Sean Dolan’s 2-15, Slaughtneil IIIs 1-06
They’ve been the nomads of Division Three for four seasons but with Piggery Ridge set to be available for their next home fixture, Sean Dolan’s served notice that they intend making as much progress on the pitch as off it with an impressive first win of 2016.
A heavy opening day defeat to Limavady, coupled with Slaughtneil’s impressive victory at Magherfelt Thirds last week, suggested a tough challenge for the Creggan club at Pairc Na Magha but the city men impressed as an uncertain start gave way to a controlled display with some superb score-taking.
County hurler Alan Grant was superb at midfield and got better the longer the game went on while Joe Gallagher’s tactical nous and experience was the perfect foil for some of his younger team-mates.
And in Caolan McCosker, Dolan’s retain a match winner if he is on his game and this was one of those days. Throw in Oran Cassidy looking secured at full-back and the non-stop running of Kevin Nixon and the potential has always been there. What they have missed was younger players coming through but Sunday suggested that too is changing.
Half-back Ryan Watkins was one of an number of hugely impressive young players, Ryan O’Donnell another, who complemented the more familiar faces.
Yet it was Slaughtneil who looked the more assured in the opening exchanges. Early points from Nixon and McCosker were cancelled out by Michael Logue and Francis Bradley before Eanna Cassidy danced through two challenges to fire emphatically past Dave McGilloway for a 1-02 to 0-02 lead on 10 minutes.
But that would be Slaugthneil’s last score for 26 minutes as Dolans took control. With the wind behind them and Grant and Gallagher winning the midfield battle, the Creggan men started retaining possession better and their patience paid off.
First Nixon, then Watkins and finally McCosker hit fine scores to draw Dolan’s level. Gallagher then edged them in front before McCosker hit a superb score from left and Ryan O’Donnell fisted the city side into a three point lead.
Dolan’s continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over with Sean O’Donnell hitting one unbelievable point until their first half superiority finally yielded a goal, Eamon McGinley’s finishing brilliantly off his left foot 90 seconds from the break from a 1-12 to 0-02 interval lead.
Now came the test. An impressive lead but facing the elements; Could Dolan’s maintain control?
They could, but only after withstanding some 15 minutes in which the Emmet’s didn’t help themselves by constantly going for goal when they should have been tapping the ball over the bar.
That may have increased the pressure on Dolan’s but, as it was, the closest Slaughtneil got was 1-12 to 1-06 after a succession of early wides from both teams.
Some 19 second half minutes had passed before Dolan’s finally scored but once Sean O’Donnell’s lovely long range free drifted over, Slaughtneil heads dropped and Dolan’s scented blood.
The clinching goal arrived on 52 minutes. Substitute Paul MeLaugh’s huge effort from wide out on the right touchline was kept alive brilliantly by Nixon. The forward was aware enough to pick out the supporting run of Gallagher who side-stepped Sean McEldowney and fired into an empty net for 2-14 to 1-06. Game over and a much welcome win for Dolan’s.
This was far from perfect and there will be difficult matches ahead, as there always is with young players, but it could be that the Creggan club’s on the field blueprint for success is finally catching up with the excellent work currently being done at Piggery Ridge.
Sean Dolan’s: David McGilloway; Kevin Thompson, Oran Cassidy, Conor O’Rourke; Sean O’Donnell (0-2, 1f), Ryan Watkins, Gary Fisher; Alan Grant, Joe Gallagher (1-2); Eamon McGinley (1-0), Mark Cooke (0-1), Caolan McCosker (0-6, 2f); Ryan McLaughlin, Kevin Nixon (0-3), Ryan O’Donnell (0-1). (Subs) Paul Melaugh for R McLaughlin 42mins; Dylan Durkan for R O’Donnell, 50mins.
Slaughtneil IIIs: Sean McEldowney; Diarmaid McMullan, Gerard Kelly, Seamus Dougan; Sean Og Bradley, Michael Rogers, Paul Cassidy; Shane Kelly (0-1, 1f), Eanna Cassidy (1-0); Damien Cassidy, Larry Bradley, Francis Bradley (0-1, 1f); Michael Logue (0-2, 1f); Ciaran Cassidy (0-1), Adrian Quigg (0-1). (Subs) Cathair Cassidy for S Dougan; Christopher Mullan for M Logue; Pauric McMullan for C Cassidy; Seamus Logue for F Bradley.
Referee: EP Cassidy