By Mark Jones
Crossmolina (Mayo) 1-8, Bellaghy (Derry) 0-7
Not a major shock, but still a surprise as Crossmolina qualified for their first-ever All-Ireland club football final at Enniskillen last Sunday. Bellaghy had gone into the game as favorites, and delivered a watery performance that was at least two notches below their best.
Their opponents’ failings had no bearing on Crossmolina’s determination to make up for last season when Na Fianna of Dublin beat them at the semifinal stage. They grafted, they battled and they grabbed an opportunistic goal through wing back Patrick McAndrew in the 24th minute which set them on course for victory.
McAndrew’s score, which was as much the product of sloppy defending by Bellaghy as anything else, and it meant that the Derry champions were chasing the game from then on. Three sweetly taken points from play by Gavin Diamond saw them reduce the lead to two with just 10 minutes left, but Crossmolina had already introduced Kieran McDonald from the bench and the Mayo attacker gave his team some breathing space with the last two scores of the game.
"Maybe it wasn’t a great game of football," said Crossmolina manager, Tom Jordan, "but we never depended on one man or two; we’re a team, we’re well balanced."
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As for Bellaghy, they were never able to find the form that had served them so well during the Ulster campaign. Frees were given away needlessly and attacks foundered amid indecision.
"We’ve no excuses whatsoever," said captain Ciaran McNally. "They deserved to beat us. The Ulster final was impressive, but before that we had been struggling. I don’t know, I’m lost for words."
Michael Moyles performed well in midfield for the winners, while Enda Lavelle and Liam Moffatt were impressive in attack. If Diamond took some valuable scores, he was also guilty of wayward shooting, and when Danny Quinn was brought for Bellaghy at full forward, he received precious little service.
Nemo Rangers (Cork) 0-12, O’Hanrahan’s (Carlow) 1-7
The aristocrats of club football are through to another All-Ireland final on St Patick’s Day when they’ll do battle with Crossmolina, but last Sunday’s passage at Clonmel was far from smooth. After Nemo captain Larry Kavanagh was sent off, O’Hanrahan’s came back from a six-point deficit to set up a nerve tingling finish.
The fact that the Carlow champions ran out of time was largely due the scoring exploits of Colin Corkery, who engineered Nemo’s appearance in a record eighth final with a superb exhibiiton of freetaking. Five frees in the first half, and seven in all, Corkery punished O’Hanrahan’s indiscretions remorselessly.
So much so that it was 0-9 to 1-1 at the break as O’Hanrahan’s paid the price for a nervy opening quarter. Not even a goal by Anthony Kavanagh, who capitalized on an excellent long ball from Mark Carpenter was enough to inspire them. However, when Larry Kavanagh was dubiously sent off for retaliating to a shove, O’Hanrahan’s sensed an opportunity.
Gavin Walker and Pa Kavanagh reduced the gap, but the overbearing feeling was that the eventual losers would need a second goal. Nemo, meanwhile, were patient and Corkery fired over his seventh free and David Niblock added another.
"Overall, I’m happy with the result," said Nemo’s manager, Billy Morgan. "We could have been beaten, yet I wasn’t really panicking at the end. As for Larry Kavanagh [whose supension could rule him out of the final], he’s one of the quietest players there is. He’s hardly ever been booked."