Maigh Cuilinn needed a dominant display from young county star Seán Kelly to earn a draw (0-8 to 0-8 ) with Brian Mulry’s Monivea Abbey in Pearse Stadium on Sunday.
The Connemara side only needed a draw to qualify for the last eight due to a superior scoring average, and despite being behind by 0-5 to 0-3 at half-time, a super individual display from Kelly, with four points in succession, was enough for Don Connellan’s charges to advance to a quarter-final clash with Mountbellew/Moylough.
Monivea started the game reasonably well with some good scores from Shane King, Lee Kenny, Craig Kennedy and Brian Moran, and it took the guts of 22 minutes for Moycullen to get off the mark with a “45” from Peter Cooke.
Strong running by Seán Kelly, who was the most influential player on the field by a considerable degree won a penalty for Moycullen, however, Peter Cooke’s effort from the spot lacked conviction and power and was easily saved by Monivea team captain Denis Farragher.
Kelly and Brian Faherty added scores for Moycullen to take their tally to three points for the first 30 minutes of football and such a feeble showing of attacking play will not suffice against Michael Donnellan’s Mountbellew, who ran up a huge tally (5-23 ) against a young Leitir Móir in their final group game.
Better second half of football
Thankfully there was a good bit more urgency from both sides in the second half and Shane King kicked a gorgeous free for Abbey to stretch their lead to three.
However, Maigh Cuilinn rallied, and their impressive corner back Aidan Claffey, who had a really solid game, hit a terrific point to give belief to his side.
After that score they went from 0-6 to 0-4 down to a point up, 0-7 to 0-6, thanks in the main to some really powerful running and point-taking off both feet by Seán Kelly, who finished some good moves instigated by Gareth Bradshaw, Cooke, and impressive youngster Evan Kenny, who was introduced to good effect in the second half.
To their credit Abbey rallied strongly and good points from midfielder Trevor Mullins and wing-back Barry McDonagh gave them the lead.
Two missed penalties
Moycullen were awarded another penalty on 50 minutes by Frank Kineen and this time county centre-back Gareth Bradshaw stepped forward. His effort cannoned off the post and rebounded to safety, and it looked as if those two missed penalties might cost them their place in the quarter-finals.
However, once again Seán Kelly stood up and his fifth point of the day – all from play – levelled the tie.
There was obviously some confusion in the Monivea ranks at that juncture as some of their players seemed to think a draw would be enough.
Hence they held possession for a few minutes in injury time instead of attacking, and in a bizarre moment near the end, they played the ball backwards into their defence even though their supporters in the stand were screaming at them to gallop forward and try to win a scorable free, or at least go out of the championship going forward rather than recycling the ball out around the middle.
Monivea-Abbey had some good performers in goalkeeper Denis Farragher, Caelom Mulry, Barry McDonagh, Paul Flaherty and Shane King, who has a lovely strike of a ball.
Moycullen's Don Connellan and his squad will be fully aware their display would not suffice against Mountbellew, who were county finalists last season.
The outstanding player on the day was Seán Kelly and he had good support from Matt Donoghue at full-back, Aiden Claffey, David Wynne and Mark Lydon, who worked hard around the middle.
The forward unit will have to be much more efficient the next day out and they will need more energy and power plays from Gareth Bradshaw, Dessie Connelly and Peter Cooke if they are going to compete with players such as Michael Daly, Barry McHugh, Colin Ryan, Matthew Barrett and John Daly, who all caught the eye for Mountbellew in their win over Leitir Mór on Saturday.
In the first game last Sunday at Pearse Stadium, Corofin, who lined out without a few first choice players, never looked stretched against St James and won 0-15 to 1-08.
The champions have been drawn against Stephen Joyce’s Caherlistrane in the quarter-finals. They had a big 3-16 to 1-11 win over Kilconly last weekend with Oisín O’Brien, Cormac Bane and Stephen Lawless doing most of the damage up front.
Milltown also marched on with Mark Hehir and Michael Martin hitting a lot of their scores in their 1-17 to 0-13 win over St Michaels.