Glen hold firm as magical mystery tour leads to All-Ireland final
AIB All-Ireland Club SFC semi-final: Watty Graham’s, Glen (Derry) 1-11 Moycullen (Galway) 0-12
A MAGICAL mystery tour has dragged out everything they have to get here, and now Glen stand one last leap from immortality as a golden opportunity awaits to cap a year none shall ever forget.
The talk of potential grew tiresome a long time ago; it was on days like these that they had to deliver, otherwise theirs would become the kind of hard luck story that had become all too familiar during decades of underachievement.
At Croke Park yesterday, Moycullen felt the force of this Glen group’s burning desire to carve out something magnificent. At the back of it all, a determination to ensure this campaign didn’t finish up with regret.
It is less than a year since some of yesterday’s heroes found themselves inside the Hogan Stand bar in Moneyneena, sinking a few pints while watching Kilcoo reach the promised land with the most dramatic of All-Ireland final wins.
Their Ulster defeat to the Magpies a few months earlier still niggled and nagged - maybe we didn’t do enough, didn’t back ourselves when the game was there to be won. There were no great proclamations or promises made that afternoon; there didn’t need to be.
Next time, though, they wanted to be running out onto the field instead of watching from afar. Answers to major questions were required to overcome Errigal Ciaran and Cargin, before the ghosts of defeat to Kilcoo were at last laid to rest in a momentous Ulster final.
On different days, all could have gone the other way - but they didn’t. And even when Moycullen upped the ante and took Glen into the trenches, the answers came to hand once more as they set up a heavyweight All-Ireland final showdown with Kilmacud Croke’s.
If anything, they could and should have made life easier for themselves yesterday, rather than leaving their fate in the hands of a last-gasp free from Moycullen captain Dessie Conneely.
Typically, it was the kind of on-the-toe defending that has defined their season – this time from Jack Doherty in blocking down Peter Cooke, played in short by Conneely – that secured their date with destiny at the death.
Yet, just as against Kilcoo, Glen had come flying out of the traps to seize a four point lead 10 minutes in, with Moycullen side seemingly struck down by stage fright on their biggest day.
Unlike in the Ulster final - when the Magpies simply couldn’t get out during that early spell - Moycullen fared well from their own kick-outs, only to run into trouble time and again. And when shooting opportunities did arrive, they looked petrified of pulling the trigger.
With their opponents applying next to no pressure on the ball, it was pipe and slippers stuff for Glen.
But Moycullen’s lethargy proved contagious as the Derry men didn’t score for 15 minutes after Ethan Doherty eased his side 0-4 ahead, by which stage Moycullen had cut the gap to one after a brilliant Cooke effort caught the top of Connlan Bradley’s bar on the way over.
A couple of questionable calls from referee David Gough, who sent Glen coach Ryan Porter to the stands before half-time, also aided their cause as the dangerous Conneely found his range from frees.
That seemed to shock Glen back into life as, either side of the break, they took a firm grip on proceedings. Midfielder Emmet Bradley, immense all day, curled over a classy score after the electric Ethan Doherty had slalomed through for his second score.
And when the only goal of the game arrived just 47 seconds into the second half, Glen had one foot firmly in the final. It started with a Cathal Mulholland burst, Jack Doherty found Conor Convery whose lay-off left Eunan Mulholland in space.
Tiarnan Flanagan’s run across the square opened up the space for Mulholland to shoot and, when his shot was saved by Andrew Power, Flanagan was still loitering to scoop home. Danny Tallon picked up the man of the match award, and there could be little argument, but the livewire Flanagan must have run him close after a brilliant display.
Glen kept the scoreboard ticking over, just enough to hold Moycullen at arm’s length but without killing the Galway champions off. Had Tallon managed to control Eunan Mulholland’s diagonal ball after a clever run, the remainder could well have become a procession.
But Moycullen hung in, going after the Glen kick-outs and getting enough joy to make life uncomfortable down the straight. In the midst of the madness Connlan Bradley pinged one kick-out right into the chest of Ethan Doherty, laying off for Conor Glass to stride forward and score. In going for broke, these were the risks they had to take.
And Moycullen continued to push and prey on any nerves within the Glen ranks, even though the goal they so craved never looked like coming. The experienced Michael Warnock burst forward to fist over at just the right time and, when Eunan Mulholland punched the air after slotting between the posts heading into added time, the job was almost done.
Antrim native Owen Gallagher cut the gap to two as chaos descended in the dying moments but, just as they have done throughout a defining year, Malachy O’Rourke’s men held their nerve.
Not even 20 miles apart, Glen and Dunloy will turn Croke Park green and gold when they bid to upset the odds and bring the biggest club prizes up north on January 22.
In a Kilmacud side still smarting from last year’s heartbreak, and with a little added Shane Walsh thrown into the mix, the ultimate acid test awaits the Watties. All have been passed so far.
One more to go.
Glen: C Bradley; R Dougan, C Mulholland (0-1), M Warnock (0-1); Tiarnan Flanagan (1-0), C Carville, E Doherty (0-2); C Glass (0-1), E Bradley (0-3, 0-1 free); E Mulholland, J Doherty, C Convery, C McGuckian; A Doherty, DTallon (0-3, 0-1 free). Subs: C McCabe for Convery (38), S O’Hara for A Doherty (53).
Black card: D Tallon (60+4)
Yellow cards: M Warnock (20), C Convery (30+1)
Moycullen: A Power; C Corcoran, E Kelly, N Mulcahy; M O'Reilly, D Wynne, A Claffey, T Clarke, P Kelly; S Kelly, G Davoren, N Walsh (0-1), P Cooke (0-2); O Gallagher (0-1), D Conneely (0-8, 0-7 frees, 0-1 mark). Subs: F McDonagh for Walsh (53), C Bohan for P Kelly (58), D Cox for O’Reilly (59)
Referee: D Gough (Meath)