A spectacular second half collapse from St Mochta’s saw Clan na Gael extract revenge for their severe beating at the hands of the Louth Village side in last year’s quarter-final stages.
For the Clans, it was a sweet moment as they inflicted their own major defeat on the Mochta’s, winning by eight points after a whirlwind second half performance from the Castletown men.
Looking like a completely different team that took to the Haggardstown turf in the first week in the Championship against St Brides, the Clans have managed to revolutionise themselves in the last number of weeks, but there is still work to do if they want to make that leap into a major final.
In what was a tactical battle from the start, it seemed as though the Mochta’s were winning the midfield battle as a minute before half time, it looked like Declan Byrne had given the Mochta’s a commanding 1-8 to 0-6 lead with a cleanly taken snapshot that whistled past Gavin Neary into the net.
A wonderstrike seconds later by Paul Martin turned the game on its head as the forward made a goal out of nothing down the right hand side. With no real options around him, Martin struck a looping shot that managed to sail over Conor Ryan’s head into the roof of the net to leave just two points between the sides at half time.
That two points was soon chipped away by the Clans soon after the restart as Cathal O’Hanlon reshuffled his hard working pack.
Midfielder Colm Finnegan and full-forward Billy Smith swapped positions as Smith’s pace allowed Clans to get on top in the middle as they edged ahead. But just as they did, the tandem were swapped once again, with Smith’s movement killing a ragged Mochta’s defence as Finnegan added some steel again to the middle.
But it was the timely double introduction of Conall McKeever and Micheal McDonnell that again swung the game in favour of the Clans. They used the duo as an impact double substitution against the O’Mahony’s. It worked a treat that day and it did once again in Haggardstown on Friday night as the forward line of McKeever, Smith and McDonnell soon took a loose Mochta’s backline to the cleaners.
When JJ Quigley and Daryl O’Hanlon were introduced minutes later, several Mochta’s heads dropped as they knew their game was up as they found themselves trailing 1-12 to 1-10 on 55 minutes, thanks to points from McDonnell, McGeown, Smith and Paul Martin.
McGeown made it 1-13 with a free and then seconds after stepping onto the pitch, O’Hanlon showed his cool in front of goal when he placed a score over the bar with the side of his boot to put his side two points ahead with only minutes remaining.
But at this point, there was only going to be one winner as the Clans – confidence oozing out of their pours - never looked like losing it and they wrapped it up in emphatic fashion when a high ball into the box was capitalised on by McGeown who easily smashed it into the net to send a message out to the rest in the grade.
The Mochta’s will look to see where it all went wrong, but they lost the battle in midfield for the second half. Declan Byrne – after a tremendous first half – never got going in the second half as Ray McCabe marked him out of the game. Along with this, the Louth Village side only hit two points in the second 30 minutes, giving them no chance of victory at this level.
Two points, after hitting 1-8 in the first half really highlights the collapse of the Mochta’s as they slumped to the heavy defeat, but credit has to be paid to the Clans who stuck at it the whole way, especially after the Mochta’s went 0-5 to no score ahead after 11 minutes as Ciaran Byrne and Declan Byrne combined to hit the first two scores.
Colin Hoey, Martin McGahon and a Byrne free kick put the Mochta’s in pole position until Smith and Drew Duffy pulled two back for the Clans, the latter sending over the first of two frees with his patented left boot.
Eamonn O’Neill and McGeown swapped scores before both sides were tit-for-tat with scores leaving it 0-8 to 0-6 with time running out in the first half.
Byrne’s superstrike from a Paul Marrow crossfield ball had his side bouncing, but the spring in their steps soon disappeared as Martin eclipsed Byrne’s strike with a screamer of his own to reduce the half time deficit to two points.
Seconds after the restart, Martin chipped the Mochta’s lead down to a point, before Smith sent over a free to bring it level. From there, the Clans forged ahead and never looked back and late on the Mochta’s lost their heads as Sean Crawley was sent off for an off the ball challenge on Leo Martin. McGeown fired over the final score deep into injury time to spark wild celebrations on the Clans bench.
The Castletown side will now face O’Connell’s in the semi-finals of the competition where perhaps one of the best forward lines in the grade (Clans) will meet one of the best defences in the competition (O’Connell’s). Let the games begin.
Scorers – CLAN NA GAEL: Billy Smith (0-6, 1f), Mark McGeown (1-3, 2f), Paul Martin (1-2),
Drew Duffy (0-2, 2f), Micheal McDonnell, Daryl O’Hanlon (0-1) each.
ST MOCHTA’S: , Declan Byrne (1-4, 3f), Martin McGahon (0-2), Colin Hoey, Eamonn O’Neill, Glen O’Reilly, Ciaran Byrne all (0-1).
CLAN NA GAEL: Gavin Neary; Derek English, Paul Crewe, Stephen Fitzpatrick; Gary Hoey, Paul Gartland, Leo Martin; Raymond McCabe, Colm Finnegan; Mark McCann, Paul Gore, Drew Duffy; Paul Martin, Billy Smith, Mark McGeown.
Subs: Conall McKeever for D Duffy (42mins), Micheal McDonnell for P Martin (42mins), JJ Quigley for C Finnegan (54mins), Daryl O’Hanlon for L Martin (58mins).
ST MOCHTA’S: Conor Ryan; Paul Marron, Gary Connolly, Glenn O’Reilly; Darren McMahon, Colin Hoey, Barry Mulholland; Gervais Marron, Declan Byrne; Liam McGranahan, Gareth O’Reilly, Martin McGahon; Eamonn O’Neill, Nigel Farrell, Ciaran Byrne.
Subs: Ken Meegan for G O’Reilly (50mins), Donal Gernon for P Marron (54mins).
Wides – CLAN NA GAEL: 6 (3 first half), ST MOCHTA’S: 7 (4 first half).
Bookings – CLAN NA GAEL: Paul Gartland (20mins), Mark McGeown (48mins), Derek English (53mins). ST MOCHTA’S: Colin Hoey (56mins), Gervais Marron (59mins).
Red Cards – ST MOCHTA’S: Sean Crawley (59mins)
REFEREE: Gerry Malone.