ALL IRELAND CLUB JFC SEMI-FINAL
Gneeveguilla were coolness personified as they secured passage to Croke Park and the All Ireland final.
In front of the sticks they were stone cold, cutting Denn’s defences asunder time and again, particularly in the first half when they plundered four goals, exploiting the space, working the passes and finishing like stone cold killers.
They even had the wherewithal to weather, what one might not quite classify as a storm more so a brief squall at the start of the second half, to stay firmly on course for Headquarters and their date with destiny and Kilmeena of Mayo next weekend.
Denn were left scrambling for a way back into the game with the breeze to come in the second half. Gneeveguila’s twelve point advantage at the break was always likely to prove in surmountable, however, and the game lacked a little bit of drama from there on out.
The Cavan kingpins displayed a hesitancy in front of the posts that Gneeveguilla absolutely did not. Indeed, with their first real chance of the game, Denn opted to go short with a free that was well within the scoring zone, even with the breeze against them.
Gneeveguilla, meanwhile, weren’t in the mood to look a gift horse in the mouth. When Denn shot-stopper Mark Fegan fluffed an early kick-out Pádraig Doyle was on it like a hawk feeding Michael Murphy, who soon shipped it to Shane O’Sullivan for a fourth minute finish for a goal.
Three minutes later Doyle had it out to a four point game before a second Gneeveguilla goal – which carried a slight question mark of a potential square ball when John O’Leary played a neat one-two with Corneilus Buckley – told you what way the wind was blowing in more ways than one.
By the one quarter mark Gneeveguilla’s lead was out to eight – following a point by Seán O’Keeffe – and, while Denn did rally somewhat with points from Oisín McKiernan and Fegan, Gneeveguilla remained resolutely in charge with a third goal courtesy of Shane O’Sullivan (assist the industrious O’Leary) on 21 minutes.
With a nine point lead it was looking more than challenging for Denn. A feeling further reinforced following the fourth when Pa Warren was at the end of a Seán O’Keeffe ball into the dangerzone.
With a twelve point lead at the break – 4-4 to 0-4 – it was all but impossible to see a way back into it for the Breffni men. To give them their dues, they did give it a halfway decent rattle in the third quarter, starting with a goal straight from the throw in.
Maybe Gneeveguilla were a touch off their game at the start of the half – and with a massive lead who could blame them – either way it was a brilliant bit of opportunism with Conor O’Reilly feeding Brandon Keogan for a shot before Cavell Keogan finished to the net with the rebound.
Denn followed up with a pointed free by Ben Conaty and, for the briefest of spells, it felt like Gneeveguilla might have been knocked off their stride. Not a bit of it.
The Sliabh Luachra men soon enough regained their composure, starting with a Shane O’Sullivan point following a pass by the hugely impressive Conor Herlihy.
By the three quarter mark it was a seven point game following a pair of Denn frees – from Thomas Edward Donohoe and Fegan – but a pair of pointed frees from Paul O’Leary and Corneilus Buckley soon restored the balance.
There was an air of inevitability about the game in the third quarter as Gneeveguilla felt comfortable in their position. Certainly there was very little fear of their defence being caught unawares again as they were at the beginning of the half.
Instead they were the ones to take a fourth quarter goal this time at the end of a brilliant flowing counter-attack initiated by Pa Warren that saw subs Shane Crowley and Jack Cremin combine for a brilliant goal on 57 minutes.
At 5-7 to 1-9 that really was that as the game petered out to its inevitable conclusion. Gneeveguilla comfortably the better side, the eight point margin at the finish flattering Denn if anything.
Croke Park awaits. These boys will take some stopping.
GNEEVEGUILLA: Patrick O’Riordan, Eoin Fitzgerald, Paul O’Leary (0-1f), Pat Brosnan, Pádraig O’Connor, Darren Brosnan, Conor Herlihy, Pa Warren (1-0), Ronan Collins, Michael Murphy, Corneilus Buckley (0-4, 1f), John O’Leary (1-0), Seán O’Keeffe (0-1), Shane O’Sullivan (2-1), Pádraig Doyle (0-1) Subs: Connie O’Connor for M Murphy, 39, M Murphy for J O’Leary, 43, Jack Cremin (1-0) for P Doyle, 46, Damien Cronin for M Murphy, 51, Shane Crowley for S O’Keeffe, 55
DENN: Mark Fegan (0-3f), Leon Cobey, Tomás Corr, Michael Gaffney, Mark McSheery, Oisín Kiernan (0-2), James Brady, Conor O’Reilly, Bernard Gaffney, Caolain McCabe, Cavell Keogan (1-0), Seán Donohoe, Thomas Edward O’Donoghue (0-4f), Ben Conaty (0-3, 1f), Brandon Keogan Subs: Jamie Reilly for B Conaty, 43, Eoin Reilly for C Keogan, 43, Andrew Cusack Smith for B Keogan, 53 Blood: Andrew Cusack Smith for T Corr, 35-38,
REFEREE: John Hickey (Carlow)