Midfielder hits a hat-trick
Cloughbawn 4-16 Monageer-Boolavogue 0-6
A midfielder scoring a hat-trick in a football game is a rare enough occurrence, but Cloughbawn's Darragh O'Connor really enjoyed himself as his side coasted to an easy 22-point win over Monageer-Boolavogue in the Greenstar Enniscorthy District Under-21 football Roinn 1 championship final at a rain-soaked St. Patrick's Park on Friday.
The big number 8 was eager to get forward at every opportunity, and he helped himself to an impressive 3-3 from play as his team captured this particular title for the first time since 2011.
They had lost three finals since then, to Duffry Rovers in 2013, Ballyhogue in 2014, and Oylegate-Glenbrien last year, but this win marked the completion of the District double for 2017 and set them up for a clash with Geraldine O'Hanrahans at the same venue next Saturday.
O'Connor formed one key part of a very strong triumvirate along with the skilful Connal Flood and Bob Whitty, and between them they gave the outclassed losers a torrid time.
An impressive 3-13 of the Cloughbawn tally came from that trio, and now they will be aiming to repeat their hurling win over the Barrowsiders which arrived at the same stage in early September.
Monageer-Boolavogue, seeking a first title since 2004 and bridging a five-year gap since their last final appearance, never stood a chance.
Their six points all came from frees by 2016 county Minor Cathal Walsh, spread evenly between both halves, but it was clear from an early stage that Cloughbawn were the complete masters.
Unfortunately, the light but persistent rainfall for most of the evening intensified just before the game started, and spectators were happy to avail of the relative comforts of the stand as the players battled through miserable conditions.
Cloughbawn had early points from free-taker Bob Whitty and overlapping full-back Gareth Murphy to set out their stall, and they netted for the first time in the 13th minute.
Kyle Murphy delivered a cross from the right towards the far post at the dressing-room end, and Darragh O'Connor got the vital touch to direct it into the corner of the net.
Although Cathal Walsh opened Monageer-Boolavogue's account midway through the half, they went on to trail by 2-8 to 0-3 at the break.
Connal Flood claimed a mark and soloed forward for a Cloughbawn point directly after that score, and their lead was widened to 2-3 to 0-1 in the 19th minute when Darragh O'Connor drove a low shot to the corner of the net after good work by Flood and Whitty.
This talented trio shared the remainder of the first-half points also, with Whitty (two, one free), Flood (two) and O'Connor all on target while Cathal Walsh converted two more frees at the other end.
A Colin Murphy goal for Cloughbawn early on the re-start was disallowed, but they went on to add 1-5 without reply in the third quarter.
O'Connor, Flood, Whitty and Micheál Kavanagh - after a goal-line clearance by Diarmuid Fenlon - raised further white flags before the midfielder completed his hat-trick in the 43rd minute following a pass from Whitty.
Indeed, O'Connor nearly hit a fourth goal when his shot shaved the crossbar and went over after another driving run, while two substitutes joined the list of marksmen before the end.
Davy Casserly kicked a point before Fergus Rooney drilled home a goal in the 54th minute, with three of the last four scores arriving in the form of consolation frees from Cathal Walsh.
Cloughbawn's non-playing captain, Lee Keeley, accepted the cup afterwards, and it was great to see him togged out and patrolling the sideline after recovering from serious injuries sustained in a car accident last March.
Cloughbawn: Ciarán O'Connor; Stephen Casserly, Gareth Murphy (0-1), Daniel Dempsey; Shane Greene, James Dempsey, Seán Keating; Darragh O'Connor (3-3), Robert Kinsella; Kyle Murphy, Connal Flood (0-4), Billy Wickham; Micheál Kavanagh (0-1), Colin Murphy, Bob Whitty (0-6, 4 frees). Subs. - Davy Casserly (0-1) for C. Murphy (40), Jack Wickham for S. Casserly (44), Shane Flood for Kavanagh (44), Fergus Rooney (1-0) for K. Murphy (46), Jack Fleming for D. Dempsey (48), James Flood for Keating (48).
Monageer-Boolavogue: Arran Breslin; Ciarán Rochford, Shay Gahan, Seán O'Leary; Lee McHale, Michael Rossiter, Matthew Rochford; Seán Roche, Ian Hawkins (capt.); Pádraig Walsh, Robbie Donnelly, Micheál Gahan; Cathal Walsh (0-6 frees), Colm McGannon, David Mernagh. Subs. - Noah Rossiter for O'Leary (HT), Diarmuid Fenlon for M. Rochford (HT), Darragh Walsh for McGannon (42), Karl Rowsome for C. Rochford (44).
Referee: Brendan Martin (Ballyhogue).