Thursday 14 December 2017

Mighty Naomh Mearnog breeze to under-21 glory

Rory Kerr

Naomh Mearnog's Under-21s were crowned 'C' champions at Alfie Byrne Park on Saturday, with second-half goals from Mark Phelan and Sean Kavanagh sealing Erin's Isle's fate in Clontarf.

Naomh Mearnog 2-17 Erins Isle 2-6

Erin's Isle had briefly tried to spoil the party with two goals after the break, but Mearnog - under the leadership of David Killeen and David Storey - never wilted as they continued a remarkable run of success.

And speaking afterwards, Killeen stated:

'It's been a great achievement for this group of players. We have a lot of them since we were under-10 and under-12 and brought them right through to minor.

'We've been to three under-21 finals in the last three years and it's a phenomenal achievement, given the competitive nature of the sport and the teams that are around us.

'A lot of these lads are breaking through to the senior squad and the whole thing for us is that we have that continuity and that we skill them up properly. But we also try to teach them the values of respect.'

And Killeen believed Saturday's win was a particularly special one for the team.

'We lost an important member of our team in 2015, Govan Joliffe Byrne, and that gave our lads that extra impetus as this is the last year this particular bunch will play together at under-21 and that added an extra motivational factor for us to make sure we got the win for him.'

From the off, they played with great drive and intensity as Erin's Isle struggled to contain Mearnog's runs through the middle.

And they did not have to wait long for their opening score, with a terrific burst of pace from Matthew Shorthall setting up a free for Shane Kavanagh which he duly converted.

Kavanagh doubled his tally soon after, and with Jordan Briggs playing the sweeper role to good effect Mearnog were to open a five-point lead before the Isle eventually opened their account off a 45 from their midfielder Shane Gaffney.

And while Erin's Isle would enjoy some success off the Mearnog kick-outs, some terrific shooting from corner forward Sean Hawkshaw would keep the Mearnog lead out to five points.

Nonetheless, towards the end of the half Erins Isle would put a goal between the sides, only for Mearnog to up their intensity, with influential full forward Gabriel Dennehy pocketing a brace to hand Mearnog a double scores lead at the break - 0-10 to 0-5.

And then following an opening score from Hawkshaw, Mearnog struck for their first goal when midfielder Mark Phelan got in behind the defence before delivering a terrific shot into the roof of the net.

Moments later Kavanagh shot just over after another exhilarating move, but then with the gap at 10 points, the Isle were handed a lifeline when Conor Carney fisted past the keeper.

Mearnog regained their momentum with successive scores from Kavanagh and Gavin Nangle, only for Erins Isle to strike for their second goal when a high ball into the square caused confusion in the Mearnog defence.

However, Mearnog then drove the final nail into the Erin's isle coffin when Kavanagh's deflected shot spun past the keeper, and with Darragh Boyle making a good cameo off the bench the Portmarnock side cruised home to victory in the end.

Naomh Mearnog: Conor Duggan, Andy Killeen, Cian O'Daly, Stan Kinnane, Eoin Shiels, Gavin Nangle 0-1, Matthew Shorthall 0-1, Mark Phelan 1-0, Jamie Storey 0-1, Shane Kavanagh 1-7(0-4f), Aodhan Fee, Daire Scanlon, Jordan Briggs, Gabriel Dennehy 0-2, Sean Hawshaw 0-4. Subs: Jack O' Brien, Darragh Mulligan, Aaron Mulvey, Darragh Boyle 0-1 , Shane Nangle.

Fingal Independent

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