Glen's Ethan Flanagan and Tiarnan Flanagan celebrate after the club's victory at Croke Park. [Inpho/James Crombie]

Glen's experience tells in cracking final

Glen’s experience tells in cracking semi

Glen (Derry) 1-11; Maigh Cuillinn (Galway) 0-12

Is there something in the Derry air this first month of ’23 that suggests Glen will become All Ireland club champions?

On Sunday at Croke Park, they showed a lot of football skill but also a tactical nous that in the end was the difference between themselves and an enthusiastic and ultra-energetic Galway team who, unfortunately, also showed their inexperience at this level by taking the wrong options at key moments in the game.

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This was a cracking game that oscillated back and forth between two committed team but there is no doubt that Glen always appeared to have that extra trump card available every time Maigh Cuilinn threatened to get back on terms.

Ultimately it was Tiarnan Flanagan's goal shortly after the resumption that decided the semi-final while Dessie Conneely will know that his missed free 10 minutes from time which would have cut the lead to the minimum was a momentum changer as immediately Glen went up the field and scored a point which felt like a bigger score in the circumstances.

Kilmacud Crokes will provide the ultimate test for the Derrymen on Sunday week and it will be interesting to see if they can get over their implosion against Kilcoo in last year’s final or if they have kicked on from there.

No Derry team has won the Andy Merrigan Cup in 21 years so it will be a major fillip for the county if Glen can emulate the feat of Ballinderry back in 2002.

Although the Ulster side settled better  by half-time the Galway boys had gotten used to their surroundings and when Conneely slotted over a free to make it 0-6 to 0-4 in Glen’s favor at the break, the expectancy was there for the battle right to the wire on the changeover.

And that is exactly what we got though it didn’t look that way when Flanagan managed to squeeze the ball home despite an initial brilliant save by Andy Power who was beaten at the second attempt.

Those who thought that was it as a contest had another thing coming with a defiant Niall Walsh point added to with a great score off the mark by Conneely.

 The fightback was on and when former county star Peter Cooke landed a majestic point to cut the margin to two, the western support in the crowd stirred with real anticipation.

However this was when Glen showed the difference between the two sides. They didn’t panic and when Conor Glass galloped from midfield to stick over a mighty score, it was if he was telling his teammates to calm down and get the job done.

So Glen regrouped in defense and made it hard for the Western side to get off their shots and then when the chance of a quick counter emerged, they were all over it with defenders Micheal Warnock and Cathal Mulholland getting up field to raise white flags and nullify similar scores off the dead ball by Conneely, who shot eight in all across his day’s work.

Owen Gallagher’s effort near the death meant there was only two points between the sides but it was a goal they needed to force extra time. That was never on against a defense so well marshaled by manager Malachy O’Rourke that Maigh cuilinn could have been there until dark night and still wouldn’t have got through.

Glen: C Bradley; R Dougan, C Mulholland (0-1), M Warnock (0-1); T Flanagan (1-0), C Carville, E Doherty (0-2); C Glass (0-1), E Bradley (0-3, 0-1f); E Mulholland, J Doherty, C Convery; C McGuckian, D Tallon (0-3, 0-2f), A Doherty Subs: C  McCabe for Convery (38), S O’Hara for A Doherty (53).

Maigh Cuilinn: A Power; C Corcoran, E Kelly, N Mulcahy; M O'Reilly, D Wynne, A Claffey, T Clarke, P Kelly; G Davoren, N Walsh (0-1), P Cooke (0-2); S Kelly; O Gallagher (0-1), D Conneely (0-8, 0-7f, 0-1m) Subs: F McDonagh for Walsh (53), C Bohan for P Kelly (58), D Cox for O’Reilly (59).

Ref: D Gough (Meath).

Last year’s losers to get 

another tilt at glory

Kilmacud Crokes (Dublin) 1-14; Kerins O’Rahillys (Kerry) 0-14

Kilmacud Crokes are something of a riddle as they contemplate their second successive All Ireland Club final in 11 months. Last February they had the game won in extra time before allowing Down side Kilcoo in for a late goal which saw defeat becoming their reality from the jaws of victory.

On Sunday in Croke Park, they were six to seven points the better team, yet inexplicably again found themselves hanging on as Kerry side Kerins O’Rahillys came looking for the goal that would have moved the game into extra time.

There was a huge relief from the Dublin dugout when the final whistle sounded and afterwards manager Robbie Brennan said time would tell if they can get over these moments or if fate would see them fall at the final moments for a second time in a row.

So it is a question of redemption or ridicule facing the south Dublin outfit as they prepared for the denouement against Derry’s finest at Croke Park on Sunday week.

There are positive signs on the horizons in victory for a team which according to Brennan didn’t really carry out his game plan of pressurizing and making themselves available to a competent level.

The fact is they were able to win with only the minimum contribution from their star player, Shane Walsh, the Galway All-Star forward. He scored a point from play, a massive effort admittedly and a free but aside from that his influence was at best sporadic. Maybe if  Luke Ward had to accept his gift of a goal, we would be saying something different but truth is the other Crokes forwards showed they have enough to get their side through even if Walsh is having an off day.

Another plus for the winners was the fact that Paul Mannion was listed among the subs and while he wasn’t called on to play, the fact that he was deemed fit enough to tog out will be a major advantage should the going get tough against the Derry men in the final.

Corner forward Hugh Kenny scored 1-2 in a Man of the Match performance while Dara Mullin was also bright and showed his team commitment by catching the last gasp effort by  the Kerry men to manufacture a goal in the dying seconds on his own goal-line before clearing to safety.

Shane Cunningham and Shane Horan and Cian O’Connor were all part of a scoring half-forward line in a team where nine men raised flags in the course of the hour.

And yet, with 10 minutes to go and Crokes cruising with a seven point lead, the implosion began to happen again. The side that had been dominant in defense suddenly began to leak points at a furious rate as Jack Savage orchestrated a comeback following Shane Foley’s point blank save at the other end from Ward’s left footed shot that appeared destined for the back of the net.

Indeed you wouldn’t have bet against another dramatic finish when Savage expertly curled a last free into the square but big midfielder David Moran's fisted effort was safely dealt with by Mullin. This meant that Crokes now the distinction of going five games without conceding a goal and credit must go to the cohesiveness of the entire defensive unit and in particular 18 year old full-back Theo Clancy who held Tommy Walsh to a solitary point in the course of the 60 minutes plus added time.

Kilmacud Crokes: C Ferris; D O'Brien, T Clancy, M Mullin; A McGowan, R O'Carroll, A Jones (0-2); B Shovlin, C Dias (0-1); S Horan (0-1), S Walsh (0-2, 0-1f), C O'Connor (0-1); H Kenny (1-2), S Cunningham (0-2), D Mullin (0-2) Subs: T Fox (0-1) for Horan 43, C O'Shea for McGowan 46, C Casey for Shovlin 46, L Ward for O'Connor 52, P Purcell for Cunningham 60.

Kerins O'Rahillys: S Foley; C Coffey, R O'Callaghan, D McElligott; C Barrett, K Mullins, P Neenan; D Moran, G O'Brien (0-1); C Sayers, J Savage (0-7, 0-6f), T H; C Hayes (0-2), T Walsh (0-1), BJ Keane (0-2) Subs: D O'Sullivan for Barrett 35, B Hanafin for McElligott 41, D O'Connor for Hoare 46, R Carroll for Sayers 56, G Savage (0-1) for Hayes 61.

Ref: N Cullen (Fermanagh).