*Cormac Murray gets away from Kevin Pender. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
Back-to-back champions St Joseph’s Miltown finally got off the mark for this year’s Senior Football Championship after keeping a stubborn Doonbeg at arm’s length to advance to the last six in Cooraclare Park on Saturday evening.
St Josephs Miltown 2-11
Flashes of lightning grew incrementally more commonplace as this frenetic must-win tie developed. But while there were plenty of sparks and expected intensity on the field as well, crucially lightning didn’t strike twice for the holders who eventually weathered the storm to secure their first victory of the campaign.
Two timely goals greatly aided Miltown’s cause as Gerard Malone struck decisively just before the first water break to give his side a four point gap while Cormac Murray raced through to billow the net for a second time immediately after half-time on their way to an eight point cushion.
The Magpies invariably rallied but four points would be as close as they would come as Miltown, despite never putting the game to bed, did enough to comfortably prevail and take their place in the three way play-off for the final semi-final spot.
In balmy conditions, Doonbeg had the aid of a slight breeze in the opening period and twice inched ahead early on through Michael and David Tubridy, only to be pegged back each time by Eoin Cleary.
And once Miltown settled into their stride, eye-catching points from Cormac Murray and Conor Cleary were bolstered by a goal for Gerard Malone who benefitted from a defence splitting surge from Eoin Cleary to round goalkeeper Eamon Tubridy and find the net at 1-4 to 0-3 just in time for the midway water break.
Far from dropping their heads, the Magpies responded positively for the second quarter with successive singles through Tadhg Lillis and David Tubridy nearing the halfway mark. However, that satisfactory position was lessened as Mitown hit back with the last two points courtesy of Eoin Cleary and Cian Mahoney to stetch the interval gap to four at 1-6 to 0-5.
Any expected Doonbeg backlash was sucker-punched on the restart when Cormac Murray recieved a Gerard Malone pass on the overlap to billow the net. In fact, a 35th minute point from Eoin Cleary extended Miltown’s cushion to eight but that sizeable breathing space was fully required as Doonbeg rallied once more.
Within three minutes, Paul Dillon and Sean Conway lessened the arrears to six but Doonbeg were grateful to goalkeeper Tubridy for keeping their hopes alive after repelling a powerful Cormac Murray.
That relief was manifested when David Tubridy converted a free either side of the water break at 2-08 to 0-10. However, they would only add one more point for the remainder as despite a number of hopeful efforts, a goal never materialised. Indeed, it was Miltown that came closest to that feat but Cian Mahoney’s blistering shot cannoned off the crossbar.
It wasn’t needed though as Eoin Cleary closed out the contest with a late brace to confirm St Joseph’s Miltown’s place in the final six and keep their historic three-in-a-row dreams alive.
Scorers for St Joseph’s Miltown: Eoin Cleary (0-7, 2f, 1’45); Cormac Murray (1-1); Gerard Malone (1-0); Conor Cleary, Cian Mahoney, Seanie Malone (0-1 each)
Scorers for Doonbeg: David Tubridy (0-5f); Michael Tubridy, Tadhg Lillis, Colm Dillon, Sean Conway, Paul Dillon, Enda Doyle (0-1 each)
St Joseph’s Miltown:
1: Sean O’Brien
2: Eoin O’Brien
3: Seanie Malone
7: Euan Reidy
5: Aidan McGuane
6: Gordon Kelly
15: Brian Curtin
8: Oisin Looney
9: Conor Cleary
10: Micheál Murray
11: Eoin Cleary
24: Cian Mahoney
20: Gerard Malone
14: Cormac Murray
13: Graham Kelly
19: Kevin Keavey for Graham Kelly (40, inj)
12: Zack Whelehan for G. Malone (47)
18: Colin Hehir for M. Murray (55)
17: Jamesie O’Connor for Reidy (58)
22: Enda Fox for Mahoney (60)
1: Eamon Tubridy
2: Cian O’Mahoney
3: Kevin Pender
4: Joe Blake
5: Paraic Aherne
6: Tadhg Lillis
7: Sean Conway
9: Michael Tubridy
10: Ronan Good
15: Brian Egan
11: Paul Dillon
17: Cathal Killeen
8: David Tubridy
14: Colm Dillon
13: Eoghan Tubridy
12: Enda Doyle for Egan (HT)
23: Sean O’Dea for P. Dillon (50)
Referee: Jim Hickey (Cratloe)