Loughinisland goal-den boys win historic Ulster Club Intermediate title
GOALS win matches, even lucky ones, as Loughinisland showed in their historic Ulster Club Intermediate Football Championship final victory over Bundoran at a grim Owenbeg yesterday.
And, while three of their goals were of the soft variety, nobody could deny their grit and grace under constant pressure from the lively Donegal lads.
Dan Gordon and company defended cleverly, never lost their composure and intelligently exploited a weakness in the Bundoran full-back line.
Rory Mason was a real hero for the Down champions and was at the hub of all that was good for them, while Gordon and full-back Paddy Megoran also caught the eye for the winners.
The sides were level, 1-1 to 0-4, at the interval and the goal was a gift to the Down men courtesy of Bundoran full-back James Keaney, who lost possession to Conor Killen.
Killen found man of the match Rory Mason, who flicked the ball across the Bundoran goal for Seamus O’Hare to flick the ball to the net.
Bundoran hit back with a well-taken long-range point from the impressive Gary Clancy, with Mason hitting Loughanisland’s only point of the match in the ninth minute.
Incredibly, the eventual winners did not score for another 41 minutes, but crucially the next time they raised a flag was after a well-worked goal that again involved the beavering Mason.
His good work created a chance for sub Paddy McKenny, who supplied a cool finish to put his side in front, 2-1 to 0-5, after half-time replacement Jamie Brennan gave the Donegal men the lead for the first time in the 40th minute.
In that fallow period for ‘the Island’, Bundoran arrowed over points from captain Tommy Hourihane, Alan Russell and their best player, Johnny Boyle.
But they also managed to hit a staggering total of 13 wides to a mere six from, the Down men.
The losers hit two snappy points to level matters at 2-1 to 0-7 seven minutes from time.
Then luck played a big hand in Rory Mason’s crucial third goal two minutes later.
Mason’s speculative shot didn’t look like it would trouble Bundoran goalkeeper Johnny Keenan.
Instead of collecting a simple catch, however, the keeper seemed to try and flick it away but he missed and the ball slid into the net off the crossbar.
This was the hammer blow, and the match was well and truly over when Mason combined with the effective Conor Megoran to let substitute Sean Cochrane flick to the net.
That sealed matters for an extremely clinical Loughinisland who made the most of some very limited possession.
But Bundoran will be kicking themselves that they did not convert even a mere fraction of their possession into scores.
They showed great discipline and composure in turning over a number of Loughinisland attacks, but that calmness deserted them in front of the posts.
Bundoran threw on injured star Jamie Brennan for the second half and he briefly gave them that lead in the 40th minute.
But Jerome Johnson’s men never panicked, and a massed defence ensured there would be no Bundoran goals.
Indeed, it is a tribute Paddy Megoran and Johnny Flynn in their defence that Bundoran never even looked like getting the goal they badly needed to get back into the game.
This was a victory for economy and efficiency and true grace under pressure and Loughanisland can now look forward to taking a tilt at All-Ireland glory in the new year.