GAA: Divisional delight for the lads from Lahardane
By Anthony Hennigan in St Joseph’s Park, Knockmore
North Mayo Junior ‘A’ Football Championship – Final
LAHARDANE MCHALES 1-9 ARDNAREE SARSFIELDS 0-8
REVENGE was sweet for the men of Lahardane on Sunday as they were crowned junior champions of North Mayo at the expense of they who ended their county championship aspirations, after a replay, at the semi-final stage.
When Chris Walsh scored the game’s first point after just 21 seconds, Ardnaree retained their lead until a Declan Leonard goal drew Lahardane level for the first time, two minutes into the second half. Again Ardnaree resumed control until Lahardane struck seven points after the 48th minute to emerge victorious by four. They kicked 11 wides to Ardnaree’s two over the course of the hour but that bothered them none in the aftermath.
Ardnaree – beaten county junior finalists but fresh from winning the Division 1D league title one week earlier – picked up where they left off and were quickly 0-3 to no score ahead, with points from play by Walsh, Mark Connor, unusually operating at full-forward, and corner-back Conor Cawley. However, they also wasted no time in rediscovering one of their costly traits of the county final, that inability to capitalise on goal chances, and both Connor, shooting over, and Kevin Newell, toe-poking past the post, could have raised green flags inside the opening 10 minutes.
An exchange of points from play between Adrian Leonard of Lahardane and Eoin McLoughlin, Ardnaree’s second scoring defender, kept the gap at three, but that decreased when Leonard slotted over a free and Rory Clarke missed yet another Ardnaree goal chance, by shooting tamely at goalkeeper Joe Mulhern.
Midfielder James McHale did restore the Green and Gold’s three points lead (0-5 to 0-2), having combined with Chris Walsh and Mark Connor, and there was now a sense of urgency on Lahardane’s sideline as they introduced three substitutes in the closing minutes of the half. It was one of these, Gearoid Cronin, who brilliantly caught an Adrian Leonard 45 metre kick to set-up Declan Leonard for the Lahardane goal so soon after the restart.
Level for the first time, it would take Lahardane 16 minutes to manufacture their next point, by which time Kevin Newell, from a free, and Rory Clarke, at the end of a move involving full-back Eugene O’Hora and corner-back Michael Walsh, had kicked Ardnaree two points ahead, 0-7 to 1-2.
But similarly there was to be 16 minutes between Rory Clarke’s point and Ardnaree’s next – and last – which also came from the boot of Clarke, in between which Declan Leonard, two, Gearoid Cronin, a free, and Mark Noone, fisting over, each raised the white flags that moved Lahardane into a 1-7 to 0-7 lead, with 56 minutes played.
The dismissal of Chris Walsh minutes earlier was a blow Ardnaree could have done without, and Clarke’s point, when it arrived, might just as easily have been a goal but he shot too high. Instead, when panic had set into an Ardnaree attack chasing a two points deficit, it was a now clinical Lahardane who broke away twice in injury time to double their lead, via a long range Declan Leonard point and one from an Adrian Leonard free. Revenge had been a dish best served cold.
Declan Leonard, after some nervy shooting early on, Kyle Nolan and Mark Noone all led the line superbly for the winners, and the first half introduction of Anthony McDermott was key to Lahardane turning the game around. Nor were Paul Coleman, a lively wing-back, Barry Leonard and John McDonnell found wanting in defence. Ardnaree were best served by Eugene O’Hora, Michael Walsh, the hardworking James McHale, Rory Clarke and Mark Connor.
SCORERS – Lahardane: Declan Leonard 1-3, Adrian Leonard 0-3 (2f), Gearoid Cronin (f), Mark Noone and John McDonnell 0-1 each.
Ardnaree: Rory Clarke 0-2, Chris Walsh, Mark Connor, Conor Cawley, Eoin McLoughlin, James McHale and Kevin Newell (f) 0-1 each.
LAHARDANE: Joe Mulhern; Aiden McDonnell, Barry Leonard, John McDonnell; Paul Coleman, Shane Hargreaves, Ray McDermott; Damien Kelly, Gary Naughton; Keith Loftus, Adrian Leonard, Tony Devers; Declan Leonard, Kyle Nolan, Mark Noone. Subs: Shane Loftus (for A McDonnell 28), Anthony McDermott (for Hargreaves 30), Gearoid Cronin (for K Loftus 30+2), Laurence Leonard (for S Loftus 39-inj).
ARDNAREE: Blaine Ginty; Michael Walsh, Eugene O’Hora, Conor Cawley; Pat Lacken, Shane Timlin, Eoin McLoughlin; James McHale, Brian Fitzpatrick; Alan Kelly, Rory Clarke, Chris Walsh; Noelie Beattie, Mark Connor, Kevin Newell. Subs: Brendan Reilly (for Kelly 46), Stephen Tighe (for Fitzpatrick 52).
Referee: Padraig Doherty (Ardmoy).