00:00 Saturday 07 April 2012  Written by Cois Farraige

Gabriels firepower proves decisive

Gabriel Rangers 2-11

Tadhg MacCárthaigh 0-7

IN A game of swaying fortunes, it was the extra firepower of Gabriel Rangers which proved the crucial difference between the two sides in this South West U21 B Football Championship final in Bantry on Sunday last.

In perfect conditions for football, both teams seemed determined early on to prove that a game could be won on the number of wides accumulated but while Gabriels managed to rectify their waywardness as the game went on, the Caheragh side never really came to grips with their problem.

Whereas Gabriels had seven different names on their score-sheet, MacCárthaighs where over-dependent on the free-taking of Patrick Crowley for scores. Crowley accounted for five of MacCárthaighs' seven points from placed balls and their meagre tally of only two points from play was a result of their poor shooting all through, as well as some great defending by a very tight Gabriels' defence.

But while the Gabriel backs could take great credit for this victory, their real ace in the pack was at the other end of the pitch. In minor player, Eddie Goggin, Gabriels have a jewel, an attacker of great skill, whose every move throws panic into the opposing defence and who has a real nose for picking scores. His tally in this final was seven points, four from play, and he was the real difference between two well-matched sides.

He got great assistance from centre forward Ger O'Callaghan whose cracking goal in the 47th minute was the vital score that broke the back of Caheragh's emerging challenge. Wing forward Paudie O'Shea was another to shine in attack for the winners.

At midfield, the towering Stephen O'Mahony won vital primary possession while his partner, Tadhg O'Mahony, was a real work-horse all through and fought a great battle with county player, Brian O'Driscoll, in the first half. Though small in stature, the Gabriels' full back line of Edward McCarthy, Gavin McTaggart and Jason Donegan was rock solid and very effective, doing some great blocking in front of efficient goalie, Diarmuid O'Callaghan. Wing back Seán Evans was another to produce the goods, along with Oisín O'Driscoll and Liam Roycroft in the half back line, in this competitive final.

MacCárthaigh's depended a great deal on midfielder Brian O'Driscoll, who moved to attack in the second half, and while he worked his socks off, he often found himself double-marked and had a frustrating hour, unable to punch the necessary holes in the Gabriels' defence.

Michael O'Donovan, Daniel Kingston and George Gill played well in MacCárthaighs' defence while John Russell tried hard at midfield. Patrick Crowley was the main source of scores up front but tall Patrick Kirby worked hard without getting just reward on the scoreboard and Mark O'Driscoll also battled well.

There wasn't a kick of a ball between the sides in the first quarter as both teams took a while to settle and the most notable feature was the lack of accuracy, with MacCárthaigh's kicking five wides and Gabriels four in the opening fifteen minutes. They did manage to find the target on four occasions, two apiece, with Eddie Goggin and Paudie Hegarty scoring points for Gabriels and Brian O'Driscoll and Patrick Crowley, free, answering for Caheragh.

The second quarter saw Gabriels gaining a grip around the middle, thanks to the efforts of the O'Mahonys, and the Goggin show got into full swing in attack as the elusive full forward kicked three points in a row, two frees, to put his side in the driver's seat. A superb move out of defence ended with a Tadhg O'Mahony point and Gabriels' increasing good fortune was made even better in the 32nd minute when Stephen O'Mahony and Oisín O'Driscoll combined to send Paudie O'Shea through for a cracking goal. Coming right on the stroke of half-time, it proved a vital score as it gave Gabriels a seven point lead, 1-6 to 0-2, facing the second half against a Caheragh team which never really got into full swing in that first half.

To their credit, MacCárthaighs refused to panic and rejigged their side at the break, O'Driscoll moving to attack where he was to prove a big threat to the Gabriels' defence. Although impressive wing back Seán Evans re-opened the scoring with a point for the Ballydehob lads, it was all Caheragh after that as they won loads of possession at midfield. They received a great chance to put a big dent in the deficit as early as the 33rd minute when Patrick Kirby was fouled in the square but Brian O'Driscoll drove the penalty wide.

Caheragh continued to press but the Gabriels' defence stood solid under a lot of pressure, getting some fine blocks on Brian O'Driscoll in particular, and all they had to show for a lot of endeavour were two points from Patrick Crowley frees.

Superb goal

Gabriels eventually lifted the siege with an Eddie Goggin free and Crowley answered in kind to leave Gabriels in front by 1-8 to 0-5 at the end of the third quarter. Having tried so hard for the elusive goal, Caheragh were shown how it was done in the 47th minute when Tadhg O'Mahony set up Ger O'Callaghan, who sliced through the Caheragh defence to score a superb goal for the winners. Goal, set and nearly the match to Gabriels after that as they led by nine points and when Stephen O'Mahony added a quick point to make it ten, there was truly no way back for MacCárthaigh's.

Patrick Kirby kicked Caheragh's second point from play in the 52nd minute but at the other end goalie Kieran Collins had to be very alert to save well from Paudie Hegarty. The game was getting a little cranky now, after a sporting contest, and a few yellow cards were dished out as Eddie Goggin and Patrick Crowley, free, swapped points and it was indeed fitting that the talented Goggin should have the final say of the hour when he kicked his seventh point.

The game was deep into injury time, caused by an unfortunate leg injury to Seán Evans, when Gabriels' corner back Edward McCarthy received a straight red card for an off-the-ball incident.

It finished 2-11 to 0-7, MacCárthaighs' second final defeat in three years, and the relatively young Gabriels' side will now go on to the county championship. Coming only two years after their first-ever junior A football title win, it is a great boost for football in the Ballydehob-Schull area. The cup was presented to captain, Ger O'Callaghan, by Clona Milk representative, Theresa Cadogan, amid great scenes of celebration.

Scorers Gabriel Rangers: Eddie Goggin 0-7, 0-3 frees, Ger O'Callaghan and Paudie O'Shea 1-0 each, Seán Evans, Tadhg O'Mahony, Paudie Hegarty and Stephen O'Mahony 0-1 each. Tadhg MacCárthaigh: Patrick Crowley 0-5 frees, Brian O'Driscoll and Patrick Kirby 0-1 each.

Gabriel Rangers: Diarmuid O'Callaghan, Edward McCarthy, Gavin McEntagart, Jason Donegan, Seán Evans, Oisín O'Driscoll, Liam Roycroft, Stephen O'Mahony, Tadhg O'Mahony, Paudie Hegarty, Ger O'Callaghan, Fionn Hurley, Paudie O'Shea, Eddie Goggin, Seán Kelleher. Subs: Bosco Minehane, Wayne Cronin, Alan O'Driscoll, Stephen O'Reilly and Ronan Roycroft.

Tadhg MacCárthaigh: Kieran Collins, Seán O'Donovan, Gavin Harrington, Michael O'Donovan, Daniel Kingston, George Gill, Paul O'Hea, Brian O'Driscoll, John Russell, Patrick Connolly, Patrick Crowley, Leon Burke, Brett Cleary, Mark O'Driscoll, Patrick Kirby. Subs: Gearóid Hurley, Barry Hourihane.

Referee: Stephen Murphy, Bandon.

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