2006 MFC Div 1 Final

ELPHIN 3-11 V CLAN na nGAEL 2-10                                                 (PHOTOS) It was one of the most dramatic finishes ever witnessed in a county final in any grade. Elphin minor footballers snatched a sensational victory from the jaws of defeat in St. Dominic’s Park, Knockcroghery, on Sunday last to leave a shattered Clann na nGael team absolutely shell shocked.To say that a game is never over until the final whistle is an understatement in this instance. It was like winning all around you at a race meeting and then as you were about to go home to celebrate your winnings you discovered that your pocket had been picked and your wallet stolen.   As the game entered injury time Clann led by six points, 2-10 to 0-10. They were just playing out time as they dominated the game for the last 15 minutes. Then in a crazy three-minute spell Elphin scored 3-1, two of the goals coming from the boot of Frankie Cregg. The old adage that goals win matches was never before proven so true. A six point deficit had been turned into a four point lead. The spectators were stunned, Clann na nGael followers and players were numb while the Elphin players and followers deliriously celebrated a famous victory. Four minutes earlier Elphin’s hopes seemed to be dead and buried. The dramatic nature of their comeback suggests that Lazarus might have had Elphin connections.   It was a good game of football, which reflected the healthy state of the game in this grade in the county at present. It was enjoyed by the large crowd present. There were 26 scores, some of the points from both sides were superb. It is a great year to win a county minor title. Clann entered the game as hot favourites but Elphin showed from the start that they weren’t just there to make up the numbers.   Four and a half minutes of play had elapsed before Elphin opened the scoring with a Fintan Cregg point from play. Two minutes later Clann responded with a goal. Impressive left-half back Seán Walshe floated a high ball into the Elphin goalmouth that was collected by full-forward James Keegan. His effort for a point came back off the crossbar and corner-forward Niall Lennon was on hand to grab the rebound and slam the ball to the net.  Elphin recovered from this setback and scored the next three points from play in a six minute spell. Team captain Liam Taylor had the first in the eighth minute, followed by a Frankie Cregg point two minutes later and a good point from Kevin Brady in the 14th minute after he was put through by Fintan Cregg. James Keegan had a Clann point in the 18th minute but Elphin again responded with another three points on the trot.Elphin led by 0-7 to 1-2 at this stage but Clann scored four unanswered points in the last ten minutes of the first half to lead by 1-6 to 0-7 at the interval.   Donie Shine hit one of his trademark long range points from play in the 22nd minute. Two minutes later a promising move involving David O’Brien, James Keegan and Donie Shine ended with a foul on Shine and he pointed the resultant free. In the 26th minute David Flynn was fouled and the impressive Conor Duignan pointed the free. Two minutes into injury time corner forward Ross Naughton closed the first-half scoring with a point from play.Second Half  Clann na nGael started the second half with captain and centrehalf back David Flynn moving to midfield in a direct switch with Colin Nicholson. It was Elphin’s Eanna Tiernan, however, who raised the first two white flags of the second half. The first was a point from play in the second minute, which was followed by a pointed free in the fourth minute. Clann responded with three unanswered points.Donie Shine fisted over a point in the sixth minute, Graham Pettit had a point from play two minutes later. In the 14th minute, James Keegan had a point from play following a good move involving Donie Shine and Ross Naughton.   Cathal Shine’s goal looked to have clinched the game for Clann. Nine scoreless minutes followed before Cathal Shine struck again in the 27th minute with a good point from play. Kevin Brady had an Elphin point from play at the end of normal time.Clann were now in control and it was just a matter of playing out the last few minutes of injury time. Nobody present could have foreseen the drama that was to unfold in the space of 90 seconds. Elphin refused to throw in the towel and pounced with two goals from Frankie Cregg and another from Paul Kellegher.    This defeat will haunt Clann for many a day. A hard lesson will be learned, you can never rest on your laurels. A game isn’t over until it is over. They reckoned the game was over when the fat lady was only clearing her throat. She hadn’t begun to sing. Elphin never gave up and their persistence was rewarded.   This victory will be celebrated in Elphin for many a day. It will do the game the world of good in the parish that was once the stronghold of football in the county. The club’s coaching programme is now paying off. There were many heroes in this victory. I was very impressed with centre-forward Eanna Tiernan. He always seemed to be in the thick of the action and he took his scores well. He was instrumental in leading the famous comeback that yielded the vital goals. If I had the awarding of a ‘Man of the Match’ award Eanna would have been my choice.     The Brady twins, Gerard and Kevin, also impressed, as did the Cregg brothers, Fintan and Frankie. David Hynes was impressive at midfield while team captain Liam Taylor and full-forward Paul Kellegher can be happy with their contributions. Speaking on the telephone to the Elphin chairman, Martin Beirne, on Saturday morning, he suggested that this Elphin team are a bit like the Roscommon minor team. They have no big stars but are, nevertheless, a good team. He was right. Elphin’s campaign was a bit like Roscommon’s as well. Few would have given Elphin a chance at the start of the championship.   The big favourites were St. Brigid’s or Clann na nGael. Elphin created a big shock throughout the county by beating a fancied St. Brigid’s team. Sunday’s victory showed that it was no flash in the pan. Right-half forward Conor Duignan was impressive for Clann na nGael all through. Wing-half back Seán Walshe had a fine game. David Flynn played better at midfield after he had a torrid opening half on Eanna Tiernan while Colin Nicholson, Donie Shine, Ronan Killian, Ross Naughton and substitute Cathal Shine all had their moments. That will be little consolation for them though as they try to grapple with the reality of losing a title that they thought was in the bag with only minutes left in the game.   Football can be a cruel sport. It was a very pleasant afternoon in Knockcroghery. It was a very mild day and the pitch was in splendid condition.
Source: Match Reports