Impressive Gaels minors end 13-year wait for title

Minor Football Championship Division 1 final

Cavan Gaels 1-9

Mullahoran 0-6

Paul Fitzpatrick at Kingspan Breffni

Cavan Gaels ended a 13-year wait for the Minor Championship title with this deserved win over Mullahoran in Sunday’s decider, which was the curtain-raiser to the Senior Championship final.

Mullahoran, who defeated Kingscourt Stars in the semi-final, came into this match unbeaten all year, having also won the Division 1 Minor League, but an outstanding Cavan Gaels side, who dismissed Killygarry in the penultimate round, were many people’s favourites, meaning an exceptional contest was promised.

However, the game turned out to be quite one-sided as Cavan Gaels opened a nine-point half-time lead and while the scores dried up after the break and Mullahoran battled gallantly and made some inroads, the Terry Coyle Park lads were able to keep them at arm’s length.

Cavan Gaels controlled the first half, which is where the game was won. Working extremely hard and pressing Mullahoran high up the field, the town side forced numerous turnovers and moved the ball at pace when they did, resulting in a lot of chances in the scoring zone.

The Gaels played a lovely brand of football, with fast ball-carriers and clever kickers of the ball in the middle third. While the Dreadnoughts opened the scoring with a nice left-footed point from midfielder Tadhg Sheils, the Gaels would put together a run of 1-7 unanswered to go in at half-time holding an unassailable nine-point lead.

Michael Monaghan looks to get away from the tackle of Tadhg Shiels. Photo by Adrian Donohoe Photography 0863716199

Ben Tully picked out Jakub Jaskiewicz for a well-taken mark after five minutes, with the game being played at a frantic early pace.

The Gaels doubled their lead when the outstanding Joshua Shehu showed his pace by tearing through the centre and laying off for Finn Crowe to fist over. Shehu added a free after being fouled himself, again showing tremendous acceleration, and then pointed on the turn after a rapid counter-attack to make it 0-4 to 0-1 on 11 minutes.

A well-taken 25-metre point from play by Michael Monaghan extended the Gaels’ lead as Mullahoran, who looked a little nervous and couldn’t make the ball stick up front, began to register some wides (they had six in total in the first half).

The key score of the half arrived in the 18th minute when Tully sent a good ball over the top and Finn Crowe grabbed it, turned sharply and stroked home to the bottom corner.

That left seven between the sides, 1-5 to 0-1, and a Tully free on 23 minutes extended Cavan Gaels’ lead.

A Ben Tully free was followed by a similar effort from Finn Crowe, after Tully forced a turnover, to make it 1-7 to 0-1.

Mullahoran were glad to hear the half-time whistle and they got off to a great start in the second half when Dylan Brady found Conor Sharpe, who kicked a lovely score.

Sub Kian Lynch, who was very good on his introduction, picked up a short free and stroked over an excellent score as Mullahoran, who last won this title in 1993, grew in confidence and cut the gap to seven.

But Cavan Gaels weren’t panicking and Man of the Match Shehu sent over a super point on the run.

Mullahoran badly needed a goal and almost got it when a shot dropped short and fell to Dylan Brady but his effort went over the bar. They pressed again but Tiarnan Flood was felled as he drove through and Ultan O’Reilly sent over the resulting free to make it 1-8 to 0-5 with 20 minutes remaining.

Again, though, it was Shehu who mustered up a response. He went on a mazy run and added a finish to match as the Gaels restored their seven-point lead.

Mullahoran pressed again and Ultan O’Reilly converted a free after a foul on Francis Comaskey but they couldn’t get any closer as Cavan Gaels ran out six-point winners.

Mullahoran will be disappointed with their overall showing on the day but still had some good performances from the likes of Oisin Maguire, Tiarnan Flood and Tadhg Sheils among others.

For the winners, there were strong performers all over the pitch. Joshua Shehu was outstanding, with his county minor colleague Ben Tully orchestrating a lot of positive play around the middle. Full-back Conor Doyle was rock solid, with Finn Crowe impressing at full-forward in an all-around quality performance from Ed O’Hanlon’s charges.

Cavan Gaels: Emiliano Vennetilli, Daniel Somers, Conor Doyle, Eivanas Griksas, Ciaran Galligan, Bobby Hanly, Martin Anthony Quinn McDonagh, Ben Tully (0-1f), Michael Monaghan (0-1), Cormac Crotty, Joshua Shehu (0-4, 1f), Daniel Olude, Jakub Jaskiewicz (0-1), Finn Crowe (1-2, 1f), Josh Dunne

Subs: Marcel Holko for D Olude (41), Simon Kolimar for C Crotty (45), Samuel Clarke for J Dunne (57), D Olude for C Galligan (60)

Mullahoran: Senan Briody, Tiarnan Flood, Oisin Maguire, Aaron Plunkett, Cameron Sheridan, Luke Maguire, Matthew Brennan, Tadhg Sheils (0-1), Shane O’Sullivan, Daniel Smith, Conor Plunkett, Francis Comaskey, Dylan Brady (0-1), Ultan O’Reilly (0-2f), Conor Sharpe (0-1)

Subs: Kian Lynch (0-1) for C Plunkett (22), Emmett O’Reilly for M Brennan (35), John Donohoe for D Smith (45), Fionn Higgins for L Maguire (60)

Ref: James Clarke.