Saturday's AIB Junior and Intermediate Club round-up
By Kevin Egan
AIB Ulster Intermediate Club Football Final
NAOMH EANNA (ANTRIM) 2-11 MULLAHORAN (CAVAN) 1-10
AIB Leinster Intermediate Club Hurling Final
GRAIGUE-BALLYCALLAN (KILKENNY) 2-19 PORTLAOISE (LAOIS) 0-17
AIB Leinster Junior Club Hurling Final
DUNNAMAGGIN (KILKENNY) 3-17 NA FIANNA (MEATH) 1-11
For 40 minutes there was little or nothing to call between Naomh Éanna of Antrim and Cavan’s Mullahoran in this evening’s Ulster Intermediate club football final played at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh, but in the end it was the Belfast club who drove on in the closing stages to record 2-11 to 1-10 victory and become the first ever team from the county to win this title.
Kristian Healy got the winners out to a strong start when he struck a soccer-style goal after 11 minutes to establish the first meaningful lead of the game and that score was still the difference at half time, with Enda O’Reilly (Mullahoran) and Odhran Eastwood (Naomh Éanna) each on the mark for a couple of points in the half that finished 1-5 to 0-5.
Seán McKeogh, Enda O’Reilly and Cian O’Reilly drew Mullahoran level within five minutes of the restart, while a crucial save from Paddy Flood was all that prevented the Cavan side from taking the lead. An excellent long range point from Eoin Nagle shifted the momentum of the game however and they looked well-poised to win when they added three more goals and then an excellent goal from county midfielder Joe Maskey to make it 2-9 to 0-8.
The next four points were shared, but a big finish was guaranteed when Paddy Flood received a black card to add to his earlier yellow on the hour mark for a foul close to goal, and Enda O’Reilly fired in the resultant penalty. Naomh Éanna held firm however and they now advance to the All-Ireland series.
The Kilkenny stranglehold on Leinster’s club hurling titles continued when Graigue-Ballycallan and Dunnamaggin were crowned provincial intermediate and junior champions at the expense of Portlaoise and Na Fianna, following two hugely entertaining games at Nowlan Park.
New Laois hurling manager Eddie Brennan proved that he’s still able to make a significant impact on the field as well when he rattled in a vital first half goal in the intermediate decider, helping Graigue- Ballycallan to a 1-8 to 0-7 lead over the Laois county town side.
Cathal Duggan and Cormac Rigney were on target with a couple of scores each as Portlaoise stayed in touch despite playing into the breeze in the first half. However the game went away from them after half time as a better supply of ball started to go into the Graigue-Ballycallan full forward line, and corner men Aaron Brennan and Seán Ryan took full advantage, racking up the points to make it a double scores game, 1-13 to 0-8.
Portlaoise hung in there and scores from Cian Taylor, Cormac Rigney, David O’Mahony and substitute Colm Gleeson halved the gap and suggested the possibility of an upset with less than ten minutes to play, and a series of wides from the Kilkenny champions kept the door open for Portlaoise to become the first side from outside the Marble County to win this title since Mount Leinster Rangers in 2011.
It wasn’t to be however as a late Sean Ryan point and a goal from Aaron Brennan wrapped up a 2-17 to 0-15 win for Graigue-Ballycallan.
Na Fianna of Meath became the fourth Royal county club to play in a Leinster junior final this afternoon but their dreams were dashed just as those of Boardsmill (2000), Rathmolyon (2012) and Ratoath (2016) were before them. Barry and Peter Slevin were on target as they got off to a fine start, moving 0-5 to 0-1 in front early on, but goals from Ronan Coffey and John Fitzpatrick turned the contest back in favour of Dunnamaggin, who led 2-6 to 0-7 at half time.
Much like their county colleagues in the intermediate decider, Dunnamaggin stepped up the pace in the third quarter and a second goal for Coffey meant that they had a double-digit lead built up by the time Barry Slevin’s long range free went all the way to the net after 45 minutes. The Kilkenny side didn’t break stride and kept piling on the points to record a 3-17 to 1-11 win.