A new era may be about to start for Melvin Gaels as they claimed the 2008 Masonite League Division One crown last Sunday in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada, defeating great rivals and County Champions Glencar/Manorhamilton without three of their greatest servants.
MASONITE LEAGUE DIVISION 1
MELVIN GAELS 3-8
Forced to line out without the injured James & Gareth Phelan and the absent Colin Regan, the Kinlough men were missing three of the key links from their 1998 Championship winning side, three players who have been the backbone of Melvin Gaels teams for years.
Yet in their absence, a ferociously committed and hungry Melvin Gaels proved the better team in most sectors of the field and were convincing winners, except for a dramatic finale that saw Glencar/Manor grab two injury time goals!
Minus their experienced trio, the young Gaels stepped up to the plate and took on responsibility where it might have previously been left to others, a feature of the game that spells good news for the Kinlough side in the years ahead.
But what Melvin Gaels did display was a ferocious hunger for victory, something that was evident the minute they ran onto the field. Everyone worked their socks off and while their old failing of fading out of games may have hampered them once or twice during the game, their commitment never dropped.
Going for the double, Glencar/Manor never displayed the same sort of desire as their neighbours.
It was clear that the Gaels would run through a brick wall in pursuit of the ball but at the end of a long, tiring season, Glencar/Manor didnt seem to have the same sort of motivation as several of their players stood up and watched after they lost possession.
Yet the Manor men came very close to pulling off a great escape with two late goals that caused quite a deal of consternation on the Melvin Gaels bench. With two minutes of added time announced, James Glancy scored what seemed to no more than a consolationÓgoal.
But the drama heightened as added time continued for another three minutes and the Championship winners grabbed yet another goal, putting Melvin Gaels under ferocious pressure in a dramatic finish to a game where the Kinlough men had dominated.
Gareth Phelan has been a permanent fixture in the Gaels goals for years but young Jesse McGuinness did a man of the match job in denying Glencar/Manor certainÓgoals on at least three occasions, fantastic saves that hint at a long future between the posts.
Colm McGowan also came up with a vital goal-line clearance in the first half as Fabian McMorrow led a defence that might have creaked and groaned under the pressure but one that never gave up battling, working and fighting.
Emlyn Mulligan mightnt have rung up the sort of figures he normally does but that would ignore a vital contribution in controlling the flow of the Melvin Gaels game-plan.The County man showed a different side of his game, controlling the pace in the second half, using his head and doing all the unglamorous work that wins games.
Conor Sheridan, Paul Brennan, Paul Og Ferguson, Stephen McGurran all epitomised the never-say-die work ethic of Melvin Gaels as they spent as much time harrying Glencar/Manor, often in the Gaels half of the field, as they did attacking and causing problems for the Manor rearguard.
Emlyn Mulligan opened the Scóring with a first minute free but had a shot from the right wing gathered by Manor keeper Gary Loughlin shortly after.
Replicating Mulligans feats, Adrian Croal first had a narrow wide after a run but followed up with a lovely point after a Pat Gilmartin catch set Dominic Kelly free following a good pass.
Melvin Gaels almost broke through for a goal on five minutes when a high ball broke loose to Emlyn Mulligan some 20 yards in front of the Manor goal on five minutes. However, the County man blasted a horrible wide in a real let-off.
But the Kinlough side didnt have to wait long for the breakthrough as the ball broke again from a long delivery and David McSharry drilled a wonderful low shot to the Manor net for a dramatic goal.
Both sides were guilty of poor misses with Manors attempt at an instant reply thwarted when the County Champions opened up the Gaels rearguard only for Colm McGowan to block the shot on the line with a fabulous block. From the rebound, Dominic Kelly shot wide in a costly miss.
Kelly then let his frustrationÓget the better of him as he was booked for a foul on Paul Brennan, Emlyn Mulligan sending a monster 55 yard free over the bar in a brilliant score on 12 minutes.
Paul Brennan hit a wide but made immediate amends with a great score from the corner as Melvin Gaels broke quickly and effectively.
However, this finally spurred Glencar/Manor into action as James Glancy & Alan Sweeney both knocked over quick points to narrow the gap to a goal. And they reduced that lead further when Fintan McGourty, who got away with a few steps, twice dodged tackles to fire over from 40 yards.
Glencar/Manor then put together a wonderful team point, started when David Poniard absorbed a big hit on the right wing.
