by Shane Corrigan
at Kingspan Breffni Park
An impressive Templeport side found top gear this afternoon to oust Cornafean and clinch the junior football championship crown.
Fintan Reilly's team were at their brilliant best at Kingspan Breffni Park, taking control of this final in the early minutes of the second-half and practically ending it as a contest once Eoghan Martin's 39th minute goal hit Cornafean's net.
In a team brimming with young talent, the contributions of Michael Devine, Benjamin Kelly, Ben Kiernan and Liam Galligan saw them come of age for the St Aidan's outfit, whilst 'Man of the Match' Lasse Morgenroth excelled in a workmanlike display from midfield.
As for Cornafean, they failed to reach the heights they hit in their semi-final win over Kill Shamrocks, finding themselves over reliant on scores from the in-form Barry Doyle (0-7) down the final stretch, when they reduced to 14 with the dismissal of wing back James Cullen.
The Bawnboy men were in total control from the minute Martin's major went in and the scenes at the final whistle were jubilant as they captured the club's first championship title in 20 years (IFC), with their last triumph in this particular competition coming in 1968.
Both sides started this county final in a nervy manner and it took a sweetly struck free from Kiernan from all of 50 metres to raise Templeport to the occasion.
Cornafean very nearly gained maximum profit from their first legitimate attack, as Doyle, operating at full-forward, was slipped through and forced a superb save from Dan Shannon in the Templeport goal.
Instead the Reds would fall two behind when Kiernan swung over a gem from the wing before a Jack Wharton free eventually had them off the mark after 13 minutes.
With a stiff breeze at their backs, the Bawnboy men were looking to make hay and in Kelly they had a deadly accurate forward to convert their majority share in possession during the opening quarter. The county U21 star landed back-to-back points along the right flank to usher Templeport into a three-point lead, as the westerners threatened to pull away from their counterparts.
To their credit, Laurence Brady's charges took brilliantly to the recovery with Wharton's second free being backed up by Pauric Tully smashing over Shannon's crossbar in effort of goal. Liam Duignan had the leveller on 22 minutes but the ensuing eight minutes saw Templeport reassert their authority until half-time.
Eoin Doonan gave his side back the lead and it was tripled within four minutes as Martin and Galligan found their range, giving Templeport a 0-7 to 0-4 advantage to work with for the second-half.
Fintan Reilly would be forced to withdraw ace defender Dillion Raythorne through injury at the break, replacing the ex-Cavan minor with Killian Smith and slipping Kelly in at centre-back, but it didn't seem to disrupt the rhythm of the St Aidan's Park outfit in the slightest.
Within 10 minutes of the resumption Templeport were into an unassailable eight-point lead, with Liam McAweeney finding joy in the right corner for a brace of points before Kiernan and sub Smith erased efforts from Tully and Doyle.
The decisive score arrived on 39 minutes when a lofted ball into Cornafean's square wasn't cleared sufficiently and Martin was on hand to side foot the breaking ball into an empty net, with 'keeper Andrew Smith stranded. That left Templeport with one hand on the cup and the Reds with a mountain to climb for the remaining 20 minutes or so.
Target man Doyle did his utmost to get Cornafean back into contention in that time, but Templeport had the answer for him with the imperious Galligan inside. He weighed in with 0-5 in the last quarter to all but nullify Doyle's damage and that, along with another over from powerhouse Morgenroth, sealed the deal.
With the superb Devine and Sean Dolan mopping up in the last line of defence, any notion of Templeport conceding the goals to lose this game where far-fetched.
Sub Cian Geoghegan would sneak in for a late major towards the end but it was only consolation for the Reds, as their opponents were already in party mode by that stage as young captain Kiernan proudly collected the Sean Leddy Cup on his club's behalf.
Templeport: Daniel Shannon; Brendan McGoldrick, Sean Dolan, Michael Devine; Lasse Morgenroth (0-1), Oran Duffy, Dillon Raythorne; Martin Ball, Eoghan Martin (1-1); Benjamin Kelly (0-2), Ben Kiernan (0-3), Donal Maguire; Eoin Doonan (0-1), Liam McAweeney (0-2), Liam Galligan (0-5, 1f). Subs: Killian Smith (0-1) for Dillon Raythorne (HT, inj), Kieran McManus for E Martin (55), Jim Kiernan for E Doonan (55), Martin Baxter for L McAweeney (60), Gareth Bannon for J Kiernan (60, BC).
Cornafean: Andrew Smith; Paul Brady, Mark Johnson, Dan Wharton; James Cullen, Ciaran Duignan, Jason Miney; Cormac Geoghegan, Cathal Sheridan; Andrew Wharton, Barry Doyle (0-7, 2f), Niall Sheridan; Jack Wharton (0-2, 2f), Liam Duignan (0-1), Pauric Tully (0-2). Subs: Adrian McCaffrey for J Miney (HT), Cian Geoghegan (1-0) for P Tully (43mins).
Ref: Padraig Sheridan (Ballymachugh)