Celts produce the goods to see off the Saints

Intermediate Football Championship quarter-final

Cootehill Celtic 5-13

Templeport 0-5

Kevin Óg Carney at Kingspan Breffni

Improving Cootehill coasted their way into the semi-finals of this year’s IFC with a highly impressive display in miserable conditions at Kingspan Breffni on Sunday afternoon last.

In avenging their championship defeat (1-18 to 0-13) to Templeport last month (and engineering a 31-point turnaround in the process) Cootehill played their best championship football in several seasons and put down a real marker in the battle for this year’s title.

As good as the Celts were, their opponents never raised a gallop and were a pale shadow of the squad that had enjoyed an unbeaten run of 18 competitive games (up until two weeks ago when they lost to Killinkere) in recent months.

The 2020 JFC title winners simply weren’t at the races, losing out in every sector of the field for all but fleeting minutes. The team lacked as much last Sunday as they packed in their armoury during their aforementioned glorious championship triumph and in its aftermath.

Even allowing for the fact that two black cards for the Saints gave Cootehill leg-ups they scarcely needed, Templeport disappointed greatly and will surely struggle to find even a scintilla of material from their display with which to manufacture a silver lining.

Ironically, Templeport were up to speed to a degree in the embryonic stages of the match and actually won their fair share of the battles early on in the process of going 0-2 to 0-1 in front after 11 minutes with Liam Galligan and Conor Galligan (free) on target.

Ominously though, Cootehill exhibited a cutting edge way beyond what the Saints had to offer to the point where they looked nailed-down certs to carry off the spoils of war with over half of the game left to play.

The Celts’ superior efficiency at the business end of the field was glaringly obvious and a swift interchange between Dean Connolly, Shane Sexton and Enda Hessin in the 18th minute ended with the latter hoisting the Hoops into a 0-3 to 0-2 lead.

The men from the west of the county looked increasingly vulnerable and once Jamie Smith took advantage of good work by Cillian McGahan to rattle the net from point blank range in the 21st minute, the beginning of the end for Templeport was in place.

Cootehill’s confidence was almost visible as they smelled another goal in the 23rd minute when Shane Sexton’s fist pass across the square had McGahan’s name on it but Sean Dolan intercepted well and the danger was alleviated, albeit temporarily.

Templeport’s penchant for formulating slow, methodical and lateral attacks was right into Cootehill’s lap and saw them become increasingly frustrated. But in their best move of the half, Eoin McCaffrey notched an over-the-shoulder point (24) which marked their first score in nearly 13 minutes.

The gulf in form between the teams became all the more stark the longer the game went on. A significant upset was all but complete by the time the Celts struck gold again on the half-hour mark.

A crucial interception on his own 13 metre line by Sean O’Connor started the move which saw Shane Sexton float an inviting fisted pass across the Templeport square for the in-running Cian Farrelly to palm to the net and leave the town team ahead by 2-5 to 0-3 at the interval.

Templeport seemed to have a bit more zest in their boots as the second half got underway but a black card for Naoise McKenna just two minutes after the restart was another blow to their apparently dying cause.

Even with just 10 minutes played of the second half Templeport looked badly in need of a goal but, instead, they had to suffer the loss of the black carded (43) Sean Dolan and then Conor Galligan had a half-chance to find the Cootehill net in the 50th minute but he sliced his shot off the ground and it went harmlessly wide of a packed Cootehill goal.

From a long, long way out from the finishing line, it became a case of death by a thousand cuts for Templeport after Eoghan Doonan’s free (36) heralded the first score of the second half but, more crucially, Templeport’s second last score of the day.

Despite their cushioned lead, Cootehill remained pro-active in making ground into the opposition half and they again hit the jackpot in the 43rd minute when John McCutcheon and Dean Connolly’s spadework was polished off with a goal by Jamie Smith to make it 3-7 to 0-5.

And to rub salt into Templeport’s gaping wound, they had Sean Dolan black carded for a late tackle in the run-up to Smith’s major.

When Cian Farrelly palmed home his second goal (48) – after good foraging by Cillian McGahan – it was all over bar the shouting with Cootehill leading by 4-10 to 0-5.

Templeport couldn’t conjure up anything going forward with their play too slow, too lateral and too predictable to make for even a thorn in the side of a confident Cootehill backline.

Some classic points by Hessin and Dermie Connolly went on to garland the scoreboard even more in green and white. A Sexton goal (53) added to Templeport’s unscripted woes and only for a tremendous save by Donal Maguire in added-on time, Cootehill’s winning margin would have been even more spectacular.

Cootehill Celtic: Ryan Carroll Cian Maguire, Sean O’Connor, Ben McGahan; Rian Delaney, John McCutcheon (0-1, f, Dean Connolly (0-2); Cian Farrelly (2-0), Dermie Connolly (0-1); Cian Smith, Shane Sexton (1-4 2f), Jamie Smith (2-1); Kian Cooper, Enda Hessin (0-3, 1f), Cillian McGahan (0-1).

Subs; Stevie O’Connor for K Cooper; Mark Mullen (0-1) for C Smith; John Carney for C McGahan; Eli Argue for J Smith; Alan Curran for C Maguire.

Templeport: Donal Maguire; Liam Bannon, Sean Dolan, Oran Duffy; Dillon Raythorne, Benjamin Kelly, Liam McAweeney; Eoghan Martin, Gavin Donohoe, James Rudden, Eoin Doonan (0-2,2f), Naoise McKenna; Conor Galligan (0-1, f), Eoin McCaffrey (0-1), Liam Galligan (0-1).

Subs; James Murphy for L McAweeney; Jack Kelly for N McKenna; Darragh O’Shea for L Bannon; Colin Edwards for J Rudden.

Ref: Paddy Clarke