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early goals see 'tarf into final

Three goals inside the opening ten minutes lay the foundations as Clontarf got the better of Ballinteer St John's by nine points in their Dublin Minor 'B' Football Championship semi-final at Ballinteer Community School last Sunday morning.

Given the parity in terms of possession that existed from that point, the hosts will regret the sloppy opening that effectively killed off their chances as Clontarf's well-drilled defence comfortably repelled their opponents' increasingly desperate forays forward in the clsoing stages.

Central to Clontarf's victory was the stranglehold that they exerted at centrefield through their inter-county pairing of Andrew Foley and Declan Monaghan with the latter adorning a highly influential display with a brace of superb goals.

It was the hosts that opened the scoring through a second minute point by the lively Rob Aherne but the physically dominant Clontarf team began to punch holes in the St John's defence and from Cian O'Flaherty's clever run, Monaghan was on hand to crash a rising shot beyond the helpless Andrew O'Connor in the sixth minute.

Matters were to deteriorate further for Ballinteer three minutes later as their inability to prevent their opponents from creating overlaps allowed Stephen Smyth to fire a precise low finish into the right hand corner of O'Connor's net from ten yards.

With their defence in disarray, it was of scant surprise that they conceded a third goal a minute later with Monaghan powering forward before applying another clinical finish to leave Clontarf eight points to the good.

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To their credit, Ballinteer eventually settled to the task in hand with Enda Larkin driving his side forward but their collective lack of confidence as a result of their disappointing opening was reflected in a number of hurried kicks that failed to trouble the umpires.

Eventually, they received some tangible reward for some sporadic pressure as Iarlaith Mac Gabhann converted an 18th minute free with Clontarf content to absorb pressure and hit on the counter-attack with the driving runs of wing-back Niall Gahan a feature of their first-half play.

Both St John's substitutes, Eoin Fitzpatrick and Conor Nolan equipped themselves well with the tough task in hand when introduced and a late free by Mac Gabhann ensured the hosts trailed by six points (0-3 to 3-0) by half-time.

Any hopes that score would provide valuable momentum in the second-half was quickly dispelled as Clontarf added three points in as many minutes with Niall Lillis kicking two glorious points from play to complement a free from his corner-forward colleague Cian O'Flaherty. In keeping with their first-half performance, the visitors seemed content to allow Ballinteer a generous degree of possession and they made some inroads into their deficit following a brace of points apiece by Mac Gabhann and Peter Flanagan.

However, some debatable shooting ensured Clontarf's lead was never seriously in threat with substitute John Mullins ending a barren period of twenty-five minutes when he pointed two minutes from time.

That score prompted a late glut of scores for the winners with fittingly Monaghan and Foley landing the final scores, given their influence on proceedings over the hour.

Scorers - Clontarf: D Monaghan 2-2 (0-1 pen), S Smyth 1-0, K Lillis 0-2, C O'Flaherty (f), J Mullins, A Foley 0-1 each. Ballinteer St John's: I Mac Gabhann 0-4 (3f), P Flanagan 0-2 (1f), R Aherne 0-1.

Clontarf: D Patton; S O'Quigley, C Murphy, P Smyth; N Gahan, N Doran, F Maher; A Foley, D Monaghan; C McGinn, C McCaffrey, S Giles; K Lillis, S Smyth, C O'Flaherty. Subs: S Russell for O'Quigley and B Davis for Murphy (half-time), B Monaghan for Gahan (36, Black Card), A Casey for Doran (44), J Mullins for S Smyth (50).

Ballinteer St John's: A O'Connor; J Waters, O Quinn, C Moran; S Reilly, E Larkin, J Barcoe; K O'Connor, M Ó Cróinín; R Aherne, P Flanagan, A Bradshaw; I Mac Gabhann, C Fitzgerald, B Mannion. Subs: E Fitzpatrick for Quinn (27), C Nolan for Mannion (28).

Mentors - Clontarf: Collie O'Connor, John Giles, Mick McGinn, Brendan Smyth, Declan Gahan, John Russell. Ballinteer St John's: Eddie Byrne, Frank Ward, Shane McCann.

Referee: Lee Moroney (St Anne's)

Wides: Clontarf: 7 (4+3) Ballinteer St John's: 14 (7+7)

Conditions: Cold and breezy.

Player of the Game: Declan Monaghan (Clontarf)


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