CLAN na GAEL FONTENOY advanced to the AFL3 Top Four play-off final against Naomh Mearnóg this Thursday evening after a hard fought 0-9 to 0-8 victory over Naomh Barróg in Balgriffin on Sunday afternoon.
The Ringsend side will have great momentum going into the promotion decider, and the manner in which they withstood a fierce onslaught from their determined opponents reflects well on their character.
For Barróg, missing full-forward Pauric Whelan, it was another heartbreaking defeat after losing the 2009 IFC final to St Pat's of Palmerstown last October, and it appeared at stages on Sunday that their long campaign had taken its toll on the Kilbarrack side.
Considering neither side had played a competitive match for close on two months there was very little rustiness on show as both played with great fluidity from the throw-in, and it was Clan na Gael who got their noses in front through an early point from Martin McGahan.
Richie Timmins and the impressive Niall Carey responded with points for Barróg but the sides were soon on level terms when full-forward Joe Hennessy, who led the line superbly throughout, pointed from play as the intensity of the challenges mirrored the last-chance saloon nature of the game.
With Mick Campbell at centre-back in imperious form, Clan na Gael moved up through the gears approaching half-time and further points from McGahan, Ricky Joyce and towering midfielder Stephen Mulreaney helped them to a two-point (0-6 to 0-4) interval lead.
The match continued to ebb and flow after the break with Mulreaney and midfield partner David Lyons exerting a huge presence around the middle third but Naomh Barróg were allowed to remain in touch with further scores from Timmins, Casey and substitute Kevin Higgins.
However, the Ringsend side, with Kevin Munnelly and wing-back Peadar Gormley superb, added scores from McGahan and Hennessy, and when Cormac McAleer pointed after a barnstorming run from defence with 10 minutes remaining, there were four points between the sides and Barróg's chances looked increasingly slim.
With Clan's John Lawless sent off, Barróg drove at their opponents with renewed vigour as Clan's defending became progressively desperate and they brought themselves to within a point with Timmins and Carey again on the mark.
It proved too little too late, however, as they dropped a couple of opportunities short and Clan na Gael held on with the prize of AFL2 football their ambition ahead of Thursday evening's mouth-watering encounter, scheduled for Balgriffin (7.30).