Smith leads Killygarry to win over fancied Gowna

Senior Football Championship round 1

Killygarry 2-11

Gowna 1-12

Paul Fitzpatrick at Kingspan Breffni

Killygarry produced the first sizeable upset of the Senior Championship in its sixth match as they got the better of familiar rivals Gowna in this highly entertaining clash at HQ on Sunday evening.

The sides have met six times in the last seven years and this win for Killygarry ties the record at three wins apiece. There has rarely been much between them – last year, Gowna won by a point – and that was the case again here as the sides matched each other most of the way before a brilliant goal from teenager Darragh Lovett put some daylight between them.

Lovett scored 1-2 on his Senior Championship debut but the star of the show was Conor Smith, who turned in a virtuoso performance, scoring 1-6 and directly involved in 2-9.

Gowna had their own young star up front, too, in Daire Madden, who was excellent on his debut, keeping his team in the match at times with superb free-taking as well as coming up with the late goal which brought Gowna back into it and ensured a nervy finale.

Daire Madden opened the scoring with the first of his five frees after Paddy Galligan was adjudged to have handled the ball on the ground. Galligan’s opposite number, Ronan Bannon was called into action moments later when he saved smartly from Smith at the expense of a 45, which the Killygarry attacker converted.

Gowna were pushing high up the field and over the course of the hour, the tactic failed; Killygarry were able to bypass the press, using the kickpass well, particularly from Martin Reilly.

Reilly picked out Smith who laid on for Lovett to point off the left after five minutes but Gowna would fire over four points in succession in the next nine minutes.

Conor Brady, with a huge effort from the wing, got them going. Daire Madden nailed a 40-metre free and Cian Madden bombed one over from long distance. When Fionán Brady strode forward to score, Gowna were in command.

Smith had a free for Killygarry and then, on 21 minutes, the game was turned on its head. Cian Reilly, who was hampered by injury, drove out of defence and found Reilly; his long ball to Smith wasn’t dealt with and the inside forward buried the ball to the roof of the net.

From the next attack, Martin Reilly hooked over a point and when Smith slotted over his second 45, Killygarry found themselves holding a useful three-point lead at half-time, 1-5 to 0-5.

A super strike from Daire Madden opened the second-half scoring; Ryan Brady tacked one on but Killygarry responded well with a Daniel Walsh point after a well-worked move up the left wing.

Madden (free) and Smith traded scores as Oisin Brady began to exert major influence for Killygarry.

Madden, with another difficult free, made it a one-point game but 18-year-old Lovett, who had been fairly well held by county U20 teammate Eoghan Hartin to that point, rounded his man and pointed with the right in reply.

Back came Gowna as Robbie Fitzpatrick fisted over from a long Ryan Donohoe delivery and a lovely free from sub Oisin Pierson just before the water break levelled matters at 1-8 to 0-11.

With 12 minutes to go, Gowna hit the front when corner-back Cormac Brady sent over a left-footed point but Killygarry came roaring back when Smith, in the right corner, found Lovett and the youngster sent a quite brilliant finish to the top corner of the net from a tight angle.

After a foul on Smith, Oisin Brady converted a free. There followed seven scoreless minutes as the intensity was ramped up and players all over the field threw themselves into collisions. Killygarry have struggled to close out tight matches in the last couple of years and their cause wasn’t helped when they lost defender Daryl McKenna to a black card.

But a 47-metre free off the ground from Smith settled the nerves and left them four points up on 59 minutes.

Only a goal would do for Gowna and they got it – a high ball in caused panic and Daire Madden pounced with a poacher’s finish to the bottom corner.

With three minutes of injury time remaining, Killygarry began to play keep-ball in their own half, a dangerous game at the best of times, but they did it well and when they broke forward, they won a free which Smith sent over from the deck from 50 metres.

Gowna pressed but Killygarry held on for a deserved victory which should give them a huge surge of confidence after a couple of years in which they under-performed. For Gowna, the defeat is setback but the championship is a marathon, not a sprint, and it could be a blessing in disguise; twice in the last 12 years, a team has lost the first game and claimed the Oliver Plunkett Cup.

Gowna: Ronan Bannon, Cormac Brady (0-1), Mark McKeever, James Madden, Fionán Brady (0-1), Ryan Brady (0-1), Tiarnan Madden, Ryan Donohoe, Conor Brady (0-1), Robbie Fitzpatrick (0-1), Eoghan Hartin, Cian Madden (0-1), Aaron Brady, Daire Madden (1-5, 5f), Conor Casey

Subs: Oisin Pierson (0-1f) for J Madden (ht), Oisin Fleming for C Casey (47)

Killygarry: Paddy Galligan, Cian Reilly, Conor Connolly, Daryl Dunne, Daryl McKenna, Conor Bates, Darragh Kennedy, Mattie McKenna, Daniel Walsh (0-1), Ross Sheridan, Martin Reilly (0-1), Marc McDermott, Darragh Lovett (1-2), Oisin Brady (0-1f), Conor Smith (1-6, 3f, two 45s)

Subs: Kevin Lovett for D Dunne (38 mins), Ben Mooney for M McDermott (42), David Talbot for C Reilly (47), Enda Gallen for R Sheridan (50)

Ref: Maggie Farrelly