A four goal haul from Offaly under-21 panellist Aaron McDonagh was enough to condemn Maynooth Post Primary to defeat in the Leinster Vocational Schools “A” football semi final played last Friday in The Downs GAA club in Westmeath and send Gallen CS back into the Leinster decider.
Last year’s All Ireland final man of the match was a constant thorn in the side of the Maynooth defence and with eight other members of last year’s All Ireland winning side playing elsewhere on the field and sending the ball in, the corner forward was always likely to have a good day.
Maynooth showed great promise in their win over Cnoc Mhuire of Granard in the quarter final played the previous Tuesday, but Gallen were alert to their tactic of pulling full forward Neil Delaney out to midfield and corner men Patrick Kelliher and Chris Canning never get the chance to demonstrate their scoring ability.
McDonagh wasted no time in getting off the mark and hit his first major after only nine seconds, hitting into an empty net after great approach play from Ciarán Cahill, Eoghan Lowry and Colin Kenny left him with one of the easiest goals he’ll ever score.
Maynooth played into a strong breeze in the first half and after conceding three further points without reply in the first ten minutes, they rallied briefly midway through the period. Centre forward Rory Byrne punched a good score to get them off the mark in the twelfth minute, before Benkole Agunsoye took advantage of a defensive slip and struck a great right footed shot to the net from fifteen metres out, lifting the entire team.
Maynooth enjoyed a great run of possession at this time but Gallen always looked more dangerous in attack with county minor panellists Eoghan Lowry, Brian Grehan and Joe Maher taking full advantage of the conditions and both delivering and receiving quick long balls. The Offaly students soon hit back with McDonagh’s second goal of the afternoon, though the Maynooth defenders felt that the goal could have been disallowed for a push, and two more goals just before half time from Colin Kenny and Eoghan Lowry ensured their progress and allowed them to coast through a pedestrian second half.
Maynooth continued to battle throughout the second period, with Simon Mackey and Chris Canning each posing a threat, but they never looked like getting in for goals, while Gallen struck for two more on the break, both coming from the boot of the lithe corner forward.
The Gallen management will be a little concerned that they created so few scoring chances into the wind in the second half, though McDonagh had another goalbound effort strike the post and had yet another goal ruled out for a square ball infringement.
However that’s for the management to work on as they still will advance to the Leinster final, provisionally scheduled for this weekend, as clear favourites to retain their Leinster title and to advance to another tilt at the All Ireland series.
Gallen CS: Aaron McDonagh (4-0), Eoghan Lowry (1-4, 0-3 frees), Colin Kenny (1-0), Joe Maher (0-2, 0-1 free), Michael Butler (0-2).
Maynooth PP: Simon Mackey (0-4, 0-2 frees), Benkole Agunsoye (1-0), Chris Canning (0-3, 0-2 frees), Rory Byrne (0-1).
Gallen CS 4 (3 1st half)
Maynooth PP 6 (1 1st half)
GALLEN CS: Dylan Buckley; Jack Egan, James Nally, Stephen Wren; Stephen Rourke, Darragh Corbett, Christian Brazil; Leon Fox, Ciarán Cahill; Brian Grehan, Joe Maher (0-2, 0-1 free), Michael Butler (0-2); Colin Kenny (1-0), Eoghan Lowry (1-4, 0-3 frees), Aaron McDonagh (4-0). Subs.: Tommy Hamilton for Michael Butler, Brian Gilligan for Stephen Rourke, Dylan McEvoy for Colin Kenny, Eoin Hennessy for Christian Brazil, Paddy Costello for James Nally.
MAYNOOTH PP: Cillian Campbell; Conor Coyle, Cian Forde, Patrick Murray; Philly Murphy, Robert Maguire, Eoin Clarke; Conor Davin, Cian O’Donoghue; Simon Mackey (0-4, 0-2 frees), Rory Byrne (0-1), Benkole Agunsoye (1-0); Patrick Kelliher, Neil Delaney, Chris Canning (0-3, 0-2 frees).. Subs.: Ciarán Whelan for Eoin Clarke, Ciarán Broderick for Conor Coyle, Seán Noonan for Simon Mackey, Eoin Kirwan for Chris Canning
REFEREE: Michael McCadden