Gowna cruise through to last four
Paul Fitzpatrick at Kingspan Breffni
Gowna returned to the Senior Championship semi-final for the first time since 2018 with a one-sided win over a disappointing Mullahoran at Kingspan Breffni.
Gowna came into this one as favourites, with four wins under their belts, scoring 12 goals, having earlier won the Division 1 ACFL title while their local rivals had two wins, against Castlerahan and Killygarry, and losses to Ramor and Kingscourt.
And the winners franked that form with a classy performance, controlling the game throughout bar two periods – the second quarter and the 25 second-half minutes in which the stadium was plunged into darkness as the floodlights failed.
When the lights went out, Gowna had all the momentum and the sense was that they may have been disrupted but they picked up where they left off and ran out commanding winners, earning local bragging rights in the process.
The first half was dour and fractious stuff which did little to entertain the large crowd in attendance.
Gowna raced into a 0-6 to 0-1 lead after 13 minutes with a succession of high-quality scores and a rout seemed possible but the game descended into stop-start, drab fare with little football played for the remainder of the half.
And in those conditions, Mullahoran were more comfortable than their neighbours. The Dreadnoughts’ tactic of aiming long, direct ball to full-forward Philip Brady unnerved the Gowna defence and caused a few scrambles in front of their goals, as well as leading to most of their scores.
Mullahoran opened the scoring with a free from Enda O’Reilly after a foul on Tom Harten but Gowna would go on to kick six points in succession. Cian Madden found Conor Madden with a perfect pass for the first, the county man knocking over a mark, and Conor Brady sent over the next after Gowna profited on the Mullahoran kick-out.
Ryan Donohoe was next to get in on the act, going on a driving run and pointing with the left and the one-way traffic continued when teenager Donohoe picked up a pass from Mark McKeever and bombed over a great point from outside the 45.
Mullahoran were pinned back by now and couldn’t get their hands on the ball as Gowna set the tempo; Conor Madden raised another white flag, via the upright, and when Robbie Fitzpatrick converted a free, it was 0-6 to 0-1 with 13 minutes played.
Mullahoran, though, dug in. A few stoppages seemed to break Gowna’s momentum and Danny Brady’s side had what looked a good shout for a penalty when Enda O’Reilly hit the deck dismissed.
The Dreadnoughts ended a 22-minute scoreless run when Philip Brady pointed on the turn after good work from Harten and Dominic Cadden and when O’Reilly won a soft-looking free and converted, the gap was back to three.
After another direct ball to Philip Brady, O’Reilly tacked on another free in first-half injury time as the sides went in with Gowna holding a 0-6 to 0-4 lead but down to 14 men for 10 minutes after TJ Fitzpatrick picked up a black card just before the short whistle.
On the resumption, the sides were levelled up numerically when Mullahoran defender Callum Mussi was sin-binned and Gowna began to hum again, Conor Casey and Robbie Fitzpatrick (free) knocking over scores.
The Dermot McCabe/Fintan Reilly-managed side were in full flow by now and a lovely score with the outside of the boot from Conor Brady was followed by a sublime effort from the left wing by half-time sub Oisin Pierson as the pre-match favourites moved six clear, 0-10 to 0-4.
And then came the 25-minute stoppage as the lights went out with the digital timer showing 7:35. When the game resumed, Robbie Fitzpatrick tapped over a free to make it 0-11 to 0-4.
Mullahoran needed goals but didn’t really threaten, managing only two points, both from frees, in the second half.
Conor Madden booted over a fabulous score from the right wing and Robbie Fitzpatrick added another to make it 0-13 to 0-4 entering the last 10 minutes.
TJ Fitzpatrick landed the next before former Cavan star Gerald Pierson blasted home a goal from close range with three minutes left.
Gowna were denied another by a great save from William O’Reilly at the death but it was all cosmetic at that stage as the result was well beyond doubt. Next up for Gowna is a tilt with Kingscourt in the semi-final.
Gowna: Ronan Bannon, Cormac Brady, Mark McKeever, James Madden, Shane Harton, Ryan Brady, Tiarnan Madden, Ryan Donohoe (0-2), Conor Brady (0-2), Robbie Fitzpatrick (0-3f), Fionan Brady, Cian Madden, TJ Fitzpatrick (0-1), Conor Madden (0-3, 1m), Conor Casey (0-1)
Subs: Oisin Pierson (0-1) for Harton (ht), Ryan McGahern for J Madden (38 mins), Raymond Keogh for R Fitzpatrick (50), Gerald Pierson (1-0) for TJ Fitzpatrick (55), Ryan Madden for Casey (58)
Mullahoran: William O’Reilly, Callum Mussi, Darren Sheils, Matthew Hynes, Cormac McKeogh, Cian O’Reilly, Daithi Sheils, Killian Brady, Dominic Cadden, Gavin Brady (0-2f), Enda O’Reilly (0-3f), Paul Brady, Tom Harten, Philip Brady (0-1), Cormac O’Reilly
Subs: Sean McKeogh for C McKeogh (temp, 33, reversed 35), S McKeogh for Daithi Sheils, Ryan O’Reilly for Cian O’Reilly, Caolan O’Reilly for Tom Harten (all 38 mins), James Coyle for E O’Reilly, Matthew McGahern for Philip Brady (both 48 mins)
Ref: Barry McMenamin