St. John's make winning start to campaign
Is this, finally, to be St John's year to triumph in the Belfry Sligo Senior Football Championship ?
The Carraroe-based side are, perennially, observed with much outside interest due to their sprinkling of present and former inter-county players and their obvious scoring armoury.
However their display in their opening Group B fixture against St Molaise Gaels in this campaign, at Markievicz Park last Saturday evening - which saw them secure a four-point triumph (0-16 to 1-9) - raised as many questions as it answered in terms of that potential .
On the plus side, the point-taking prowess of team captain Dara McGarty and John Scanlon yielded 0-8 between them - with Scanlon, in addition, also nailing a 44th minute free.
Moreover, the direct running style of David Rooney and, more particularly, Charlie Harrison and, occasionally, Michael McNamara ensured the Fergal Kelly managed outfit obtained a decent quota of scoreable frees for Rooney to despatch in traditional 'off-the-ground' fashion - which he did with aplomb (six successes from seven attempts).
Yet, there were worrying occasions when the Carraroe men were overrun in defence and had either St Molaise Gaels' Darren Gilsenan, Alan Carway or Eoin McHugh been able to convert real goal chances in the 20th, 57th or 60th minute respectively (with Philip Greene excellently repelling Carway's effort) - to add to an even later additional time John Gilsenan goal - the end result could have been very different.
Rewinding back to the opening half it was 0-5 to 0-2 in favour of St John's after twenty minutes with the sides sharing four points between them in those ten pre-interval minutes (leaving it 0-7 to 0-4 at half-time).
Two Rooney frees - his fifth and sixth of the proceedings - eased Fergal Kelly's charges into a five point lead by the 39th minute but two Peter McHugh frees for St Molaise Gaels kept them within touching distance.
There were five points between the teams by the 56th minute - 0-14 to 0-9 - before McGarty and Robert Fahy clipped over points for St John's in quick succession - either side of those late and eschewed St Molaise Gaels goal chances and prior to that added time John Gilsenan consolation goal for the North Sligo side - to ensure an 0-16 to 1-9 scoreline at the end.
Much promise and some doubts, therefore, about St John's ahead of their clash with Tubbercurry in the final Group B encounter this weekend but, as mentioned at the beginning, they have the personnel to go far in this years Owen B Hunt Cup race. As for St Molaise Gaels, they have an authentic collectiveness about them that should stand them in good stead regardless of who they meet next in the Championship but eight wides was a bad result so they need to polish their shooting boots..
ST JOHN'S: Phillip Greene; Eoin Flanagan, Niall Walsh, Robert Fahy (0-1); Conor Kearns, Neil Hayes, David Rooney (0-6, 6f); David Burke, James Murphy; Thomas Kelly (0-1), Michael McNamara, Charlie Harrison; Ian Rossiter, John Scanlon (0-5, 1f), Dara McGarty (capt) (0-3). SUBS: Ross Gordon for McNamara (38 mins), Michael O'Hehir for Kearns (53 mins), Shane Stenson for Burke (57 mins)
ST MOLAISE GAELS: Conor Laughlin; Liam Kennedy, Gavin Gilsenan, Damien Kelly; Alan Carway, Mark Quinn (0-1), Darragh Fallon; Cathal Burns, Peter Wilson; Mark Leonard, Darren Gilsenan (0-2), James Brennan; Dara Currid (0-1), Gerard Brady, Eoin McHugh (capt) (0-4, 2f).SUBS: John Gilsenan (1-0) for Wilson (11 mins), Niall McLaughlin (0-1) for Brennan (34 mins), Ryan O'Sullivan for Fallon (51 mins) Brennan for Leonard (51 mins) REF: Michael Duffy