Sunday 20 January 2019

Decider a bridge too far for Slane

Meath Junior B FC Final: Na Fianna 3-10 Slane 2-5

Sean Wall at Pairc Tailteann

Slane hopes of bridging a 25-year gap by winning their first adult title since 1993 was never a realistic prospect against a battle-hardened Na Fianna in the Junior B FC decider at Pairc Tailteann on Sunday.

The east Meath outfit went into the match with a fair degree of optimism on the back of impressive displays against Simonstown and Kilbride in the knockout stages.

However they only showed brief glimpses of sparkle against a Na Fianna side who controlled proceedings for most of the hour and packed far too much experience, power and knowhow for a relatively young Slane side.

Slane were forced to spring Podge McGowan from the bench as early as the 17th minute to inject badly-needed pace to their attack and his introduction had the desired effect, but it still wasn't enough to upstage a slick-moving Na Fianna.

McGowan, who has only play a bit part in Slane's march to the final due to a lengthy lay-off following a serious injury, netted two stunning goals at crucial stages of the game, but his side were unable to build any sort of momentum following those scores.

Much of Slane's troubles stemmed from their inability to compete with veteran Ollie Lewis in the middle of the field. The former county player produced an exhibition of high fielding and crowned a brilliant display by scoring his side's third goal in the closing minutes.

Apart from McGowan, the Slane attack enjoyed little success against a well-organised Na Fianna defence, with the experienced Tommy Cosgrave particularly prominent. Matthew Tully was the only starting forward for Slane to register a score and that came from a close-range free.

Slane's four remaining points came from the impressive Alan Harding who ran himself to a standstill in his attempts to keep his side in the game. Eoin Gibbs was solid at full back, while Eoin Feeley and Shane Harding also did well, but the odds were stacked against them.

Despite playing against the stiff breeze in the opening half, Na Fianna were quickly off the mark with two early points from Jack McNally. Slane hit a couple of wayward efforts before Alan Harding opened their account from a free following a foul on Matthew Tully.

There was an early warning sign for Slane when Brian Queeney soloed through the middle, but his goal effort flashed wide of the target.

McNally hit his third point on 13 minutes and Slane were in bother after Mark Slevin added another score on the quarter-hour mark.

A fine Slane move instigated by Alan Harding created a goal chance for Cillian Gough, but Na Fianna keeper Sean Coyle moved smartly off his line to make a vital block at the expense of a fruitless '45.

The arrival of McGowan to the action sparked life into Slane and he was only on the pitch a minute when setting up Harding for his side's second score.

When Matthew Tully converted a free it left the minimum between the sides, but Na Fianna responded to the challenge with points from Kean Flynn and McNally (free).

That lead stretched significantly when Paul Kennedy went down following a challenge from Francis Marry and referee Martin Dawson pointed for a penalty. Kean Flynn made no mistake from the resultant spot kick, and then for good measure wing back Jarlath Ennis added a point to leave it 1-7 to 0-3 on 29 minutes.

Slane were facing a massive task at that stage, but they finished the half on a high, with Harding pointing from long range before McGowan danced past a couple of defenders and blasted high to the net to leave it 1-4 to 1-7 at the break.

Both sides squandered chances at the start of the second half, but it was the Enfield/Baconstown combination who increased their lead in the third quarter, with Mark Slevin finishing to the net following a move involving Sean Coffey and Kean Flynn. Slevin then added a point from long range, with Slane's only contribution to the scoreboard in the same period a pointed free from Harding.

Substitute Harry Silke pointed for Na Fianna when he should have netted and he then added a second point to leave it double scores, 2-10 to 1-5.

That should have been the end of the Slane challenge, but again McGowan gave them a glimmer of hope with another brilliantly taken goal with five minutes remaining.

Crucially, though, Slane were unable to reduce the deficit further and fittingly it was Man of the Match Lewis who delivered the final knockout punch with his side's third goal on 58 minutes.

Rob Walsh had a chance to add to Na Fianna's goal tally in added time, but keeper Darren Berrill produced a smart save.

NA FIANNA: Sean Coyle; Sean Coffey, Daniel Gleeson, Stephen Slevin; Jarlath Ennis 0-1, Tommy Cosgrave, Eoin Downey; Brian Queeney, Ollie Lewis 1-0; Ronan Byrne, Paul Kennedy, Kean Flynn 1-1 (1-0 pen); Jack McNally 0-4 (3f), Dean Henrick, Mark Slevin 1-2. Subs: Harry Silke 0-2 for Ennis (38), Sean Griffin for Kennedy (46), Evan Henrick for Byrne (BC 57), Cian Slattery for Lewis (59), Rob Walsh for Flynn (60).

SLANE: Darren Berrill; Shane Harding, Eoin Gibbs, Liam White; Jake Tallon, Francis Marry, Eoin Feeley; Alan Harding 0-4 (2f), Jim Marry; Peter Martyn, Eanna Mooney, Kevin Reilly; Cillian Gough, Matthew Tully 0-1f, Barry Carolan. Subs: Podge McGowan 2-0 for Carolan (17), Daniel Carolan for Gough (44), Finn Searle for White (44), Aaron Lane for Tallon (54), Stephen McLoughlin for Reilly (54).

REF: Martin Dawson (St Michael's)

Drogheda Independent