keaney hit his fifth free of the game to leave just a goal between the teams with more than seven minutes of time left.
But as he normally does in time of need, Ronan Kennedy stood tall - Oisin Madden’s long run with the ball got the ball into the Mary’s half and then Kennedy whipped a fantastic 45 yard high over the bar to halt the St Mary’s revival dead in its tracks.
Domhnaill was booked for barging as Mohill killed the game with long periods of possession and a massed defence that turned the ball over time and time again as St Mary’s were unable to break through.
Keith Beirne finished the scoring with less than two minutes of normal time remaining, set up by another good Beirne run, but the game ended with a red card for Conor Farrrell for dragging down a defender, his black card added to an earlier yellow.
St Mary’s kept trying - a high ball across the goal was met by Joe O’Rourke but Danny Beck saved the ball and despite some uncharacteristic wides from Beirne, Mohill held out comfortably to claim the title.
Scorers: Keith Beirne 0-8, 3f, 1M; Ronan Kennedy 0-3; Shane Quinn 0-2; Domhnaill Flynn 0-1
Team: Padraig Tighe, David Mitchell, Alan Armstrong, Oisin Madden, Daniel Beck, Caillin Canning, James Mitchell, Keith Keegan, Shane Quinn, Evan Harkin, Keith Beirne, Sean Harkin, Domhnaill Flynn, Ronan Kennedy, Jordan Reynolds. Subs: Alan McLoughlin for Madden (Blood) (28), Alan McLoughlin for Reynolds (38), Eanna Madden for E Harking (55)
St Mary’s Kiltoghert
Scorers: Paul Keaney 0-5; Alan Doherty 0-2, 1f; Nicholas McWeeney & Daire Farrell 0-1 each
Team: Sean Reynolds, Jonathan Cassidy, Conor Farrrell, Patrick McKenna, Mark Diffley, David Tiernan, Nicholas McWeeney, David O’Connell, Paul Keaney, Brian Farrell, Ray Mulvey, James Glancy, Alan Doherty, Robbie Lowe, Daire Farrell. Subs: James McGrail for O’Connell (44), Brian O’Donnell & Joe O’Rourke for B Farrell & Doherty (46), Jack Barnes for McKenna (55)
Referee: Michael McGirl