MIDLANDS PARK HOTEL MINOR 'A' FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
In this Carlow border derby between Graiguecullen and the combination of Arles-Kilcruise, Arles-Killeen, Crettyard and Barrowhouse which make up Na Fianna Og, it was the Graiguecullen men who came out victorious to claim their first Minor 'A' title since 2015.
Wing-forward Scott Roycroft will get all the headlines for Graiguecullen (and rightfully so as he was indeed sensational). However, it was a delightful team performance which included some outstanding saves from keeper Cody Tucker and some excellent individual and team defending to keep Na Fianna Og's score down to just 1-1 in the entire second half.
Na Fianna Og 1-9
Na Fianna Og were the quicker to settle their nerves in this Minor 'A' final, as they almost managed to get in for a goal just two minutes into the contest. Full-forward Jonah Kelly raced through on goal after he read a long ball in, but his shot was brilliantly palmed over by Graiguecullen shot stopper Cody Tucker.
Ben Slattery put over another to extend the lead to two points for Na Fianna Og, but Graiguecullen replied to level the affair in O'Moore Park. Jack Byrne and John O'Shea (free) fired over the scores for them.
Na Fianna Og responded to go back two points to the good though, with midfielders Jamie Conway and Aodhan Lowry landing a score each for them. Graiguecullen again replied with two points to level it once more, with Jack Byrne showing off his turn of pace to score his second point, while Jamie Murphy grabbed the other.
The outstanding Aodhan Lowry landed a second though for the Na Fianna Og men just before the first water break, with his size and power on full display. Na Fianna Og led 0-5 to 0-4 at this stage.
They kicked two more scores after the break in play as well, with Lowry landing his third straight atter the interval and full-forward Jonah Kelly kicking another. They had a few more goal chances during this period of play as well, but Graiguecullen keeper Cody Tucker matched every single effort on his goal.
Tucker's great goalkeeping meant that Graiguecullen only trailed by two points at half-time, with Conor Harte scoring twice. Jamie Murphy grabbed Na Fianna Og's point, but his team headed into a second half playing against a strong wind.
Graiguecullen came out in the second half a determined outfit and went into the lead only minutes into it. Jack Byrne gave it to a flying Scott Roycroft, who dropped the ball as he attempted to bounce it and it appeared the danger was gone from a Na Fianna Og perspective. However, Roycroft boldly decided to let fly on the volley from a good distance out, and he got his reward as it crashed the net.
Roycroft was now playing with all the confidence in the world after a quiet first half, as he landed a gorgeous point from play. Jonah Kelly managed to stem the tide with Na Fianna Og's first score of the second half, but Graiguecullen responded with a point from Jack Byrne and a second goal.
Jamie Murphy's long-range effort dropped short into the square, but unfortunately for them, Sean Browne in the Na Fianna Og goal let the ball slip through his hands and Graiguecullen went in 2-9 to 0-9 ahead,
A lot of the final quarter was played in the Graiguecullen half, as Na Fianna Og went in search of a goal to get them back in the game. While they did manage to get one late on, with Ben Slattery slotting in a goal from a penalty, Graiguecullen kept their composure.
Fittingly, Roycroft scored the last two points to seal the deal, as he showed off his frightening burst of speed to pop two over the bar and the Graiguecullen men were champions.
Scorers: Scott Roycroft 1-4 (0-1 free), Jamie Murphy 1-1, Jack Byrne 0-3, Conor Harte 0-3, John O'Shea (free) 0-1,
Team: Cody Tucker; Daniel McGrath, Sean McGrath, Emmanuel Del Almedia; Naoise Brennan, Aaron Dorgan, Mikee Horohan; John O'Shea, Jamao Salvador; Scott Roycroft, Jack Byrne, Conor Harte; Harry Forbes, Jamie Murphy, Aaron Scully. Subs: Dylan Williamson for Forbes (55 mins), Cody Nolan for Scully (61 mins)
NA FIANNA OG
Scorers: Ben Slattery 1-1 (1-0 pen, 0-1 free), Jonah Kelly 0-4 (0-2 frees), Aodhan Lowry 0-3
Team: Sean Browne; Fergus Langton, Dara Kelly, Andrew Wall; Kyle Kehoe, John Brennan, Sean Phelan; Jamie Conway, Aodhan Lowry (C); Peter Grogan, Ben Slattery, Darragh Kealy; Kodi Dunne, Jack Behan. Subs: Pablo Byrne for Behan (56 mins), Simon George for Wall (56 mins), Luke Higgins for Kehoe (59 mins), Darragh Byrne for Phelan (60 mins)
REFEREE: Brendan McCann (Portarlington)
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