18th February 2012
Cootehill Celtic 0 - 03 St. Felims 0 - 00
All four seasons may have visited the 3G at Breffni Park on Saturday afternoon last but it was Cootehill Celtic who ultimately left the ground with a spring in their step after an absorbing under 14 hurling championship final.
Driving wind, sun showers, slanting sleet and tonnes of hailstones made for hugely testing conditions and the standard of play suffered accordingly.
However, there was no doubting the endeavour, commitment and ambition of both teams as they sought to subdue each other in addition to the elements.
The game was contested between two evenly-matched sides and a question mark remained over the destination of the cup right 'til the final whistle.
To the victor the spoils though and for their efforts, Cootehill can now look forward to representing the county in the All-Ireland Feile na nGael competition to be hosted by Dublin in July next.
In defeating a St. Felim's side bidding for a hat-trick of victories in the competition, the Celts proved themselves to be the class act at under 14 level in 2012 with their record of not having conceded a single score in all three rounds of the competition something to behold.
The winners' victory was also a personal triumph for team-manager Gabriel Shalvey who played on the last Cootehill side (1982) to claim the under 14 HC title.
On the field of play, there were some notable solo performances but last Saturday's contest was really much more about the collective than the individual with Cootehill's greater hunger and superior marksmanship arguably the twin pillars underpinning their title-winning display.
Saint Felim's were most people's favourites to work the oracle in this year's Feile competition and they underlined their credentials from the throw-in by taking the game to the Hoops.
The maroon and whites enjoyed the majority of possession early on with their capacity to hoover up ball in the middle third of the pitch particularly pronounced.
However Cootehill posted notice of their intention to seize the title from their opponents by taking the lead against the run of play in the 9th minute when their most experienced player, Conall Farrell, was calmness personified as he split the posts with a textbook free.
Undeterred, the Saints leaped back into the driver's seat and slowly but surely Cootehill's lauded defensive capabilities came under some serious scrutiny.
Firstly, Patrick Gaffney saw a shot - with the word goal stamped all over it - excellently blocked and cleared by Cootehill netminder Niall Clerkin at the expense of a fruitless '65.
Then in the 13th minute - moments after Cootehill lost Cormac Wall to injury (only to return to the action midway through the second half) - Oisin Keating also eyed a goal with realistic expectations but Clerkin again brillantly thwarted the 2011 champions.
Approaching the quarter hour mark, Saint Felim's had further reason to cast their eyes to the heavens after the aforementioned Gaffney again tested Clerkin without any reward.
Despite having the wind at their backs, Cootehill were relying heavily on cashing in on infrequent counter-attacks but the Saints' defence never wavered from their 'thy shalt not pass mode'.
A foul on Oisin Keating presented a chance for Rory Mulligan to convert a free for 'Felim's but again Cootehill were let off the hook and it was a similar story moments later when young Keating's free was cleared.
Cootehill worked overtime to negate their opponents' scoring chances and almost doubled their lead eight minutes from the break but the hard-working James McKay shot narrowly wide.
The second half was another war of attrition but, this time, it was Cootehill who won most of the battles, especially the key ones at the business end of the field.
Seven minutes into the second half, good work by Mark Moffett put his Cootehill team-mate Killian Delaney through on goal but his kicked effort went narrowly wide of the butt of the Saints' post.
Two minutes later, ace freetaker Farrell hit the jackpot again with an unerring free to double his side's lead and leaving St. Felim's with a mountainous challenge even though time was on their side.
Cootehill's defenders continued to battle like trojans as they cleared their lines under sustained pressure with 'Felim's sub. Kieran Cosgrove going agonisingly close to bagging a goal in the 42nd minute.
The conditions remained unrelentingly challenging and most of the rest of the play continued to be well removed from the danger areas of the field.
As the game raced to a thrilling finale, it was obvious a goal for either side would seal the deal but with defences very much on top, chances in front of goal continued to be at a premium.
As things panned out, there was to be just one more score recorded with marksman-in-chief Farrell finally putting the brave Saints to the sword with a measured free in the dregs of the game.
Cootehill Celtic:Niall Clerkin; Conor Reilly, Padraig Jackson, Shane Clerkin; Mark Moffett, Gary O'Rourke, Diarmaid Carney; Niall Fitzpatrick, Conall Farrell (0-3); Ben McIntyre, James McKay, Kevin Treanor; Colm Shalvey, Cormac Wall, Jesse Holland.
St. Felim's: Shane Doyle; Gavin Brady, Thomas Keaney, Peter Galligan; Dillon Daly, Rory Mulligan, Ryan Coyle; Colin Brady, Aodhagan Halton; Patrick Gaffney, Shane Finnegan, Gavin Smith; Mark Tyler, Oisin Keating, Jack Hogan.
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© Cootehill Celtic 2012