at Kingspan Breffni Park
Killygarry got their championship campaign off to a winning start with a well-deserved victory over a misfiring Crosserlough at Kingspan Breffni Park last Friday evening.
While only three points separated the sides by the end, that margin flattered the Lough, who had trailed by nine, 1-10 to 0-4, with 18 minutes remaining before finishing strongly, with Ciaran O'Reilly's side panicking a little on the home stretch while never really looking in any danger.
It was a decent performance all round from Ciaran O'Reilly's side.
The spine of the team – Patrick Galligan, Padraig Cahill, Michael McGovern, Donal Thomas, Martin Reilly, Andy McGovern and Cathal Keaney - has been in place for the last decade and was supplemented in recent years by the emergence of the likes of Ross Sheridan, Brendan Murray and Daryl McKenna.
And, in the past year, Mattie McKenna and Brian Sheanon have broken into the side and are useful additions, as they showed here against a Crosserlough team littered with teenagers including debutants Stephen Smith and Patrick O'Reilly, Pierce Smith, Darren Gaffney and Shane McManus.
Seamus Donohoe's men made a good fist of things early on and were in front after six minutes when Enda Gaffney added to Barry McKiernan's early point.
Keaney had opened Killygarry's account with a free in the third minute and they added two more from Sheanon and Reilly – from 40 metres off the ground – to take the lead for the first time.
And they didn't look back. Another Sheanon free, after a late hit on Sheridan, doubled their lead.
Back came Crosserlough with a fine point from Adrian Smith, who kept his composure after kicking a wide moments earlier, but at the other end, Donal Thomas was showing very well and he was involved as Keaney added a free.
Crosserlough replied again through Barry McKiernan, who nailed a tricky free, to cut to gap to the odd point in nine but that would be their last score for 22 minutes as Killygarry took charge.
A good point from Michael McGovern was followed by a sweet 45-metre free from the ground from Reilly and when Thomas took a pass from Sheanon and sent over a great strike – the last kick of the half – they were going in 0-8 to 0-4 ahead and well in control, with veteran Andy McGovern superb.
They continued in the same vein on the restart. Reilly nailed a 45 and Thomas, out in front, tacked on another from play before the score which ended the match as a contest.
A powerful run from Sheanon created the chance and Conor Bates fisted across the face of goal where Brendan Murray rose highest to palm the ball past Ciaran Galligan and into the net. Suddenly, there were nine between the sides and Crosserlough were misfiring in attack, having kicked three successive wides.
They finally got off the mark in the 44th minute with a free from McKiernan before defender Shane McManus landed an excellent left-footed point, his last involvement before being substituted.
The tide was slowly turning and Killygarry's cause wasn't helped when Daryl McKenna picked up a second booking with 10 minutes to play. McKiernan converted a difficult free from long range to cut the gap to seven and although Sheanon replied with a terrific free of his own, Crosserlough came roaring back moments later.
A spinning ball over the top from Crowe was gathered by McKiernan, who seemed to miskick as he swivelled and the ball slid under Killygarry goalkeeper Paddy Galligan and into the net. Now there was just four points between them and Crosserlough sensed they had a chance against the 14 men.
McKiernan sent over another point from a free as Crosserlough poured forward but they lacked a cutting edge inside and poor shooting and decision-making put paid to their chances.
With time almost up, Darren Gaffney also picked up a second booking and try as they might, Crosserlough couldn't conjure another score.
Finally, deep in the fourth minute of injury time, the final whistle sounded and Killygarry breathed a sigh of relief. They were the better side for the majority of the match but they will know that more is needed if they are to advance, as they have consistently in recent years, to the latter stages of the championship.
A win, though, was all that mattered – and that was secured.
Killygarry: Paddy Galligan; Conor Connelly, Padraig Cahill, Conor Bates; Michael McGovern (0-1), Daryl McKenna, Ross Sheridan; Brendan Murray (1-0), Ryan Brady; Andy McGovern, Mattie McKenna, Martin Reilly (0-3, 2f, 1 45); Brian Sheanon (0-3, 3f), Donal Thomas (0-2), Cathal Keaney (0-2, 2f). Subs: Fintan Galligan for C Keaney (47mins), Andy O’Brien for C Bates (49).
Crosserlough: Ciaran Galligan; Paddy O’Reilly, Colin Lynch, Jarlath O’Reilly; Shane McManus (0-1), Declan McCabe, Kevin Smith; Jonathan Crowe, Tomas McEvoy; Pierce Smith, Adrian Smith (0-1), Stephen Smith; Barry McKiernan (1-5, 5f), Enda Gaffney (0-1), Darren Gaffney. Subs: Conor Rehill for S McManus (46mins), Conor Rehill for K Smith (50), Mark Lynch for D McCabe (54), Eoin Cusack for D Gaffney (60).
Ref: Conor Dourneen (Ballinagh)