Grenagh celebrate double delight
IT might be stretching things a bit to describe it as a comfortable win, but at the same time Grenagh seldom looked in serious danger of losing the county intermediate football championship final at Pairc Uí Rinn last Sunday.
Never headed at any stage, they were clearly the better-balanced side, with Tom Kenny and Gerry Russell giving them an edge at midfield, and their well-drilled defence generally holding sway against an Aghabullogue attack which relied far too heavily on John Corkery for penetration.
Corkery bagged all but a point of Aghabullogue's meagre return over the hour, but he was unable to make an impact comparable to that which had inspired the Coachford side to victory over fancied Glanworth in the semi-final.
That was partly due to a lack of a decent service from outfield where Aghabullogue's chief play-maker Pa Finnegan was prevented from exerting a significant influence by tenacious Grenagh centre back Paul McCarthy.
In DD Dorgan, Grenagh had the most impressive attacker on view, while Conor Fitzgerald and Liam Walsh were others to make noteworthy contributions up front in the second half, not to mention substitute John Russell, who did much to unsettle the Aghabullogue rearguard following his introduction at full-forward.
As well as slotting over a brace himself, Russell was instrumental in creating the opening for points from Liam Walsh and DD Dorgan, as Grenagh eased to safety in the last quarter, notching six unanswered scores in this period.
In truth, the signs were ominous for Aghabullogue long before that, as they were never able to get a firm foothold on the game, and, crucially, Grenagh showed a facility to respond any time the losers threatened to build up a bit of momentum.
Grenagh were much quicker to settle, but poor finishing limited their progress and they had clocked up three wides before DD Dorgan got them off the mark in the sixth minute. Aghabullogue mounted their first attack of note three minutes later, resulting in a foul on John Corkery which yielded a point from a difficult free on the right wing by John Kelleher.
It took Aghabullogue another 13 minutes to add to their tally, courtesy of a converted free by Corkery after he was deemed to be fouled again by Grenagh corner-back Michael Lehane, who was issued with a yellow card for his perceived indiscretion
In the interim, Gerry Russell, from a free, and DD Dorgan had pushed Grenagh two points clear, and they went close to grabbing a goal as well, with corner-forward Ultan Duggan shooting narrowly wide with a golden opportunity after full-forward Liam Walsh had struck the butt of the upright with the initial chance.
Aghabullogue later unhinged the Grenagh defence when Pa Finnegan, wing-back Ryan Dennehy, John Corkery and Evan O'Sullivan combined to set up wing-forward Mark Long, whose shot from a tight angle was smothered by the winners' alert custodian Martin Barry.
In general, however, Aghabullogue struggled to make headway against Grenagh's defensive sextet in which Paul McCarthy effectively policed Pa Finnegan, and Raymond Dorgan was also on top against deep-lying full-forward John Kelleher.
Kelleher did begin a move that led to John Corkery posting Aghabullogue's first score from play which made it 0-3 apiece in the 25th minute, but DD Dorgan swiftly replied for Grenagh after Conor Fitzgerald collected a quickly-taken free by Tom Kenny to create the opening.
All in all, Grenagh weren't flattered to turn over 0-4 to 0-3 in front, and they were quick to make the running on the resumption, with DD Dorgan stretching the gap from a free before Conor Fitzgerald tacked on another point in the 34th minute following good work by Colm O'Neill and wing forward Tadgh Walsh.
O'Neill, who lined out at wing forward, had been switched to the half back line for the second half, and he did his bit to strengthen Grenagh's hand in this sector where Paul McCarthy continued to keep a tight rein on Pa Finnegan, and Shane Dorgan rarely put a foot astray on the left wing.
After Michael Lehane had been yellow carded before half time, Kevin O'Neill was moved from wing back to keep tabs on John Corkery, and he conceded little easily to Aghabullogue's ace attacker after the interval.
Aghabullogue likewise benefited from the decision to switch Mark Long on to DD Dorgan for the second half, with the latter fading from the picture somewhat during the third quarter.
On the plus side for Grenagh, however, Conor Fitzgerald stepped up to the plate big-time on the '40 in the second half when Liam Walsh also upped his performance on being moved to the right corner to facilitate the introduction of John Russell at full-forward.
It meant the threat from the Grenagh attack became more widespread, while Tom Kenny and Gerry Russell increased their grip at midfield as well. Aghabullogue continued to battle earnestly, and they were snapping at Grenagh's heels again, 0-6 to 0-5, after Dhani Merrick initiated an attack that led to Evan O'Sullivan placing John Corkery for a point in the 41st minute.
Merrick had been a sterling figure at No 3 in the first half, receiving good support from Alan Hogan, but once he came under severe pressure from John Russell in the last quarter, Aghabullogue's resistance at the back was grievously undermined.
In any event, Grenagh steadily tightened the screw after Conor Fitzgerald completed a move involving Paul McCarthy and Gerry Russell in the 47th minute to trigger off a decisive push that yielded further points from Liam Walsh and two apiece from DD Dorgan and John Russell before the finish.
With the score at 0-8 to 0-5, Grenagh did endure one brief moment of anxiety when 'keeper Martin Barry spilled a delivery from Pa Finnegan, but Barry recovered well to prevent Agabullogue's Evan O'Sullivan from getting the vital touch.
That DD Dorgan recaptured his best form in the closing stages served to hasten Aghabullogue's demise, and he showed his class in no uncertain manner when posting the best score of the match to make it 0-10 to 0-5 after John Russell and Conor Fitzgerald had engineered the opening in the 53rd minute.
Placed by Ultan Duggan, who spoiled much of his good work over the hour with erratic shooting, John Russell completed the scoring five minutes later. In the remaining time John Corkery was denied a consolation goal for Aghabullogue when, predictably, he failed to beat a ten-man wall from a close-in free, while Grenagh's Michael Lehane picked up a second yellow card shortly before the final whistle.
The result enabled Grenagh to lift the title for the first time since 2007, and. preceded by their county junior hurling success last month, it capped a truly momentous year for the club.
Grenagh: DD Dorgan 0-6, 0-2 frees, C Fitzgerald and J Russell 0-2 each, G Russell and L Walsh 0-1 each
Aghabullogue: J Corkery 0-4, 0-2 frees, J Kelleher 0-1 free
Grenagh: M Barry, M Lehane, R Dorgan, C Donovan, K O'Neill, P McCarthy, S Dorgan, T Kenny, G Russell, T Walsh, C Fitzgerald, DD Dorgan, C O'Neill, L Walsh, U Duggan. Sub, J Russell for Donovan
Aghabullogue: J Buckley, G Long, D Merrick, A Hogan, M O'Brien, D Twomey, R Dennehy, M Dennehy, B Buckley, S O'Sullivan, P Finnegan, M Long, E O'Sullivan, J Kelleher, J Corkery. Subs, S Dennehy for G Long, A Barry-Murphy for B Buckley, R O'Keeffe for Kelleher
Referee: B Coniry (Crosshaven)