SFC: O'Connor on the double as Gaels move into decider

September 23, 2017

Both Kingscourt Stars and Cavan Gaels return to championship action this weekend

Cavan Gaels 2-10
Kingscourt 0-8

Cavan Gaels moved into their first senior championship final in three years tonight after seeing off Kingscourt Stars challenge with some comfort at Kingspan Breffni.

Paul O'Connor grabbed a goal in each half and his first strike in the 14th minute put Jason O'Reilly's side into a lead that they'd never surrender as their opponents from the Meath border never really looked inflicting enough damage over the 60 minutes to cause an upset.

Only a point separated the teams at the halfway stage but the game truly slipped away from the 2015 champions once O'Connor lashed home his second major just 23 seconds into the restart.

The Gaels dictated proceedings after that and got three points from Seanie Johnston to help widen the margin further, ushering themselves into another county final where Castlerhan or Ramor United (who play tomorrow afternoon) await on October 8th.

Barry Reilly's free had the Stars up and running three minutes into this semi-final but their Cavan town counterparts soon seized the lead via pointed frees from Martin Dunne and Johnston.

Philip Tinnelly rode a couple of challenges to send over a cracking leveller from 45 metres on 11 minutes but even battling against the wind the Gaels were beginning to expose more cracks in Kingscourt's defence.

Some fine work from Kevin Meehan down the left flank saw him cut back and aim a diagonal ball across towards the Stars' square, where Padraig Faulkner looked to have gathered before letting the ball slip and in a flash O'Connor was on to it, crashing the ball past James Farrelly for three points.

Reilly's second free trimmed the difference down to two as many minutes later but the Gaels were looking far more potent in their drives forward. More good work from O'Connor and Niall Smith afforded Micheál Lyng the time and space to re-establish the three-point margin and the former Cavan forward could have doubled the lead just before half-time when he fired a rocket shot just wide of Farrelly's right hand post.

Reilly (free) and Faulkner landed scores that made it a one-point game at the half (1-3 to 0-5), but there team would endure a nightmare restart and O'Connor again was their chief tormentor.

From referee Margaret Farrelly's resumption Paul Graham and Robert Maloney-Derham combined to find the in-form corner-forward in space and he made no mistake with his low finish, leaving Bernie Murray's men with a mountain to climb against a stingy Gaels defence and stiff breeze in their faces.

A fine 40-metre effort from Johnston was met with a mighty roar from the Terry Coyle Park contingent and the Cavan forward would add two more to his tally either side of Lyng's second of the night, making it 2-7 to 0-6 with 15 minutes remaining.

Smith popped up with a sublime score from some 45 metres as the Gaels continued to ride their momentum and with a chance to cancel that out at the other end, Reilly's delayed effort was blocked down by Niall Murray just to underline O'Reilly's side's impressive work rate on the night.

Dunne got his first from play erased by Kingscourt sub Cian McArdle but the former would make sure to register a gem anyway when he sent over a perfectly stroked '45' into the town end goal on 54 minutes.

Down by nine, Kingscourt required goals - and fast - but they never came their way against a well-organised Gaels defence which either Castlerahan or Ramor will need to figure out how to break down in next month's Oliver Plunkett Cup decider.

Cavan Gaels: Ciaran Flynn; Luke Fortune, Niall Murray, Kevin Meehan; Stephen Murray, Barry Fortune, Levi Murphy; Paul Graham, Robert Maloney-Derham; Niall Smith (0-1), Micheál Lyng (0-2), Andrew Graham; Paul O'Connor (2-0), Seanie Johnston (0-4, 1f), Martin Dunne (0-3, 1f, 1 '45). Subs: Declan Meehan for A Graham (51mins), Kevin Brady for P Graham (55), Darragh Sexton for S Murray (57), Vinny Coyle for M Lyng (57), Daniel Graham for M Dunne (58), Sean Higgins for S Johnston (60).

Kingscourt: James Farrelly; Cathal McKeown, Noel McIntyre, Padraig Faulkner (0-1); Barry Tully, Alan Clarke (0-1, 1f), Phillip Tinnelly (0-1); Barry Reilly (0-4, 4f), Colm Smith; Peter Corrigan, Christy McGowan, Sean Burke; Darragh Gunne, Philly Smith, Joe Dillon. Subs: Ciaran Roe for S Burke (19mins), Shane Gray for P Smith (39), Keith McCabe for P Corrigan (51), Cian McArdle (0-1) for D Gunne (51), Paddy Farrelly for C McGowan (59).

Ref: Margaret Farrelly (Laragh United)

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