As the clock wound down, Clonakilty looked on the cusp of retaining their title despite an indifferent display. When wing-forward Cillian Cullinane crowned a fine team move with a lovely point in the 53rd minute and sub James Clancy added another soon after, they were 1-7 to 0-8 to the good.
But Gallen CS finished with a flourish. Their outstanding centre-forward Aaron McDonagh kick-started their scoring spree when he blasted a venomous drive to the net with five minutes remaining. Then corner-forward Eoghan Lowry strode forward to clip over a point before registering his team’s second goal.
Cullinane pulled back a free for Clonakilty yet Gallen CS were looking the more powerful force and that was reflected in late points by their ace marksmen McDonagh and Lowry that crowned the victory.
“It’s an absolutely fantastic day for the school”, remarked manager Adrian Gaffey. “We said to the boys at half-time that we were creating the chances but the ball just wasn’t falling our way in attack. In the first-half we weren’t getting players behind the ball but we did that in the second-half and shut up shop. It’s fantastic for Offaly football and all the local clubs.”
The result was justified given the nature of Gallen’s performance but there were junctures when their spirits must have sagged as they struggled to put scores on the board. That was due to their poor marksmanship and also to the heroics of Clonakilty goalkeeper Aidan Collins.
Collins’s heroics began in the 2nd minute when he stretched out his leg to divert a fisted effort by Darren Keenaghan. In the 9th minute he bravely blocked a McDonagh shot and then in the 25th minute made a terrific stop to deny Brian Grehan. Then just before the interval, Gallen CS were awarded a penalty but on this occasion Collins was not called into action as Grehan smacked his shot wide. Collins excellence surfaced again in the second-half as he denied Keenaghan in the 31st minute and tipped a McDonagh drive over the crossbar in the 39th.
His efforts enabled Clon to lead 1-4 to 0-4 at the break with Gearóid Barry finishing excellently to the net for them in the 23rd minute. By the 8th minute Clonakilty had lead 0-4 to 0-0 yet they failed to build on that splendid start. The greater physique of Gallen CS began to tell around the middle as Leon Fox and Ciarán Cahill gained a foothold while Clonakilty’s aspirations were also hampered by injuries suffered by key men like Daniel Nyhan and Kevin Cormican along with the absence of Jonathan Leahy.
Clonakilty manager Val Lynch admitted: “We’ve no complaints. They were the better team but anything that went wrong for us did. First of all we lost our full-back Daniel Nyhan very early on and we lost our shape then. We recovered a bit after that but then Kevin Cormican got injured. He tried to go on for a while but his ankle was in bad shape and that put us out of it in midfield. We were very lucky at half-time to be ahead with the chances that they had missed. When James Clancy got our last point to go two up, I thought we’d hold it even though we weren’t playing well. Yet they got the scores.”
Scorers for Gallen CS: A McDonagh 1-4; E Lowry 1-3 (0-1f); B Grehan 0-2; R Delaney (0-1f), J Maher (0-1f) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Clonakilty CC: C Cullinane 0-5 (0-2f); G Barry 1-0; F Butler, F O’Connell, J Clancy 0-1 each.
GALLEN CS: D Dignan (Ferbane Belmont); D Kelly (Ferbane Belmont), C Lowry (Ferbane Belmont), J Nally (Ferbane Belmont); S Wren (Ferbane Belmont), D Corbett (Shannonbridge), S Costello (Ferbane Belmont); L Fox (Ferbane Belmont), C Cahill (Ferbane Belmont); J Maher (Ferbane Belmont), A McDonagh (Ferbane Belmont), R Delaney (Doon Erin Rovers Gaels); D Keenaghan (Ferbane Belmont), B Grehan (Ferbane Belmont), E Lowry (Ferbane Belmont).
Sub: B Rigney (Doon Erin Rovers Gaels) for Keenaghan (59).
CLONAKILTY CC: A Collins (Clonakilty); F Butler (Argideen Rangers), D Nyhan (Ballinascarthy), J Barrett (Clonakilty); C Hennessy (Ballinascarthy), J Ryan (Ballinascarthy), G O’Brien (Carbery Rangers); K Cormican (Clonakilty), E Hartnett (Clonakilty); C Cullinane (Ballinascarthy), G Barry (Clonakilty), F O’Connell (Clonakilty); M O’Donovan (Kilmeen), J Hayes (St James), A O’Donovan (Ballinascarthy).
Subs: S Sheehan (Clonakilty) for Nyhan (inj) (13), S White (Clonakilty) for O’Connell (39), S McCarthy (Ballinascarthy) for O’Donovan (43), J Clancy (Kilmeen) for Cormican (inj) (52).
Referee: Gary McCormack (Dublin).