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plunkett's enjoy the final word

St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh produced a storming second-half display to narrowly get the better of a talented Naomh Mearnóg outfit in their absorbing Dublin Minor 'C' Football Championship Final on the all-weather surface at Chanel last Sunday morning.

Plunkett's were largely on the back foot in the opening-half and deservedly trailed by five points at the turnaround but an inspired effort upon the restart culminated in an injury-time decisive point from impressive substitute Fionn Boland.

Central to their improved fortunes was the redeployment of Michael Walsh around the middle third with the corner-forward garnering a wealth of possession, especially in the third quarter as Plunkett's gradually reeled in their opponents.

That such a tight finish should materialise seemed unlikely initially as Mearnóg made a dominant opening in which lively inside-forward Cillian O'Driscoll handed them a dream start as he finished clinically to the net from eight metres with just 33 seconds on the clock.

O'Driscoll increased that lead within two minutes with a tidy score off his right before Plunkett's managed to compose themselves through a 4th minute free by the industrious Seán Bugler.

Despite the towering Conor Breslin reducing that deficit further with a well-taken point soon after, chances were being created with regularity at the opposite end thanks to the influence of wing-backs Aodhán Fee and Matthew Shorthall and Mark Phelan should have netted when placed through on goal by O'Driscoll.

However, a second goal for Naomh Mearnóg wasn't long in arriving as misfortune befell Seán Hawkins in the Plunkett's goal as he looked to gather Shane Nangle's shot, allowing Philip Rusk to take full advantage with a composed finish in the 12th minute.

enthralling

The enthralling opening subsided slightly as the contest evolved with the leaders spurning a couple of opportunities to increase their lead and their lead was halved in the 21st minute as non-existent communication between Conor Duggan and Cian O'Daly saw Breslin's speculative delivery roll harmlessly into the net.

Although Seán Newman and Brian McDonald began to exert an aerial control for Plunkett's, they were powerless in seeing their side fall further behind in the closing stages of the half as a point apiece by O'Driscoll and Ian Garry helped Mearnóg to lead at the interval by double scores (2-4 to 1-2).

A fisted effort by Walsh within two minutes of the restart lay the foundations for the Plunkett's revival but Mearnóg looked to have built an unassailable advantage by the 46th minute following a brace of Rusk frees and Nangle's second point of the day.

However, Bugler began to enjoy a more consistent supply of ball and after landing a close-in free, he turned provider with a smart turn and pass that allowed Breslin to calmly slot home from close range to add momentum to Plunketts' challenge.

A McDonald point in the 51st minute left the bare minimum between the sides with Hawkins redeeming himself six minutes later with a superb save from Paddy Prunty that kept the tie finely balanced.

Bugler's excellent levelling score off his left on the hour mark looked to have ensured extra-time between these well-matched sides but Mearnóg's hearts were broken a minute later as Boland split the posts to ensure a fittingly dramatic conclusion to a contest of the highest calibre.

Scorers - St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh: C Breslin 2-1, S Bugler 0-4 (2f), M Walsh, B McDonald, F Boland 0-1 each. Naomh Mearnóg: C O'Driscoll (0-1f), P Rusk (0-2f) 1-2 each, S Nangle 0-2, I Garry 0-1.

St Oliver Plunkett's/ER: S Hawkins; D Carroll, C Shannon, C Stone; P Maher, B Cullen, A Carey; C Breslin, B McDonald; R Carrick, D O'Reilly, S Newman; D O'Shea, S Bugler, M Walsh. Subs: F Boland for Cullen (25), T Hynes for O'Reilly (41), S Ashton for Carrick (56), S Lernihan for Carey (60).

Naomh Mearnóg: C Duggan; E Kelly, C O'Daly, A Diamedo; A Fee, E Sheils, M Shorthall; C Carey, I Garry; S Warren, C Farrelly, S Nangle; P Rusk, M Phelan, C O'Driscoll. Subs: P Prunty for Phelan (18), G Nangle for Garry (47), C Hendriken for Kelly (56).

Mentors - St Oliver Plunkett's/ER: Liam Ecock, Dermot Kelly, Ciarán O'Neill, Paul Fogarty, Paul Cullen, Niall Ashton. Naomh Mearnóg: Adrian Kavanagh, Mick Hobin, Ray O'Sullivan, Michael Shorthall, Frank O'Daly.

Ref: Karl Higgins (Na Fianna).

Wides - St Oliver Plunkett's/ER: 9 (2+7); Naomh Mearnóg: 12 (7+5).

Conditions: A pleasant but breezy morning.

Player of the Game: Michael Walsh (St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh).


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