Having both flirted with relegation in the past few years, Mountmellick and Clonaslee St Manman’s came head to head on Sunday morning knowing that defeat would see that dangerous run continue.
From the outset it was expected to be a close affair but Mountmellick put the torment of their opening round loss to neighbours The Rock firmly behind them by dispatching an off-form Manman’s side to run out easy winners and such was the manner of this performance that they will have hopes of going even further in a fortnight’s time.
For Clonaslee it’s back to familiar territory as they prepare for another relegation semi-final and they will have to improve significantly from this showing if they are to avoid the drop. Right from the off they seemed to lack the fighting spirit that has been part and parcel of their efforts in recent years and within three minutes of throw-in they were facing into a four-point deficit.
Brendan Reddin was just one of the young Mountmellick forwards to star over the hour and his neat point from their first attack got the ball rolling. Things got even better two minutes later when Colm Coss’ quick free to Ben Forde allowed the wing back to advance on goal. Although he seemed to have lost the chance the ball ricocheted off a Clonaslee defender and Niall Mullen, putting in his best performance at Senior level swung his right boot at the loose ball and it nestled into the bottom corner of Martin Fallon’s net.
Manman’s response was instant. Glen McEvoy drove a long ball into the full forward line and Mark Rooney fashioned the space to gather it and made no mistake with a powerful finish beyond Donie O’Mahoney. The sides were level soon after when Rooney shrugged off the attentions of Mark Dowling to sweep a superb point between the posts, but that was to be the last time they shared the lead with their local rivals.
Mountmellick chalked up a six-point lead by the half time interval despite the loss of stalwart defender Mick Lawlor who suffered a serious knee injury midway through the half and was brought to hospital by ambulance at half-time.
Bernard Rochford, Niall Mullen and Karl Donoher hit three quick fire points to restore their advantage and with the young Mountmellick attack finding space at will Clonaslee were struggling to keep in touch. Their deficit was doubled with three more impressive points from Brendan Reddin, Donoher and a super score from the chief tormentor Niall Mullen and although John Rigney hit an equally impressive point at the other end it was Mountmellick who had the last say before the break when Mullen converted a free.
Trailing 1-8 to 1-2 at the break, early scores were vital if Manman’s were to get back in contention and despite Niall Mullen tapping over an easy free straight after the restart Clonaslee did make some headway in the early stages. Three frees on the bounce, two from Niall Corbett and one from Edward Conroy reduced the margin to four points and it seemed for a brief spell that there was still plenty for Manman’s to play for.
Those notions were short lived however, because Niall Mullen and Colm Coss both bagged two points apiece midway through the half to effectively kill off the tie. John Rigney tried to rally his teammates with another excellent point but Mountmellick were playing with a swagger and in the final ten minutes they ruthlessly put the game to bed. Niall Mullen was again at the heart of it with a neat point on the turn before converting a free two minutes later to put nine between them.
And with three minutes of an already impressive performance remaining Mountmellick put the icing on the cake with a goal that typified their vast improvements since their first round setback. Colm Coss, Darragh Hanlon and Shane Conlon were all heavily involved in the creation but it was left to Eoin George to finish the move and he duly obliged. The young wing-back collected Conlon’s precise pass and charged through before placing a sweet low finish across Martin Fallon and into the bottom right hand corner to cap an excellent victory.
SCORERS - Mountmellick: Niall Mullen 1-8 (0-4 frees), Eoin George 1-0, Colm Coss, Brendan Reddin and Karl Donoher 0-2 each, Bernard Rochford 0-1; Clonaslee St Manman’s: Mark Rooney 1-1, John Rigney and Niall Corbett (frees) 0-2 each, Edward Conroy 0-1 (free)
MOUNTMELLICK: Donie O’Mahoney; Richard McElwee, Gearoid Hanrahan, Mick Lawlor; Eoin George, Mark Dowling, Ben Forde; Matsy Forde, Colm Coss; Bernard Rochford, Darren Fitzpatrick, Shane Conlon; Brendan Reddin, Niall Mullen, Karl Donoher. Subs: Gary Fitzpatrick for Lawlor (16 mins, inj), Darragh Hanlon for Rochford (25 mins), Mark Grennan for Donoher (54 mins), Eoghan Keogh for Conlon (56 mins), Shane Langan for D Fitzpatrick (58 mins)
CLONASLEE ST MANMAN’S: Martin Fallon; Shane Conroy, Edward Conroy, PJ Fitzpatrick; Michael Hyland, Willie Murray, Glen McEvoy; Darren Hogan, Seamus Rosney; Niall Corbett, Willie Young, Ger Dunne; Michael Murray, Mark Rooney, John Rigney. Subs: Conor Dunne for M Murray (26 mins), Eoin O’Donovan for Hyland (33 mins), Niall Hogan for D Hogan (45 mins, inj).
Referee: Joe Brennan (Crettyard)