Heartbreak for Gowna with penalty shoot-out loss

Ulster Club SFC quarter-final

Gowna 2-14

Enniskillen Gaels 1-17


Enniskillen win 5-4 on penalties

Paul Fitzpatrick at Brewster Park

Cavan’s dreadful run in the Ulster Club Senior Football Championship continued as champions Gowna agonisingly bowed out in a penalty shoot-out against Enniskillen Gaels at Brewster Park this evening.

The visitors didn’t lead in normal time till the 62nd minute but went three clear in extra time and looked to be heading for the semi-final. However, the Gaels dug deep and forced the spot kicks and their shooting was impeccable, converting all five.

Gowna were lucky to be in touch at the midway point after turning in a lacklustre opening half hour. As it was, the kings of Cavan trailed by two points, 1-8 to 2-3, and were lucky to be that close.

Gowna’s penchant for goals has been well documented and it was that which kept them alive here; they got a couple of sniffs in the first half and showed a killer instinct to bury them.

Enniskillen started on the front foot, opening the scoring with a well-taken point from the lively Conor Love, who found himself in far too much space.

A long ball from Robbie Fitzpatrick was marked and converted by Conor Madden but after Ryan McGahern was swarmed coming out of defence, John Reihill knocked over a free at the other end.

Gowna began to look more like themselves when Cian Madden galloped 70 metres and found Conor Madden, who laid off for Robbie Fitzpatrick to clip over. Confidence up, they pinned Enniskillen back but they couldn’t make it count and disaster struck on 12 minutes when, from a home kick-out, the ball was worked to Callum Jones, who finished superbly to the bottom corner.

The goal seemed to rattle Gowna, who looked unsure of themselves and jittery, struggling particularly on kick-outs. Aaron Nolan dinked a nice ball over the top to create a move which ended with John Reihill palming over for what could very easily have been a goal.

That made it 1-3 to 0-2; Ryan Donohoe was then off target with a free but, as is their wont, Gowna were able to conjure a goal from nothing. Cormac Brady, Conor Casey and Tiarnan Madden combined to find TJ Fitzpatrick, who raced in from the right and planted the ball across the goalkeeper to the bottom corner, before immediately limping off injured.

That little cameo summed up the whole evening; while it was bitterly-contested, there was something unsatisfactory about it for the neutral, with both sides’ limitations more evident than their undoubted strengths.

John Reihill replied for the Gaels and Callum Jones added another as Gowna continued to look shaky. And then, from the ether, another major, garlanded in green and red. Conor and Cian Madden linked up and the latter squared the ball for Robbie Fitzpatrick to palm home at the back post.

Again, the Gaels responded well with a superb strike from Conor Watson. A Reihill free made it 1-8 to 2-2 before Mark McKeever, lining out in his first Ulster Club match since the loss to Enniskillen Gaels in 2002, curled over one of the best points of the game to leave two in it at the break.

Gowna were slow to re-emerge for the second half but when they did, they fired over a quick score from Conor Casey. A huge point from Callum Jones and a poacher’s effort from Conor Love sent Enniskillen three in front again but Gowna were hanging in there and, without hitting the heights they did at times in the latter stages of the county championship, they were still in the game.

A lovely point from Conor Madden and frees from Cian and Tiarnan Madden tied the game in the 46th minute. Love and Tiarnan Madden (free) traded scores before a melee erupted, with Conor Madden and Callum Jones handed red cards.

From the resulting throw-up, a free was awarded and Love nailed it but a well-taken Robbie Fitzpatrick point tied the game and Tiarnan Madden (free after a foul on Casey) gave Gowna the lead for the first time in the 62nd minute.

Back came the home side, though, with sub Eoin Beacom lofting over a sublime 45-metre free to force extra time.

Cian Madden (two frees) and Casey raised quickfire white flags in extra time but Enniskillen clawed it back, Love – who, along with Jonny Cassidy, was brilliant – pointing on the turn.

In the second half of extra time, Ethan Beresford and Daire Madden both registered but two points from Love, one free and one fabulous effort from play, forced stalemate again.

And, in the shoot-out, the Erne men were nerveless as they advanced to the last four.

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

Subs: Daire Madden (0-1) for TJ Fitzpatrick (17 mins), Oisin Pierson for A Brady (52), Raymond Keogh for R Fitzpatrick (60+4), Seanie Hartin, R Fitzpatrick for D Madden (78)

Enniskillen Gaels: Cian Newman, Patrick Reihill, Aaron Nolan, James Ferguson, Josh Horan, Jonathan Cassidy, Conor Watson (0-1), Brandon Horan, Richard O’Callaghan, Neil McDermott, Callum Jones (1-1, 1f), Conor McShea, Conor Love (0-8, 2f), Ryan McDonnell, John Reihill (0-4, 2f)

Subs: Ciaran Smith for C Watson, Conall Quinn for N McDermott (both 42 mins), Eoin Beacom (0-1f) for P Reihill (51), Ethan Beresford (0-1) for J Reihill (60), Patrick Cassidy for R McDonnell, Conor Murphy, John Reihill for B Horan (ht in et), Jack Tierney for J Ferguson (ht in et), Conor Watson for P Cassidy (80)

Ref: Niall McKenna (Monaghan)