Below par first half cost Maigh Cuilinn a Connacht title

Maigh Cuilinn won the Connacht Club Intermediate title in 2008, and they were not too far away from winning a second provincial crown last Sunday in Pearse Stadium when they went down 0-9 to 0-8 to a physically strong and well organised Hollymount/Carramore (Mayo ) side.

When Maigh Cuilinn look back over the video of the game and their stats, they will know that an inept first-half performance is what cost them dearly.

They raced from the traps with two well hit frees from dynamic defender David Wynne, and the rapidly improving Peter Cooke hit the first of his four points, from placed balls, to leave them 0-3 to 0-1 in front and looking the more composed side.

However, the Mayo champions got into the zone  and in a short purple patch of sublime play, they hit five points, including four fine scores from play from centre-forward Ian Costello, and corner forward Damien Kelly, to give them a 0-6 to 0-3 lead, that Michael Donnellan's charges, despite a valiant effort were never able to close fully.

The sides changed ends at 0-6 to 0-4, but things did not look good at all for the Connemara side as they had to face a serious wind in the second period, and when Hollymount captain and former Mayo senior, Darren Coen, rifled over two quick points to double his side's advantage, the prophets of doom had Maigh Cuilinn lined up for a bit of a drubbing.

Maigh Cuilinn fought valiantly

To their credit, the likes of young Cooke, Philip Ezergallis, full-back Matt Donoghue, David Wynne who was brave as a panther, and half-time substitute Seosamh Ó Fathartha,, really tore into the fray and started carrying ball into the heart of the retreating Hollymount defence.

Three consecutive frees from Peter Cooke, including one sensational effort from distance, gave renewed belief to the green and white sash brigade, that they could do the improbable, and defy the elements and the mountain they had left them to climb at half-time.

It was not to be though, and when Kevin Feerick put two between the sides again, there was going to be no way back for the Galway champions.

In one last throw of the dice in injury time, Galway senior player Gareth Bradshaw correctly grabbed a late free and let fly, only to see his effort nick the crossbar and fly over the bar for a consolation point.

Maigh Cuilinn will know that they needed to get more scores on the board when they had the wind at their backs in the first 30 minutes, however they showed great spirit to rally in the second half and almost snatch a draw.

All in all though, 2015 has been a very successful year for the club.

They bounced back from the disappointment of losing last year's county Intermediate final to Killannin in an epic game to go on and win this year's championship convincingly.

The challenge for the club now at senior level will be to try and find a few new young and committed players to augment the improvement and increasing maturity in guys like county minor Seán Kelly, full-forward Declan Connelly and midfielder Peter Cooke who all had fine seasons.

Obviously having two teams in football and hurling competing at senior level in 2016 in the county senior leagues and championships will pose a fair few logistical issues for both management teams, and it will be interesting to see if both sides can cut the mustard at the highest grade.

When you have around a dozen dual players, there will always be a fair bit of clashing as regards availability and fixtures and hence the need for both panels to blood some new talent to augment their squad numbers.

Finally, it would be remiss not to compliment the ground staff at Pearse Stadium for the splendid state of the playing surface last weekend considering the horrendous weather we have been having.

It augurs well for the two county  hurling finals fixed there this Sunday.

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