A cracking Connaught final in store between Lahardane and Owenmore Gaels
By Matthew Reilly - Matthew, a transition year student at St. Tiernan's College, Crossmolina, and a member of the Lahardane McHales Under 15 and 16s teams, takes a look back at yesterday's match and ahead to the Connaught final
AFTER scraping by Menlough in the Connaught semi-final on penalties on Sunday, Lahardane MacHales will now face Sligo outfit Owenmore Gaels in the provincial decider on the weekend of December 2/3.
Owenmore Gaels overcame Glenfarne Kiltyclogher in their semi-final on a scoreline of 0-14 to 1-8 in the centre of excellence in Bekan. The Sligo men came from behind to win after being down 1-6 to 0-6 at half-time.
Aaron Mullen put on an incredible display of free taking, putting over eight points from free kicks, five of which came during a 12-minute spell where he was the only man to score, and he will definitely be one to watch in the final against Lahardane.
Dillon Walsh was also causing havoc throughout the game winning frees and getting turnovers and managed to get on the scoreboard also with a point of his own. It will be interesting to see how Lahardane intend to deal with the pair of them.
The Mayo junior champions had a very tough challenge to overcome Menlough of Galway. It looked like one-way traffic in the first half with Menlough leading 1-5 to 0-3, and with Lahardane playing against the strong wind in the second half it almost looked impossible.
It took Lahardane 18 minutes to get on the scoreboard but at this point Menlough had scored 1-2, the goal coming from centre-back Kevin Reilly after Donal Loftus's '45 dropped short, the first attempt blocked but then it fell to Reilly, and he buried it.
James Maughan kept the scoreboard ticking over with a couple of free kicks. Robert Hughes dominated the first half, scoring three points, while Niall Carty and Tomas Mannion both scored to boost the Menlough supporters, with Shane Loftus scoring Lahardane's final point of the half.
Lahardane knew what they had to do and came out with a grit between their teeth. After another couple of frees from Maughan and Loftus it was a one score game.
A black card for Menlough should have turned the game but another monster score from Hughes was needed for the Galway men. Maughan scored three points on the trot to give them hope and get the fans on their feet.
Mickey Murphy was subbed on and made an instant impact, bringing the sides level with a great score into the wind. Hughes scored another free kick to increase the lead to the bare minimum but then Adrian Leonard was played through and fisted it over the bar to take the game to extra time.
Extra time was a tense affair and with one point in each half for both teams, the sides had to be separated in one of the cruellest ways - penalties.
Both teams scored their first penalty and Chris Rowland coldly put away his. Up next was Hughes and after putting in an incredible point scoring display, he put his penalty over the bar. The two sides scored the remaining penalties and the final spot kick and a chance to send his club to a Connaught final fell to Mickey Murphy, the super sub, and he dispatched the penalty. Heartbreak for Menlough but delight for Lahardane who march on.
Even though Lahardane are a small club the noise made yesterday from the supporters was phenomenal and you can expect the exact same in the final.
Both teams can now look forward to a Connaught final and with two super sets of supporters it is sure to be an absolute cracker of a game for the neutral.