Displaying all the confidence that winning brings, Gortletteragh timed their winning burst to perfection with three points in the last eight minutes of last Sunday’s enthralling Gallogly Catering Division Two Final to see of a valiant and determined challenge from Bornacoola in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada.
A fiercely contested encounter, Sunday’s Division Two Final was just as hardly fought as its Division One counter-part but without the rancour and the game itself produced a fantastic display of skills from both sides, the teams trading blows over and over until the final stretch.
But in that final stretch, Gortletteragh really came to the fore with their hard-running and superior fitness making a big impact as they landed three wonderful points from Cathal McCrann (2) and Cathal Quinn to claim a League and Championship double, capping off a fantastic year for the club.
The Intermediate Championship was obviously the big prize for a club with a history as rich and as proud as Gortletteragh, their desire to return to the Senior ranks growing ever more desperate with each passing year that they fell at the final hurdle.
Division One football won’t be a problem for either Gortletteragh and Bornacoola if they can retain the core group that makes up both their squads, both will be looking to make a big impact in Division One and the Senior Championship – after all, it is easy to forget that it was the Bors who came the closest to dumping Melvin Gaels out of the championship this year.
With both teams enjoying spells on top, one teams scoring two or three unanswered points before the other surged back, the Division Two Final produced the sort of free-flowing football that was so obviously absent in the Division One Final.
It wasn’t that the game was devoid of heavy hits or controversial incidents but the small crowd who did turn up in Pairc Sean was treated to a contest played in a far better spirit and apart from one outbreak of hostilities in the closing minutes, devoid of a lot of rancour.
Gortletteragh’s interest in the Connacht Club Intermediate campaign obviously helped them in the closing stages as they seemed just that little bit sharper and perhaps a tad more mobile as the fast pace on a heavy pitch started to affect both teams.
It certainly wasn’t that Bornacoola were lacking fitness as they kept driving for a late goal that would have brought them the title but it was noticeable that as the game got into its latter stages, it was the Gortletteragh players who were getting first to the ball, who had the strength to break through the tackles and the speed to exploit the ever increasing gaps around the field.
Gortletteragh had a lot of heroes on the day – Seamus Prunty fought a dogged battle with Michael Duignan all day while Darren Duignan, Kevin McGrath and Cathal Quinn worked incredibly hard in the forwards, never allowing the Bornacoola defence the chance to settle.
Cathal McCrann continued his outstanding year at the heart of Gortletteragh’s campaign with another fine display of leadership while Niall Woods continues to impress as a player of real potential for the future.
But the star man on the day was half-back James Campbell – the wing-back scored three magnificent points during the second half, each time hauling his team level when Bornacoola looked as if they might cause a shock, his pace and accuracy a real thorn in Bornacoola’s side.
Bornacoola too had plenty of players who impressed – Damien Moran started very well but Gary McCloskey and David O’Connor were at the heart of the Bors efforts, driving their team on, setting up and taking some wonderful scores.
The final was a fitting end to a most competitive Division 2 campaign although the final round of games was blighted with so many withdrawals and concessions, something that the County Board must have an urgent look at in the coming weeks if future League competitions are not lose their integrity.
Both Allen Gaels and Drumkeerin were denied the chance to play for a place in the Final when the teams facing both Gortletteragh and Bornacoola conceded in the last round of games – something that is hardly ideal, nor fair, to all clubs.
It is the only blight on a great Division 2 campaign where four teams were in contention up until the final series of games and the relegation issue wasn’t settled until the final two games.
Gortletteragh got off to a fine start with points from Gerard Campbell and Eamon Reynolds in the first two minutes but a Mark McCloskey free steadied Bornacoola down. Cathal Quinn was adjudged to have hammered a close range shot wide when a goal looked wide, even if an initial look suggested that the ball had gone over the bar.
Philip Howard’s nice chip on five minutes levelled before Declan Shanley scored a lovely point to edge the Bors in front after seven minutes. Cathal McCrann levelled from a free but Bornacoola surged again with two points in a minute from Brian Conroy, from a tight angle, and Michael Duignan, from long range.
Darren Duignan then picked himself up off the ground after a heavy collision to collect a Cathal McCrann pass to score and then a lovely solo effort saw him tie the scores on 14 minutes. Cathal Quinn then collected a high ball to edge Gortletteragh back in front.
Mark McCloskey missed two good chances but his brother Gary collected a quick free to level the scores on 25 minutes but despite another miss, Bornacoola went in front when Damien Moran’s solo effort saw him notch a lovely point.
Cathal McCrann missed two chances to tie the scores before the break but it was Bornacoola who held a 0-7 to 0-6 halftime lead, a lead extended by a first minute David O’Connor free.
Gortletteragh were quick to respond with Cathal McCrann’s high arching kick floating over and James Campbell making the first of three points, surging forward to point after a Darren Duignan pass on six minutes.
Bornacoola looked as if they might have a sniff of a goal when Michael Duignan won possession but his efforts to win a penalty saw him lose possession. However, the Bors went in front when a throw-ball was won by the Bors and worked to David O’Connor for a fine point. Bornacoola held the lead for five minutes before James Campbell floated a lovely 35 yard shot over the bar but another O’Connor free edged the underdogs back in front. And again, for the third time, James Campbell put over a lovely equalising point, with six minutes to go, to leave the game all square again.
In the closing minutes, however, Gortletteragh started to show their class – McCrann put over a free to take the lead for the first time since the 15th minute of the first half.
Darren Duignan was unlucky not to goal when he fisted James Campbell’s pass into the side-netting but in a lovely four man move in the last seconds of normal time, McCrann capped off a fine performance with an excellent point.
Bornacoola kept trying to get back into the game but would have been better to take their points than twice wasting good opportunities by attempting to work the ball into goal scoring position, Gortletteragh defenders twice making vital interceptions.
And with the four added minutes already elapsed, Cathal Quinn made victory safe when he launched a huge 50 yard shot over the Bornacoola bar to seal the victory.
Conan Clarke, Niall Duffy, Seamus Prunty, Mark Mitchell, Colm Duffy, Ciaran Egan, James Campbell (0-3), Padraig McGarry, Niall Woods, Eamon Reynolds (0-1), Cathal McCrann (0-4),Gerard Campbell (0-1), Cathal Quinn (0-2), Darren Duignan (0-2), Kevin McGrath. Subs: Mark Duignan for McGarry (40 mins), P. McGarry for M. Duignan (47 mins), John Reynolds for G. Campbell (50 mins), Dermot Kennedy for Reynolds (58 mins), Gavin Mitchell for McGrath (60 mins).
Bobby Shanley, David Mulligan, Morgan Shanley, Jason Conroy, Niall O’Connor, John McGuinness, Brian Reilly, Gary McCloskey (0-1), David O’Connor (0-3), Declan Shanley (0-1), Mark McCloskey (0-1), Philip Howard (0-1), Michael Duignan (0-1), Damien Moran (0-1), Brian Conroy (0-1). Subs: Jonathan Duffy for Howard (28 mins), Trevor Howard for Duffy (39 mins), Paul Hackett for Mulligan (53 mins), Kevin Shanley for
Referee: James McCaffrey.