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Wednesday 20 March 2019

Gusserane’s glory

GAA: O’Loughlin cup minor football final - Gusserane 5-10 St. Anne's 3-8

The triumphant Gusserane squad before Thursday's final. Picture: Patrick Browne
The triumphant Gusserane squad before Thursday's final. Picture: Patrick Browne

Alan Aherne in Gusserane

Gusserane repeated the outcome of last year's Cullen Cup decider when they hit three goals in just over two second-half minutes on their home soil on Thursday to kill off a St. Anne's revival in the O'Loughlin Cup (Co. Minor football league) final.

It was plain sailing for the hosts for most of the opening period under the floodlights in Tom Somers Park as they recovered from the concession of an early goal to lead by 2-5 to 1-1 at the interval.

However, St. Anne's built up a head of steam in the third quarter and had the margin down to two points entering the last 15 minutes, even though they only enjoyed a 50% success rate from two quickfire penalties.

Gusserane were starting to come under pressure, but points from free-taker Evan Kiely and Shane Culleton got them back on course before those three goals between the 51st and 53rd minutes emphatically ended the tie as a contest.

The first was palmed to the net by Matthew McCillen after a cross from the right by Kiely bounced invitingly into his path, and Shane Ryan then finished soccer-style from close range after good work in the build-up by McCillen, Emmet Cullen and lively substitute Cormac Kiely.

The icing on the cake came in the form of a superbly-taken left-footed goal from county Minor Emmet Cullen - later chosen as player of the match - from a Shane Ryan pass to the left of the posts.

That spell of all-out Gusserane dominance was crowned with another pointed free from Evan Kiely that left them with a double scores lead (5-10 to 2-5) with less than seven minutes left.

St. Anne's, to their credit, kept plugging away and were rewarded with 1-3 without reply to give a more accurate reflection of the contest as a whole.

Cillian Byrne got the goal 30 seconds from the end of normal time, with Justin Moran (two, one free) and Gary Sinnott responsible for the points, but victory still went where it most definitely belonged.

Gusserane had won the sides' Cullen Cup final meeting in 2018 by 3-5 to 2-6, and the step up to the next level (the second of three grades in this winter league) started on a positive note when Evan Kiely pointed an early free.

However, they suffered a setback just two minutes in when Eoin Ryan came forward to goal for St. Anne's after the ball was helped into his path by Justin Moran.

Gary Sinnott added a point, but that was that as far as the visitors' scoring before the break was concerned, with Gusserane taking over to shoot 2-4 without reply.

An Emmet Cullen '45 drew them level in the 18th minute, and he supplied the pass shortly afterwards for Matthew McCillen to catch the Anne's defence off-guard with an instinctive first-time shot from distance that made its way into the net via the left post (1-4 to 1-1).

A McCillen mark then led to Gusserane's second goal from Conor Twomey, and they nearly added a third on the stroke of half-time but Ian Stafford's effort was saved.

Emmet Cullen and Evan Kiely added points from frees when the action resumed, with Stafford going close again when Rory O'Brien kept out another shot, while the netminder's outstretched boot also denied Shane Culleton a green flag.

There seemed to be no route back for St. Anne's, but hope appeared on the horizon when a Gusserane back picked the ball off the ground in the small square and Justin Moran sent the penalty high to the top right corner of the net (2-7 to 2-1).

Just over 30 seconds later another spot kick was awarded for a push on Cillian Byrne, but this time netminder Liam Ryan read the intentions of Moran who aimed for the same place, turning his second attempt on to the post before it was cleared.

This was a key moment in the contest, although St. Anne's weren't unduly upset by the miss as Cillian Byrne (free), Moran, Gary Sinnott and Byrne again (with a shot tipped over by goalkeeper Ryan) made it a two-point game after 43 minutes (2-7 to 2-5).

Gusserane were in danger of completely losing their grip on proceedings, but Emmet Cullen started to dominate when it was needed most at midfield.

Those title-winning goals followed, as the O'Rahilly's fittingly honoured the memory of their fellow clubman and founder of these Minor leagues in 1967, the late Seamus Keevans, in their own back yard.

Gusserane: Liam Ryan; Shane Power, Seán Whelan, Eoin Power; Michael Mulligan, Shane O'Grady, Patrick Sinnott; Emmet Cullen (1-2, 0-1 '45, 0-1 free), Ben Whitty; Shane Culleton (0-1), Evan Kiely (capt., 0-6, 4 frees), Shane Ryan (1-0); Conor Twomey (1-1), Matthew McCillen (2-0), Ian Stafford. Subs. - Cormac Kiely for Stafford (45), Aaron Ryan for S. Ryan (57), Eoghan Stafford for Culleton (58), Jack Boyd for Twomey (58).

St. Anne's: Rory O'Brien; Killian Brennan-Roche, Michael Cullen, Matthew Dayot; Ryan Finnegan (capt.), Conan Phillips, Eoin Ryan (1-0); Liam Schokman, Gary Sinnott (0-3); Finn Bennett, Justin Moran (1-3, 1-0 pen., 0-1 free), Rory Byrne; Darren Moore, Cillian Byrne (1-2, 0-1 free), Jack O'Brien. Subs. - Jake Walsh for Dayot (HT), Eoin Staples for Moore (HT), Liam Whelan for J. O'Brien (48), Jack Donovan for R. Byrne (57), also Luke Kelly, Adam Murphy, Noel Browne, J.J. Harpur, Daire Heaney.

Referee: Brendan Holohan (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown).

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