Bank of Ireland U21 Club Football Paddy McLarnon Cup Semi-Final
Erin’s Own Lavey (Derry) 3-7 Southern Gaels (Cavan) 0-9
By Brendan McTaggart
As the old saying goes, it doesn’t matter about the size of the dog in the fight, it’s about the size of the fight in the dog. Derry champions Lavey produced a polished performance on Sunday afternoon to overcome the challenge of Southern Gaels, defying the odds in a tenacious performance. The Cavan champions came into the match carrying the favourites tag having accounted for Crossmaglen in their quarter-final in a bruising contest and were tipped to do the same again, but Lavey brought their brand of fast, free flowing, attacking football and left Southern Gaels chasing shadows.
With Hugh McGurk once again producing a near perfect performance as sweeper and Thomas Donnelly taking his tournament tally to 2-11, scoring 1-5 on the day, it was centre half Eamon McGill who led the Lavey charge. Even when Southern Gaels threatened to derail the Lavey train in the early stages, McGill was instrumental in helping his side find a footing in the semi-final.
Goals proved to be the difference and but for a superb performance from Jimmy Smith between the sticks for the Cavan champions, it could have been an even more comprehensive victory for the Lavey men. Four times he defied the Oakleaf side in the first half while twice after half time he kept his side’s fading championship hopes alive. It wasn’t enough though as Lavey produced the goods when it mattered most in the second half to book a spot in the Paddy McLarnon Cup final.
The Derry men made a dream start to the semi-final when they scored the first goal of the contest with just 50 seconds on the clock. Fintan Bradley supplying the pass for Peter Rafferty before the Lavey man hit the back of the net. A dream start, but they would remain scoreless for the 15 minutes that followed as Southern Gaels took control. With the Cavan men dominating the midfield exchanges, they were able to keep the Lavey defence under immense pressure although they would rely on the ability of Smith in goals to keep their momentum in tack. Cian Madden (free), Oisin Pierson, Robert Fitzpatrick and Paul Leddy raised white flags to give Southern Gaels the lead by the ninth minute but already Smith had denied Bradley and Oran Downey.
Fintan Bradley scored Lavey’s first point of the match in the 16th minute before Donnelly brought the best out of Smith shortly after, Bradley pointing the ’45 from that resulted in Smith’s save to give Lavey the lead once again.
Southern Gael’s were dancing a fine line with their tackles and the legality of their challenges and they were reduced to 14 men after 20 minutes when Killian Galligan saw red for a strike on Oran Downey. It gave Lavey the advantage but a free from Madden and Fitzpatrick either side of Donnelly’s first free of the match meant the sides were tied going into the interval, 1-3 to 0-6.
The opening exchanges were going to be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the semi-final. Could Lavey adapt to playing against 14 men and could Southern Gaels find the levels of discipline required to play with a men less. After 10 minutes of the second half, we had our answer emphatically. Smith was once again the Southern Gaels hero when he denied Hugh McGurk with a superb stop but a Donnelly free gave Lavey the lead once again in the 34th minute.
Southern Gaels had gone man for man, trusting in their footballing ability to deal with the Lavey challenge but their best laid plans were cast asunder by the 39th minute. Lavey scored their second and third goals of the contest to all but send the Derry champions into the decider.
Both had more than a hint of fortune, but it was nothing less than the Lavey efforts deserved. The first came when Donnelly fired for a point from range. His effort dropped short and Bradley, the creator of the first goal, was on hand to punch the ball to the back of the net. Cian Madden replied with a free to cut the lead to three points but the third Lavey goal came with the next attack. Donnelly adding to his tally but the young Lavey attacker would be the first to tell you he was going for a point from 45 yards, only for the ball to drop behind Smith to the back of the net.
It was going to take a monumental effort from Southern Gaels to get anything from the match but Lavey were in no mood to capitulate. Shea Downey, Dara, McGill and Conor Mulholland helped Lavey to stay in control as they built on their advantage. Donnelly scored his third and fourth points of the match either side of a Conor Brady point but it wasn’t enough for the Cavan men. They needed goals to get back into the game and the Lavey defence wasn’t gifting any chances.
Donnelly added his fifth point of the contest in the 46th minute to increase the Lavey lead to eight points and although it was the last score of the match, their second half assault on the Southern Gaels goals was enough. The Gaels challenge was further hindered when Paul Leddy was given a second yellow card in the 55th minute, reducing his side to 13 men but with Lavey happy to concede possession and counter, the closing stages were a formality.
The Cavan men couldn’t find penetration in the Lavey defence with a Conor Brady point in the 58th minute all they could muster. A disappointing end to a promising campaign for the Gaels but for Lavey the fairy tale continues.
Lavey: Eoin Mulholland; Aidan Toner; Conor Mulholland; Kevin Toner; Ruairi McGurk; Eamon McGill; James Crawford; Brendan Laverty; Dara McPeake; Oran Downey; Hugh McGurk; Peter Rafferty (1-00); Thomas Donnelly (1-5, 3 f’s); Shea Downey; Fintan Bradley (1-2, 1 ’45)
Subs: Ciaran Hendry for Peter Rafferty (52 mins); Raymond Duggan for Oran Downey (59 mins)
Southern Gaels: Jimmy Smith; Peter Galligan; David Wilson; Daryl Buckley; Aodhan Halton; Shane Moynagh; Ryan Madden; Conor Brady; Killian Galligan; Cian Madden; Paul Leddy; Ryan Coyle; Oisin Pierson; Aaron Reilly; Robert Fitzpatrick
Subs: Thomas Galligan for Aaron Reilly (HT); Conor Halton for Peter Galligan (45 mins); Paudie Donohue for Ryan Coyle (52 mins)
Ref: Karol Doherty (Rasharkin)
Report and photos provided by The Saffron Gael.
Report and photos provided by The Saffron Gael.