He shook it off and the ball went through two or three hands before Darren Sweeney scored a great point from the right wing on 23 minutes.
Melvin Gaels looked in real trouble at this stage but they showed real mettle, even if their first point in 13 minutes was a missed goal chance! Mulligan and Paul Brennan broke clear and set up Brendan Brennan straight in front of the goal, only six or seven yards out.
A goal looked certain but a fantastic full-length diving block from Shane Devaney saw the shot deflected across the bar.
Mulligan then added a brilliant effort from the left wing, a free that curled in and over the bar before Conor Sheridan added a final coup de grace when Dominic Kelly lost the ball out the field and Melvin Gaels quickly worked the ball to Sheridan for a fine point.
That left Melvin Gaels 1-6 to 0-5 in front at the break
That lead was almost wiped out just seconds into the second half when a free was fisted across the Gaels goal to Brian McDonald. The corner-forward hesitated a fraction and Jesse McGuinness made a wonderful diving save to push the ball around the post.
Manor put a lot of pressure on but all they had to show for it was a James Glancy free on four minutes. It seemed as if the double was gone from their grasp five minutes later when a great move down the wing saw Paul McGurran charge towards the Manor goal.
Having played a one-two with Paul Brennan, McGurran seemed as if he had run into a cul-de-sac when surrounded by three defenders but he worked the ball back to Brennan who came charging past a static defence and floated a ball across the face of the goal to his unmarked brother Brendan who fisted the ball to the net.
It was a crucial score and Manor heads definitely dropped, so much so that Fabian McMorrow popped up from centre-back with a brilliant 40-yard point on 15 minutes.
But Manor showed they werent gone yet when McGuinness made another great save, tipping a fisted Glancy effort onto the post and clear after an Adrian OFlynn shot dropped short on 19 minutes.
However, Glancy wasnt to be denied and after two Melvin Gaels defenders got in a mix-up with a high ball, the County man fisted Brian McDonalds pass to the Gaels net on 21 minutes.
Glancys roller-coaster took another turn when he had a bad wide from a free and Melvin Gaels made them pay with a peach of a goal. The Gaels broke with Emlyn Mulligan and Conor Sheridan making the most of gaps appearing in the Manorhamilton rearguard.
Sheridan played a ball over the top to Brennan who broke through a tackle and then chipped Gary Loughlin for an outstanding goal on 26 minutes.
That seemed to be that, particularly when Packie Hill set up Mulligan for his teams last point.
Indeed, it seemed as if a penalty a minute into the two minutes of added time announced was nothing more than a consolation when Brendan Brennan clearly lay on the ball as Glencar/Manor sought a late consolation.
James Glancy stroked the penalty home but it seemed like nothing more than a late consolation, particularly as the announced time was almost up.
However, referee Brendan Sammon showed no inclination to blow the final whistle and play continued. Incredibly for a team that never got going in attack, Manor struck for a third goal.
Again a high ball in the goal-mouth caused the problems with Pat Gilmartin drilling home to suddenly leave just two minutes in it after three minutes of added time.
With Melvin Gaels mentors and players getting increasingly annoyed by the amount of added time being played, Manor continued to attack but the Gaels held firm, blocking James Glancys free to claim the League crown.
Jesse McGuinness, Joe McGowan, Stephen Clancy, Colm McGowan, Paul McGurran, Fabian McMorrow (0-1), Anthony Tiffoney, Martin McCarron, Stephen McGurran, Paul Og Ferguson, Emlyn Mulligan (0-4), David McSharry (1-0), Paul Brennan (1-1), Brendan Brennan (1-1), Conor Sheridan (0-1). Subs: Packie Hill for McCarron (51 mins), for C. McGowan (62 mins).
Gary Loughlin, Michael Poniard, Shane Devaney, Thomas McDonald, Shane Loughlin, Adrian OFlynn, David Poniard, Fintan McGourty (0-1), Pat Gilmartin (1-0), Dominic Kelly, Darren Sweeney (0-1), Adrian Croal (0-1), James Glancy (2-2), Alan Sweeney (1-1), Brian McDonald. Subs: Ronan McGourty & James OBrien for A. Sweeney & M. Poniard (42 mins), Anthony McDonald for Kelly (48 mins).
Referee: Brendan Sammon.
This full report is available thanks to John Connolly for the Leitrim Observer
– its available in this weeks
18-Dec-08 by John Connolly – LeitrimObserver.ie