A blistering first half performance from John Mitchels helped them get their Anglo Printers Junior Football Championship campaign off to a perfect start as they saw off local rivals Sean McDermotts 2-06 to 0-06 on a sun-soaked Friday evening in Tallanstown.
For many, the Seans were considered underdogs for making an impact towards the latter stages of this year’s competition. They reached last year’s semi-final and lie just outside the promotion places in league. The Mitchels were at least looking to go one better than last year’s Championship outing, where they failed to win a game. It was hoped that the fact that Group 4 lumped together the Mitchels, Seans and Westerns would galvanise weary John Mitchels men and their hopes of progress.
This win could be huge. With Wolfe Tones to come, the Mitchels now stand a very good chance of reaching the last eight. They have the ever prolific boot of Robbie Coyle to thank, plus Steven Coyle’s early goal and fine defensive shows from Alan Mackin and Emmett Farrell to name but a few.
After the two sides swapped wides, Barry Kirk notched the first score of the night. After Danny Reilly shoved over Kirk close to goal, Kevin Gallagher soon added to that. With ten minutes gone, the Mitchels got a break – but credit to them for showing the desire to take advantage.
Conor Reilly floated a free kick in and goalkeeper Mark McEneaney attempted to collect. However, he couldn’t take the ball into his body and Steven Coyle followed in to steer the ball goalwards. It crossed the line despite Reilly’s best efforts.
The Seans could not – no matter what they tried it seemed – get going in forward areas. The Mitchels were and even the subs were getting in on the act. They Ballybailie men lost Steven Coyle but gained Mikey Nulty. The substitute found Robbie Coyle with a ball over the top and he took the ball brilliantly in the air before advancing and finishing low to McEneaney’s right for 2-02 to no score.
Lorcan Myles shot a point attempt wide before some last gasp defending by Mitchell Keenan denied Kevin McMahon. In the aftermath, Emmett Duffy somehow put wide of the post.
The first half was not always top quality but was certainly hard fought and intense at times. Two frees from Gallagher and Robbie Coyle extended the Mitchels lead before Nulty finished a quick back to front move with his first score on the stroke of half time.
Before that, the important Gallagher was also withdrawn through injury. Younger brother John, on the bench fresh from his minor success with Louth on Tuesday, wasn’t called upon yet.
Two quickfire points from brothers Sean and Kevin McMahon got the Seans off the mark upon the start of the second half. That still left it at 2-05 to 0-02. Brian Carroll’s side had work to do.
For all their excellent defensive work – Mackin in particular was superb – Sean McDermotts began to creep back into the match. Kevin McMahon’s 45 reduced the deficit further. As expected the players were challenging for every ball, but that led to more than a couple of stoppages as players took some hefty blows. It seemed as if the Mitchels were coming off worse.
Robbie Coyle and David O’Neill swapped routine frees and the game bore the look of following the first half pattern – with the roles reversed. But, the Mitchels had their lead to hold on to. Again, O’Neill notched from a free and Ian Corbally reduced the deficit to six points.
Neil Reilly was booked for a challenge as he tracked Kevin Carroll’s late forward surge. Nothing game of the free, the Seans never really looked like finding the goal they needed.
SEAN MCDERMOTTS: Mark McEneaney, Danny Reilly, Ciaran McMahon, Kevin McGahon, Leigh Ross, Sean McMahon (0-01), Danny Commins, Emmett Duffy, Peter Osbourne, Ian Corbally (0-01), Kevin Carroll, David O’Neill (0-02), Tony Kelly, Kevin McMahon (0-02), Lorcan Myles.
JOHN MITCHELS: David Anderson, Mitchell Keenan, Emmett Farrell, Alan Mackin, Aaron Kane, Anthony Coyle, Neil Reilly, James Clarke, Aaron Keely, Kevin Gallagher (0-02) (Ben O’Brien, 27), Brendan McDonnell, Conor Reilly, Steven Coyle (1-00) (Mikey Nulty, 14 0-01), Barry Kirk (0-01), Robbie Coyle (Rory Durnin, 58) (1-02).
REFEREE: Paul Finnegan