Mickey's the hat-trick hero as Muirhevnamor march on
YOUNG pretenders Shamrock Youths were the latest contenders whose challenge was effectively scuppered by the champions' irresistible march to yet another title, as this Mickey O'Kane-inspired win stretched their lead to seven points.
A number of slender wins over rivals near the top of the table suggested the champions could surrender their unbeaten run, but the Fatima side were without several key men and Muirhevnamor - while themselves short also a number of players - were a far more cohesive outfit.
O'Kane put them ahead mid-way through the first half and sealed the victory along with the points with two more goals in the space of as many minutes in the closing 15 minutes.
The visitors relied heavily on the experience, strength and aerial ability of Anto Reilly and Barry Casey to try to stem the almost constant flow of attacks by the champions in the first half. Philip Duffy and Thomas McShane held sway in midfield and Gary Clarke with his pace probed continuously down the flanks.
O'Kane, with a strongly hit shot from outside the penalty box, tested Shamrocks goalkeeper Sean Smith who did well to parry it away, before a loose clearance was ruthlessly punished by the champions. Brian Begley collected the ball and his pinpoint cross found the unmarked O'Kane who headed over Smith and underneath the bar from 10 yards.
In a rare glimpse of the champions' goal, the hard-working Dean Brown gained a couple of yards on the home defence down the right side of the 18-yard box but chipped wide.
Stefan McKevitt's pace opened up the Youths defence on a number of occasions down the right, and from one such raid Sean Conlon had two bites at scoring. He scuffed his first effort, then swivelled to shoot over the bar.
Philip Duffy made a great run back to take the ball off Brown on the edge of the Muirhevnamor 18-yard line before the best chance the losers had of scoring was gifted by Adrian Rafferty to Brown right on the stroke of half-time. All alone on the edge of the 18-yard box with only the keeper to beat, he decided to let fly and the ball flew over the bar when he had time and a free run on goal.
Shamrocks had their best spell in the first 15 minutes of the second half without really looking like scoring apart from a shot that Ger Conway flashed wide from outside the box.
The champions made a double substitution just past the hour mark and it required a great save by Smith to prevent one of the subs, Colin Finan, from increasing their lead.
O'Kane was the last man the Youths wanted to find himself in space in front of goal as an off-balance Barry Casey tried in vain to cut out a through pass into his penalty box. O'Kane finished emphatically into the top corner of the net, before completing his hat-trick two minutes later.
Muirhevnamor: Jason McConville, Stefan McKevitt, Sean Dixon, Adrian Rafferty, Brian Begley, Stephen Smith (Ray McCann 57), Thomas McShane, Philip Duffy, Gary Clarke (Conor Murphy 74), Mickey O'Kane, Sean Conlon (Colin Finan 57).
Shamrock Youths: Sean Smith, Sean Thornton, Anto Reilly, Barry Casey, Conor Mulligan, Gavin Gaffey, Shane McCaughey, Derek Rogers, Ger Conway, John Boland, Dean Brown. Sub: James Walker.