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Minors Win Thriller
Apr. 26, 2017
MINOR DIVISION 3 LEAGUE: Belcoo 5-10 v 5-9 Irvinestown
The first game in the Minor Division 3 League seen the top 2 sides in Section C clashing at a wintry Pairc McNean with hailstones and gales. This was seen by many as a mismatch. Irvinestown had won all 5 section C games by very large margins. Belcoo had won 4 of their 5 outings but had suffered a defeat by 25 points away to Irvinestown in mid February.
However, the Belcoo Managers and players regrouped and have now won 5 in a row. Belcoo believed that there were a significant number of factors for their poor showing on the first day of the season. The O’Rahillys had been unable to source a challenge game in advance of the season opener, the unavailability of their influential leader Eoin Shiels, underperforming of under 16s in 2016 and the lack of games for minors during 2016 due to Belcoo being unable to field in all but 1 game.
Belcoo players and managers felt that they were ring rusty on that occasion and refused to share the thoughts of many in the county that this would be a walk in the Pairc for Irvinestown. Before the throw in, Gerry McAloon had said that the team was better prepared and had greater belief and confidence. He said “ I think this will be a very close encounter and I am not ruling out a Belcoo victory”
Oisin Leonard keeps a firm grip of the ball while his opponent takes a firm grip of his jersey - Pic John Flanagan
Irvinestown was at full strength at fielded a much older team than Belcoo with stars such as Keane & Joyce in defence, the formidable midfield duo of Maguire and the high rated county minor Seanie Mahon and up front they had their senior player Ward and the County Under 17 star Large-Ellis. Belcoo had all players available with the exception of Dermot Burns who had work commitments. However, just before throw in Belcoo had to make a number of positional switches due to injury concerns of their senior player Shiels. Eoin Shiels normally plays in the midfield but a late switch seen him line out at full forward.
Belcoo played the first half with a significant wind advantage. However from the throw in it was Irvinestown that did most of the pressing without any scoring. Belcoo from their first attack found Matthew Mulvey and when it looked that he was in on goal the Irvinestown Goalie pulled off a magnificent save. Further Belcoo attacks found Joyce and Keane on top with some excellent defending. After 5 minutes Conor McAloon on a run was dragged down and Ciaran Flanagan coolly slotted over the resulting free.
However, Irvinestown kept sweeping forward from the back and Large-Ellis and Ward were looking very dangerous in front of the Belcoo Goal and took the lead with a goal and point. Belcoo to their credit kept their heads up and put in some excellent defending by James McAloon and the vastly improving Oisin Leonard. Further up the field Luka Gribbin but in a tackle on Seanie Mahon to turn-over the procession and cleverly hand passed to Shane Doherty who converted a fantastic point from distance.
Ciaran Flanagan assesses his option in the middle third during the contest - Pic John Flanagan
The midfield pairing of Ciaran Flanagan and Shane Doherty were beginning to get to grips with their classy midfield opponents. Ciaran Flanagan converted another free kick before Belcoo won procession in their half back line by talented and consistent McKeown who played a cross field ball to McAloon he passed to Michael McGourty and he went on a great run and slipped the ball to Shiels who made no mistake from close range and this goal give Belcoo the lead once more.
Both teams traded points with Shiels and an excellent long range effort from McGourty while Irvinestown scored a further 3 points. Belcoo lost their shape and gifted Irvinestown another goal and point. The final score of the half fell to Belcoo when McHugh gathered the ball in defence and expertly carried the ball into the Irvinestown half before slipping to Conor McAloon who landed an immense long distance point. The half time score Belcoo 1.06 Irvinestown 2.05, With Irvinestown now 2 points ahead and with the considerable wind advantage in the second half it was expected that they would go on and comfortably win this encounter.
Nevertheless, Belcoo had other ideas and the lead changed several times during the next 30 minutes. The Belcoo half back line of Ronan Maguire, Lawrence McKeown and Gerard McHugh regrouped and got organised and regained a lot of possession. The midfield pairing of Ciaran Flanagan & Shane Doherty were also getting on top in this key battle. The Belcoo Captain Michael McGourty and Conor McAloon were getting through a lot of work and were tracking back and supporting their under pressure defenders. Belcoo replaced the hard working Mark Ferguson and Luka Gribbin with fresh legs from Fiachra McAloon and Usna MacErlane. These players were employed to put pressure on the Irvinestown half back line to try and stop further attacks starting. Both players did their designated jobs very well.
A determind Matthew Mulvey drives pass is opposite number - Pic John Flanagan
Colm Furey found Conor McAloon with an accurate pass and he went on the run before finding Ciaran Flanagan on a run and he used his strength to break through the Irvinestown defence before placing a ball low into the left side of the net. Conor McAloon converted a close range free after good work from McGourty but Irvinestown came back at Belcoo with the excellent running of Large-Ellis causing Belcoo all sorts of problems and a further goal and point for Irvinestown.
Belcoo produced their best football in the final 20 minutes against the wind with Eoin Shiels scoring a huge individual goal before the Belcoo County Under 17 players producing eye-catching displays as C McAloon again found the hardworking Flanagan who scored his second goal of the game. Again the teams traded points from Play with Shane Doherty playing a deeper role than normal landed another of his trademark long distance points. Conor McAloon scored from play after combining with McGourty. The move of the game then when Colm Furey gathered the ball in his own defence before running the length of the field before off loading to Shiels and Eoin made no mistake in putting Belcoo 4 points clear with 2 minutes remaining.
James McAloon clears the ball downfield under pressure - Pic John Flanagan
Belcoo then made some sloppy passing and poor decisions in front of the posts and at this stage should have been much further ahead and poor positioning let Irvinestown run through the tiring Belcoo defence and score a goal and point to level the contest. A great ball fielded in the middle of the Pairc by Flanagan found Shiels who struck another point with his left foot to regain the lead. Shane Doherty intercepted a crucial ball before playing to Lawrence McKeown and his shot was deflected out for a 45. Conor McAloon’s attempt at the 45 against the strong wind went so close and came back of the top of the cross bar and was played to safety by the busy Joyce and he was instrumental on starting another Irvinestown Attack but McHugh and Maguire stood tall to sniff out any danger.
Oran McCann in the Belcoo goals could do nothing about the 5 goals conceded but was on hand to pull of 2 excellent saves. In the second half the kick outs were difficult due to the galeforce winds but McCann once again delivered. The biggest cheer of the night was when James McAloon fielded the ball from a final Irvinestown attack and he fed the speedy Oisin Leonard who carried the ball out of defence to reduce the pressure and his pass to the excellent Doherty had insured Belcoo O’Rahillys of a valuable 2 league points.
The whistle went after almost 5 minutes of injury time and relief for the Belcoo players. The team had emptied the tank and put in a very pleasing all round team performance. This in truth was a real thriller and it may well be some time before Belcoo is graced with such an exciting game again. The Irvinestown Manager wished the Belcoo team well for the remaining of the season and was gracious in defeat by saying that the better team on the night had won. Belcoo will have to regroup for another important fixture next week but are well aware that further improvement will be required. The Management team were delighted with the result and will take great heart from a very good display from a team increasing in confidence.
The Belcoo Panel - Oran McCann, Oisin Leonard, James McAloon, Gerard McHugh, Lawrence McKeown, Matthew Mulvey, Eoin Shiels, Ciaran Flanagan, Colm Furey, Shane Doherty, Conor McAloon, Mark Ferguson, Michael McGourty, Luka Gribbin, Fiachra McAloon, Usna MacErlane and Ronan Maguire.
Report complied by Gerry McAloon.
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