IT MAY not have been the birthday present Sean Dolan’s GAC had planned, but Wednesday night’s two points Neal Carlin Cup Final victory over Ardmore still ensured there would be silverware at the Creggan club’s 70th anniversary celebrations in the Delacroix Inn tomorrrow evening.
Michael Wilson was in Celtic Park
photographs: STEPHEN Latimer
In the week of such a milestone it was perhaps fitting that, with nostalgia certain to dominate the weekend, this hard fought victory offered something of a glimpse into the future as a number of promising minors picked up their first medals in the colours of Dolan’s. One such rising star, Mark Cooke, help lay the foundations for this victory with the game’s opening point after only 11 seconds. But where there was youth there was also experience for the Creggan men. Paul Loughrey, operating in midfield, set Cooke up for that score and was at the heart of a blistering start for Dolan’s which brought seven unanswered points in the first 10 minutes. Along with Gary Cassidy - who scored an excellent second point from 40 metres - and the strong running Joe Gallagher there was ample know-how when the inevitable Ardmore fightback arrived in the second half.and it is diffult
For William McLaughlin’s team, a season which promised much has delivered little. A few weeks back they were battling for League and Championship honours with the prospect of promotion still on the horizon. Glack, Drum and Moneymore respectively put pay to those hopes to leave it a season of anti-climax for St. Mary’s. It may have been different had ardmore not left it until the second half to play the sort of football they are capable of.
McLaughlin’s men will undoubtedly be back challenging for honours next season but on this evidence they could face a stiff challenge for Dolan’s. Always a team capable of scoring goals, it was Dolan’s ability to translate their midfield dominance into points that made the difference on the night. From 26 shots on goal, they scored 18 points and only a superb stop from Eoin Mailey and great defending stopped Conor McCosker hitting the back of the net.
When Ardmore pressed, Alan Grant, who will be hoping to make it a double celebration this weekend when he plays for Na Magha in the Ulster Junior hurling Championship Final stood firm in his deep role, breaking out to great effect.
For all Dolan’s first half dominace though, Ardmore almost found a way back into the game during an enthralling second 30minutes. That one sided opening saw Dolans’ race into a 0-7 to no score lead with Ardmore unable to get a foothold at midfield and constantly coughing up possession in their half-forward line which allowed Dolan’s to break, which they did to great effect. As well as Cooke and Cassidy, Caolan McCosker, Oran Cassidy (free), Gallagher, Paul Melaugh and Sean O’Rouke ensured each of those opening scores had a different names attached.
Barry Gormley eventually got Ardmore going with two excellent scores but Dolan’s responded through Gallagher and Melaugh. With Ardmore reeling and only two minutes left of the half, James Cruickshank set up Anthony Harrigan for a goal which he rolled home at the second time of asking. Despite Melaugh and O’Rourke again finding the target in response Ardmore had a crucial foothold as the sides went into the break at 0-11 to 1-03.
Cooke extended the Dolan’s lead on the restart but Ardmore looked a different animal of the break with ‘Al’ McLaughlin providing a timely boost on 35 minutes with their second goal. With Dolan’s falling asleep as they disputed a free close to goal, McLaughlin used all his experience to take it quick and fire low into Davy McGilloway’s goal for 0-12 to 2-03.
Had McCosker converted either of his goal opportunities the contest may have been over but even then, Paul Loughrey and substitutes, Ciaran Wilkinson and Kevin Nixon, tagged on points to put Dolan’s in a comfortbale position 0-15 to 2-03 with 46 minutes on the clock.
Except Ardmore wouldn’t take the hint. back they came with a third goal, Cruickshank this time finishing emphatically after Chrris Gormley’s initial shot had come back out to him. With the sides swapping points, it looked like Ardmore would need a fourth goal and increddibly they almost got with two minutes left as Harrigan’s well struck shot rebounded off the inside of the post and away to safety. A goal would have brought it back to a one point game but Ardmore’s season of near misses continued as late points from Hargan and Cruikshank proved insufficient.
St. Mary’s were left to rue a disappointing opening half. Dolan’s, though, will move on to celebrate their last 70 years and hope this silverware is only the beginning of a next 70.
Sean Dolan’s - David McGilloway; Kevin McChrystal, Dean McFadden, Joe Gallagher (0-2); Billy Dobbins, Alan Grant, Mark Cooke (0-2); Paul Melaugh (0-3), Paul Loughery (1f); Caolan McCosker (0-1), Gary Cassidy (0-1), Sammy Robinson (0-1); Conor McCosker, Oran Cassidy (0-1f), Sean O’Rourke (0-3). (Subs) Ciaran Wilkinson (0-1) for D McFadden, 39 mins; Kevin Nixon (0-2) for G Cassidy, 45mins.
Ardmore - Eoin Mailey; Gerard Quinn, Anthony Harrigan (1-1), Karl McLaughlin; Peter McLaughlin, Chris Gormley, Leonard Quinn, Ritchie McGrotty, Gerard Storey; Barry Gormley (0-3), James Cruickshank (1-1), Ryan Storey; Al McLaughlin (1-1), Kevin Hardtop (0-1), Aaron Gallagher. (Subs) Peter Harrigan for A Gallagher, 43mins.
Referee - Declan O’Connor (Dungiven)