By Mike Fitzpatrick
Rockland 2-10, Monaghan 0-13
An incredible game of football eventually won by the lads from Rockland had the crowd at Gaelic Park on the edge of their seat Sunday.
A somewhat subdued performance from the Monaghan midfield after the break contributed to their demise, with perhaps their most consistent performer of the season, Paul McGlynn, being marked practically out of the game. This resulted from a clever tactical maneuver on the part of the Rockland management. Before the break, McGlynn had been scoring frequently and winning almost every ball that came near him. There was a distinct air of perhaps intimidation on behalf of the Rockland switch, which some would have declared a decidedly sneaky move, but one that proved remarkably successful. By bringing on subs Brendan Tumulty and Ray Falvey, Rockland gained more possession of the ball and Monaghan’s McGlynn became more of a supporting player, rather than the out-and-out star of midfield he has been in recent weeks. Scoring four points in the first half himself and involved in a move that bore fruition in the form of Mickey McEntee getting in on the scoring, Monaghan looked a good bet to take this title home with them.
Then Rockland’s Tom Fennell decided enough was enough. Bearing a slight resemblance to the young Alexei Lalas of U.S.’ much maligned soccer squad, Fennell scored a couple of points before grabbing a fantastic goal. Fennell involved himself in a move that seemed to conjure up out of nothing, rifling the ball into the bottom right-hand corner of Monaghan’s net, before running off on the most elaborate celebration run seen in Gaelic Park in quite a while.
Monaghan kept plugging away, and Paul Curran scored what seemed like the cleverest point of the day. After dummying a move with Stephen Rush, the Rockland defense were caught off guard when they seemed to think it was Rush who had the ball, and Curran fired over for a point. At halftime the score stood at 1-9 to 0-10 in favor of Rockland.
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Monaghan were extremely unlucky throughout, though, with the Rockland defense caught napping. Declan Hackett found the ball at his feet only yards in front of goal and, in attempting to back heel it in, he found it unexpectedly booted away and out of the danger zone. With both Rockland subs playing out of their skin, Tumulty continuing to hound Paul McGlynn and Falvey scoring a point, Tom Fennell decided enough was enough and went on a surging run from midfield to hammer the ball home and again in a celebratory run which would not have looked out of place in a Brazilian soccer stadium. The crowd got behind Rockland and Fennell in particular, and it was after this that things really stormed up.
Monaghan, to their credit, did not lie down, Colm McElearney scored a point, and McGlynn got another. In the last few minutes, Monaghan sub Duane McAleer scored what seemed to be a goal until it was adjudged that there had been a foul called on its journey into the net. Brendan O’Flynn and Jimmy McGovern each scored a point for Rockland and McAleaney and Clerkin replied for Monaghan, but it was all too late. A defiant performance by Monaghan proved to be insufficient, and Rockland were crowned Junior Football B champions for the first time in their history.
Monaghan scorers: Ger McGrinder, Carl Campbell, Pat Brosnan, Paul McCormack, David Hurson, Marty Hanley, Brendan McCormack, Bernard Treanor, Paul McGlynn (1-7), Mickey McEntee (0-2), Colm McElearney (0-2), Stephen Rush, Declan Hackett, Paul Curran (0-1), Paul Treanor. Subs: Duane McAleer, Ciaran Clerkin (0-1), Sean Carbon.
Rockland: Tom Furlong, Martin O’Flynn, Paul Rowley, Sean Sorohan, Pat York, Fintan Owens, Brendan O’Flynn (0-1), Peter McGovern, Jimmy O’Flynn (0-2), Jimmy McGovern (0-2), Richie Galvin, Tom Fennell (2-3), Pat Higgins, Shane Durkan, Kevin Rafter (0-1). Subs: Brendan Tumulty, Ray Falvey (0-1).