Improving Gowna topple Crosserlough

Senior Football Championship

Gowna 3-10

Crosserlough 2-10

Paul Fitzpatrick at Kingspan Breffni

Gowna sent out a huge statement of intent last night at HQ as they disposed of Crosserlough with an exceptional performance.

The teams came into this match in contrasting situations; Gowna had two wins to their name and one foot in the knock-out stages while the reigning champions had just a single point from their two previous games and were under some pressure to get a victory.

Gowna had also beaten the Kilnaleck-based side here in the league final exactly five weeks ago yet Crosserlough, given their standing, came in as 4/6 favourites with the bookmakers to get the job done.

Gowna played brilliant football in the first half and while they had a five-point cushion at the break, it should have been more. They were better in every aspect; at the back, they were tigerish and disciplined while their movement and execution up front was superb.

With the exception of Patrick Lynch, who scored all of their five first-half points and 2-9 of their 2-10 total, Crosserlough were dire in the opening half, lumping the ball aimlessly forward and wide open at the back.

Gowna opened the scoring with a 47-metre free off the ground from the right wing by teenager Ryan Donohoe. Lynch and Robbie Fitzpatrick then traded frees before Conor Madden made it 0-3 to 0-1 on 12 minutes.

Lynch pointed from play from the edge of the D but at the other end, Gowna were cutting Crosserlough open and Conor Casey played TJ Fitzpatrick in but he opted to take his point rather than go for goal.

Gowna created two more goal opportunities but took neither; Robbie Fitzpatrick lost his footing after a great pass from Casey and John Cooke got a fingertip to the ball to prevent an easy tap-in for Tiarnan Madden.

Two Robbie Fitzpatrick frees made it 0-6 to 0-2 on 20 minutes. Lynch replied with a free but Crosserlough fell further behind when Cormac Brady scored a great individual goal, beating a couple of defenders before planting a powerful finish to the net.

Lynch again replied with a free but Conor Brady then stepped up with a point of the game, a sublime effort from the left wing, before Lynch pointed from play in injury time to leave it 1-7 to 0-5 at the halfway point.

To their credit, Crosserlough were a different team when they re-emerged, showing energy and hunger for the first time but they still looked devoid of ideas in attack, the scores they got coming mostly from dead balls – ref Noel Mooney spotted 40 infringements over the hour – and forced through perspiration more than inspiration.

There seemed to be an element of complacency about the champions, too; from early on, they were hunting for goals, eschewing several straightforward point-scoring opportunities.

Their first arrived four minutes into the second half when Pierce Smith found Mark Stuart, who was deemed to have been fouled in the square and Lynch made no mistake from the spot.

At the other end, Gowna were awarded a soft free which Cian Madden converted and in the 11th minute, they struck gold again when TJ Fitzpatrick’s sideline ball found Conor Madden, who was felled and converted the resulting penalty to make it 2-8 to 1-5.

The Lough replied with a Darren Gaffney point – their only score of the night not registered by Lynch – which clipped the upright and made it over but Conor Madden, full of confidence, fired over at the other end.

On the three-quarter mark, Crosserlough were thrown a lifeline when Cian Boylan dispossessed Mark McKeever and the ball was worked to Lynch, whose powerful shot found the net to make it a three-point game again.

Ryan Donohoe, in space, sent over an important score for Gowna, who had become a little frayed at the edges as the finish line approached, but two from Lynch, one free and one outstanding effort from play, left two between them, implausibly given how flat the holders were on the night.

With five minutes of normal time remaining, however, the game was put to bed when Conor Casey’s shot on goal was saved by Brian Malocca and Robbie Fitzpatrick followed up with the rebound to put five between them again.

Crosserlough pressed in the closing stages but all they could muster were two Lynch frees as Gowna held on to win by a goal.

While Jimmy Higgins’s side could point to a couple of poor calls by a linesman going against them, which led to 1-1, in truth they were well off the pace here. Gowna, who have talented ball-players in every line of the field, thoroughly deserved their victory and, growing in confidence all the time, are assured of a place in the last eight and will be many people’s favourites to win it out; Crosserlough’s performance, for the second round in a row, was too bad to be true and nothing like the vibrant, smart, running team who have lit up the last few championships.

Lynch was excellent at full-forward while Conor Rehill worked hard at the back but overall they were strangely off-colour.

If – and it’s a big if at present – they can make the quarter-finals, a massive improvement will be needed if they are to retain their grip on the Oliver Plunkett Cup.

Crosserlough: Brian Malocca, John Cooke, Patrick O’Reilly, David Shalvey, Cian Boylan, Conor Rehill, Ben Flynn, James Smith, Darren Gaffney (0-1), Mark Stuart, Pierce Smith, Shane McManus, Brandon Boylan, Patrick Lynch (2-9, 6f, 1-0 pen), Stephen Smith

Subs: Shane McVeety for McManus (ht), Oran Rehill for P Smith (48), Ryan Galligan for Gaffney (56), Emmet Boylan for Flynn (58), Enda Gaffney for B Boylan (59)

Gowna: Ronan Bannon, Cormac Brady (1-0), Ryan McGahern, James Madden, , Mark McKeever, Ryan Brady, Tiarnan Madden, Ryan Donohoe (0-2, 1f), Conor Brady (0-1), Robbie Fitzpatrick (1-3, 3f), Cian Madden (0-1f), Shane Harton, TJ Fitzpatrick (0-1), Conor Madden (1-2, 1-0 pen), Conor Casey

Subs: Fionan Brady for McGahern (ht), Aaron Brady for TJ Fitzpatrick (47 mins), Oisin Pierson for A Brady (53), Raymond Keogh for Donohoe (58)

Ref: Noel Mooney