Thursday 24 January 2019

Coolera/Strandhill make history

Sligo SHC final: Coolera/Strandhill 2-25 Naomh Eoin 3-10

David Goulden

History was made at Scarden on Sunday afternoon as Coolera/Strandhill claimed their first ever Sligo Senior Hurling Championship with a 12 point win over Naomh Eoin.

Competing in their first senior decider in 21 years, it was Naomh Eoin who stormed into an early lead at a breezy Scarden.

Paul Kilcoyne, Tony O'Kelly-Lynch and his brother Gerard, fresh from representing Ireland in Saturday's Shinty international in Scotland just 24 hours previous, each making the most of the wind. The Sligo town side sailing into a four point lead with as many minutes played.

A drowsy Coolera, who defeated Easkey after a replay just four days earlier took five minutes to register their first score. Niall Murphy tapping over the first of his six for the day.

The seasiders would have found themselves further behind only for a superb stop from goalkeeper Colm Scanlon after Murphy and Eoin Comerford broke the Naomh Eoin line.

Coolera were clear favourites for this one, but found themselves in real danger eight minutes in. Scanlon this time unable to clear Kilcoyne's punt into the Strand square, leaving Donal Fidgeon with a simple finish.

Kieran Tobin's men gradually subdued their rivals, grabbing a hold on the game. Seven points without reply in a 15 minute spell then saw Coolera bring this back to a one point game.

Ciaran Brennan catching the sliotar with his back to goal before taking a hit from a defender and slicing the ball over Michael Healy's goal the highlight of a golden spell for Coolera.

They also had Eoin Comerford and Kevin Banks along with braces from Murphy and Frankie O'Flynn to work off as Naomh Eoin lead by just the single point at 1-6 to 0-8 with five minutes of the half to go.

The sharp-shooting Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch kept Naomh Eoin heads above water with his fourth of the game from a free. But Eoin Comerford hit back straight away to bring the deficit back to its most slender.

Coolera lead for the first time just 60 seconds from the break. Brennan blocking down an attempted clearance before following through and tapping home for the game's second goal.

But a dogged Naomh Eoin returned to copy the feat barely one minute later. Niall Feehily's free from well inside his own half somehow finding its way past a field of players before bouncing unnoticed into the Coolera net.

While further white flags from Murphy and Larry Cadden for Coolera and a Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch point at the other end saw Coolera lead 2-9 to 1-11 at the break.

Coolera were the hungrier, more accurate side in the second half hour as Naomh Eoin went an incredible 21 minutes without moving the scoreboard.

With an ever strengthening wind now in their favour, Coolera racked up score after score. Murphy and O'Flynn from the half-way kept the red and white on track, while Brennan found the bottom corner on 38.

Murphy sent over a 65 three minutes later, while Comerford made the most of a free after Brennan was fouled by Matthew Davey.

Naomh Eoin's quest was made that bit tougher on 44 when Davey was shown a straight red card following a meaty challenge on a Coolera player.

Comerford, Gary Cadden and Kevin Banks' second point elevated Coolera into a nine point lead with ten left. But Naomh Eoin gave themselves a fighting chance when Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch rammed the free he himself had won, past a forest of legs.

Coolera were themselves reduced to 14 on 52. Eoin Comerford dismissed after being shown a second yellow having pulled Cathal Jordan to the floor.

But the status quo remained as Coolera continued to match and then better Naomh Eoin on the scoresheet.

Tony O'Kelly-Lynch's second score was outdone by a magnificent wind-assisted point from O'Flynn once more.

Naomh Eoin's final chance to catch their opponents came and went four minutes from time when, having conceded the penalty, Scanlon kept out Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch's drive which was hit straight down the middle.

The cup was firmly in Coolera's grasp at this stage. O'Flynn, Colm Parke and Conor Gillen all adding further scores as Coolera ended their run of county finals without victory.

COOLERA/STRANDHILL: Colm Scanlon; Niall Cadden, Conor O'Mahoney, Ronan Redmond; Conor Gillen (0-1), Kevin Banks (0-2), Mark Comerford; Eoin Comerford (0-5), Gary Cadden (0-1); Larry Cadden (0-1), Niall Murphy (0-6), Frankie O'Flynn (0-6); Shane Brennan (Luke Comerford HT), Ciaran Brennan (2-2), Colm Parke (0-1).

NAOMH EOIN: Michael Healy; Tom O'Callaghan, Matthew Davey, David Hickey (George Wall 20); Roan Conneely (Tom Armstrong 64), Niall Feehily (1-0), Cathal Jordan; Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch (1-7), Tony O'Kelly-Lynch (0-2); Donal Fidgeon (1-0), Paul Kilcoyne (0-1); Niall Campbell (Conor McGovern 46); Ryan Feehily, Liam Henry (Gerard Leamy HT), Stephen Henry.

Referee: Michael Connolly (Western Gaels).

Sligo Champion