Hat-trick for McGovern as Gaels march into semis again

Junior Football Championship quarter-final

Shannon Gaels 4-12

Mountnugent 0-13

Paul Fitzpatrick at Kingspan Breffni

Pre-match, this, the first of the JFC quarter-finals, was expected to be competitive but there was no doubt who the better side were as Shannon Gaels stormed into the semi-finals with an emphatic victory this afternoon.

Tactically, the winners got things perfect; they defended in numbers – this was a fifth clean sheet in succession – and at the other end, they exploited the acres of space in front of the Mountnugent goal, with Caoimhan McGovern finishing with a very impressive 3-4.

Shannon Gaels have been consistent in the Junior Championship – in the previous seven seasons, they made four semi-finals and one final and were beaten by one point and three points in two quarter-finals, including last year when they gave a great account of themselves against a strong Arva side.

In the opposite corner, Mountnugent’s record had been inferior, including a very heavy loss to Drumlane in last year’s quarter-final and failure to progress from the group in 2020. Against that, Declan Beard’s side showed good form in the league this year, taking Denn to a replay in the semi-final and beating Corlough, Redhills and Swanlinbar in the championship group stages.

On the day, though, Mountnugent were second best by a distance.

The Gaels lead by six at half-time after rattling in three goals in a frenetic first half. The match began at breakneck pace and that tempo didn’t relent in the first half as both sides, while filtering bodies back, looked to inject pace into their attacks.

It led to a very entertaining spectacle but Mountnugent will rue the space they left at the back as Shannon Gaels repeatedly punished them.

The Gaels’s delivery of ball with the foot was impressive and much better than in their previous outing against Arva. Goalkeeper Nevin O’Donnell teed Caoimhan McGovern up for the opener from a tight angle and that set the tone.

The resulting kick-out was intercepted and Shane Walsh, on his first start having spent the summer in America, side-footed home spectacularly from outside the 20-metre line.

Aidan O’Brien opened Mountnugent’s account and Adam Rehill, who was in brilliant form, curled in the first of four quality first-half points.

Rehill scored again after a good ball from the lively David Sheridan but the Gaels struck gold again when a brilliant pass from Donall Flanagan found McGovern, who side-stepped the last defender and tucked away.

Two O’Donnell frees were followed by another gem from Rehill and a 40-metre mark by Sheridan but scores from O’Donnell (free) and McGovern made it 2-5 to 0-5 on 25 minutes.

Two Craig Mullen frees dragged Mountnugent closer but the Gaels cut them open down the centre again, McGovern playing a couple of one-twos before palming in his second goal.

Rehill had the final say of the second half with a lovely score on the loop and there was renewed hope for Mountnugent when they dominated the first 10 minutes of the second half, Rehill and Josh O’Reilly (45-metre free off the ground) registering.

But the west Cavanmen weathered the storm and a nonchalant McGovern point and one for his county colleague Jason McLoughlin nudged them seven in front again.

In the closing stages, as Mountnugent chased the game, the Gaels hit them on the break several times and could have added a few more goals.

Mullen added a free but Shannon Gaels were full of confidence and James Maguire pointed after a stylish dummy.

The fourth goal was superb, O’Donnell finding McGovern with an inch-perfect 25-metre fist pass and the attacker burying the ball in the roof of the net to complete his hat-trick.

Ned Brunton and Rehill landed good points but the game was beyond Mountnugent at this stage and Shannon Gaels finished strongly with two well-taken Clive Moffit points and a languid effort from McGovern which dropped on to the roof of the net to round off a good day’s work for Bryan Bates’s men.

Shannon Gaels: Nevin O’Donnell (0-3f), Niall McGrath, Oisin Dolan, Gearoid Flanagan (0-1), Daniel Fitzpatrick, Jason McLoughlin (0-1), Sean McHugh, James Maguire (0-1), Shane Dolan, Kevin McGovern, Donall Flanagan, Billy O’Mahony, Shane Walsh (1-0), Caoimhan McGovern (3-4), Philip McGoldrick

Subs: Clive Moffit (0-2) for P McGoldrick (38), Ronan McCaffrey for B O’Mahony (43), Harry Moffit for S Walsh (54), Niall Higgins for D Fitzpatrick (60)

Mountnugent: Jonathan Givney, Christopher Drumm, Josh O’Reilly (0-1f), Eoin Campbell, Leo Campbell, Robert McCabe, Eoghan Smyth, Ramon Finnegan, Ciaran McCabe, Ned Brunton (0-1), David Sheridan (0-1m), Adam Rehill (0-6), Aidan O’Brien (0-1), Craig Mullen (0-3f), Owen Gibson

Subs: Ben Brunton for L Campbell (ht), Paddy Finnegan for C McCabe (50), Conor O’Brien for C Mullen (54)

Ref: Joe McQuillan