Clan na Gael's Mark McGeown and Michael Clarke of Sean O'Mahony's in action at Páirc Clan na Gael. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
Clan na Gael 3-10 Sean O'Mahony's 1-13
Robbie Curran gave an almost flawless display of free-taking at Páirc Clan na Gael on Friday night as Clans edged town rivals Sean O'Mahony's by three points.
The midfielder struck all but one of the winners' points - all from frees - as Mark McCann's men maintained their unbeaten start to Division One while ending the O'Mahonys' previously unblemished record.
Ultimately, while Curran's exhibition accounted for the opening six points of a fiery encounter, it was a two-goal burst inside three first-half minutes which gave the home side the room they needed to survive O'Mahonys' late revival. Though well-taken goals, the ease at which JJ Quigley and Conall McKeever were let waltz through the defence before finding the net was typical of O'Mahonys' lacklustre opening-period display.
But the Point Road men's success in recent years has been built on a fighting spirit to rival any other and, with John O'Brien a relentless driving force, they powered forward after half-time, incentivised by Shane Kerrigan's goal just before the break, cutting the gap to just two points at one juncture.
Following a blitzing start, Clans were put firmly on the back foot as O'Mahony's hit 1-5 unanswered either side of the interval, with Stephen Fisher on target on three occasions.
But a Curran free on 43 minutes settled the Ecco Road men and when Quigley cut through with searing pace to dispatch his team's third major of the contest, Clans looked home and hosed with six points to spare.
Yet Paul McLaughlin's charges - who began to take control at midfield; the sector where Clans enjoyed so much joy in the first half - hung in and after Mark McGeown had rattled the O'Mahonys' crossbar, points from Conor Finnegan (free) and Stephen Kilcoyne had the gap back to a manageable five.
Finnegan and Curran then traded frees as referee Gerard Corrigan's whistle was required more and more. Indeed, the breakout of a brawl in added time served little purpose with the Mattock Rangers whistler rightly stepping back until matters had calmed.
Another brace of Finnegan frees meant the gap was reduced to two for a second time, with four minutes to play. However, fittingly, Curran would have the final say, nailing his ninth free from 10 attempts, as Clans crucially pushed themselves ahead by three. O'Mahony's, needing a goal, poured forward in the dying embers, but Fisher's looping shot off the 'bar was as close as they came to salvaging a draw.
Considering Clans begun so brightly, with Curran on form alongside the impressive McKeever and Quigley, and having struck 13 wides, O'Mahony's would hardly have deserved a draw, though, in saying that, with the hosts out on their feet, had the match went on for any longer; that looked the likeliest outcome.
Nonetheless, Clans' impressive hex on their local rivals continues...
Clan na Gael: Seán Smith; Tiernan Reilly, Donal Boyle, Kevin Carroll; Paul Crewe, Stephen Fitzpatrick, Micheál McDonnell' Ray McCabe, Robbie Curran (0-9, all frees); Conor Noonan, Mark McGeown (0-1), Conall McKeever (1-0); Jason Cullen, JJ Quigley (2-0), Paul Gore
Subs: Billy Smith for Cullen (HT), Mark Newell for Noonan (44), Ian Carr for Reilly (45)
Sean O'Mahony's: Kevin Brennan; David Redmond, Ronan Byrne, John O'Brien (0-1); Mickey Clarke, Liam Dullaghan, Kyle Carroll; Conor Martin, Conor Finnegan (0-4, three frees); Seán Matthews, Stephen Fisher (0-4, three frees), Johnny Connolly (0-2); Ben McLaughlin, Shane Kerrigan (1-0), Stephen Kilcoyne (0-2, one free)
Subs: Kurt Murphy for Matthews (37), Colin Finan for Connolly (47), Barry Mackin for Dullaghan (52)
Referee: Gerard Corrigan (Mattock Rangers)