Monaleen find range after jittery start and retain crown

IT may not have been a footballing classic but few in Monaleen will complain after successfully defending their Limerick SFC crown at the Gaelic Grounds yesterday.

Struggling in the first-half, highlighted by an alarming 28-minute scoreless spell, somehow Monaleen led at the break (0-5 to 0-3).

But they re-emerged a transformed team, putting Newcastle West to the sword with a devastating third quarter burst.

Early second half points for Monaleen through two Muiris Gavin frees and a Conor Walsh point pushed them 0-8 to 0-3 clear, only for Newcastle West’s Michael Quilligan to reply — their only score for 24 minutes of the second half.

The next time Newcastle West troubled the scoreboard, with six minutes left, Monaleen already had one hand on the cup.

The crucial score arrived in the 46th minute when Monaleen’s Ger Collins buried a penalty after Jason O’Brien was fouled. O’Brien, a huge threat when moved to the full forward line, added two points, followed by another Gavin free.

Monaleen now led 1-11 to 0-4 with 10 minutes left, rendering Newcastle West’s valiant late surge too little, too late.

A jubilant Monaleen manager Micheál McDermott agreed: “What I liked about Monaleen today was that they fought very, very hard for the dirty ball. They have very talented players but to fight for the dirty ball is the difference between winning and losing.”

Another difference yesterday was Monaleen’s second half penalty that swelled a four-point lead to a seven-point advantage (1-8 to 0-4).

Certainly, Newcastle West will rue their missed chances in the first half, kicking seven wides, and they trailed by two at half-time, despite Monaleen not scoring for 28 minutes.

After Ger Collins arrowed over two early Monaleen scores, answered by a James Kelly point, the contest stumbled through 24 mundane minutes, before Shay Lyons equalised.

In six minutes of injury-time — referee Michael Meade limped off injured, replaced by Richard Moloney — Monaleen hinted at what lay in store in the second half, with Conor Walsh, Mike Crowley and Collins all on target, while Thomas Quilligan swung over Newcastle West’s reply.

With impressive displays from Jason O’Brien, man-of-the-match Peter Crowley, Conor Walsh, Ger Collins, Limerick senior hurler Seamus Hickey and centre-back Richie Murray, Monaleen were in the driving seat.

Newcastle West did rally with Sean Neville’s goal and points from Michael Quilligan, Jamie Lee and Thomas Quilligan leaving just four between the teams in injury-time, 1-11 to 1-7.

But Monaleen team closed out this final in fine style, with Muiris Gavin’s late free.

Scorers for Monaleen: G Collins 1-3 (1-0 pen), M Gavin 0-4f, C Walsh, J O’Brien 0-2 each, M Crowley 0-1

Scorers for Newcastle West: S Neville 1-0, M Quilligan (1f), T Quilligan 0-2, J Kelly, S Lyons, J Lee (f) 0-1 each

MONALEEN: D O’Sullivan; D Bourke, B Fitzpatrick, F Nash; E Keating, R Murray, J Hoare; P Kinnerk, B Geary; P Russell, C Walsh, J O’Brien; G Collins, M Crowley, M Gavin.

Subs: S Hickey for E Keating (inj, 16); P Quinn for F Nash (59); P Keating for C Walsh (60), L Kavanagh for B Geary (60).

NEWCASTLE WEST: JJ Sheehy; M O’Keeffe, D Woods, M Dowling; S Browne, S Nix, P Hannon; I Corbett, M McMahon; Stephen Kelly, S Lyons, T Quilligan; J Kelly, M Quilligan, S McAuliffe.

Subs: D Woods for J Kelly (41); J Lee for S McAuliffe (47); S Neville for M McMahon (50); Shane Kelly for M Quilligan (55); C Downes for P Hannon (56).

Referee: Michael Meade (Ballylanders).

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