A late Patrick Rudden free saw Laragh United clinch a tense junior football championship final this evening against Mountnugent at Kingspan Breffni Park.
After having established a good start to this decider, all of the winners' good work went out the window once they conceded a second goal by Ronan Caffrey in the 40th minute, which looked to have Mountnugent on course towards their first Sean Leddy Cup in 20 years.
However, Kevin McDonnell's defiant side dug deeper than ever in the final quarter, with Rudden in fine kicking form, and when the captain was given a last chance to seal the victory he didn't disappoint, as his 59th minute strike ensured a first junior championship crown since 1944 would be heading back to Stradone.
Ronan Caffrey opened the scoring for Mountnugent, who only had three scorers in this game, 90 seconds in after some brave defending from a tuned in Enda Clarke had snuffed out a goal chance which would have had Johnny Guirke's team off to the perfect start.
Laragh shot two wides before getting off the mark with a rousing score from midfielder Declan Brady and marksman Rudden had them into their first lead by the 14th minute when he nailed a 40-metre free along the left flank. Colin Oates doubled the advantage with a cracking score on 20 minutes and when the lively Declan King was sent through the defender made no mistake in splitting the posts to put the Stardone men firmly in the driving-seat heading towards the break…Or so it seemed…
Three minutes shy of the interval Mountnugent worked the move of the game, which saw Darren Hennessy and Ronan Caffrey combining to unlock Laragh's rear guard and send Adam Paterson in one-on-one with Martin Smith, who had no chance of stopping the corner-forward's effort hitting the top corner of the net.
In the next attack Ciaran Caffery, who saw a few of his frees sail wide up until this point, got in for another chance of the net but his low shot came off the legs of Smith and he would instead have to settle for his first point on the eve of half-time, which left it at 1-2 to 0-4.
Kevin McDonnell's team flew out of the traps for the second-half, with another superbly struck free from Rudden being backed up by a Colm McKenna point for the lead on 34 minutes.
McDonnell would send on Darragh Brady soon after to try and nullify the influence of David Givney around the centre of the pitch, but when the county ace was impeded 40 metres out he sent in a dangerous free which was fumbled by Laragh's defence and allowed Ronan Caffrey to punch to the net for what was truly a harsh blow for the men in orange.
Ciaran Caffrey tagged on a point in the next attack to push Mountnugent's lead up to three, and it could have been more had two consecutive point efforts not come off both uprights and drop wide.
There was still plenty of time for Laragh to get themselves back in contention though and they dug deep to earn two frees for the reliable Rudden to convert, leaving the difference minimal. A minute later saw Liam Brady nabbing an equaliser from all of 45 metres and it could well have been all over when Declan Brady was threaded through, but the midfielder's shot hit the butt of the post instead of the net.
With five minutes to ensue, a winning score looked destined and Laragh would get their chance when Cootehill referee Kieran McCarville spotted an impeding from the Mountnugent defence which presented Rudden with a 30 metre free which he dually slotted.
The Meath-border men searched desperately for a leveller and almost had it when Givney pulled off brilliant work to carve out a long range shot which tailed just wide much to the Laragh contingent's relief as they hung on to make history for their club.
Laragh United: Martin Smith; Patrick Smith, Shane O'Rourke, Enda Clarke; Declan King (0-1), Seamus Cooney, Liam Brady (0-1); Colin Oates (0-1), Declan Brady (0-1); Adrian Cooney, Patrick Rudden (0-5, 5f), Colm McKenna (0-1); Enda Cullivan, Liam McKenna, Conal O'Donohoe. Subs: Darragh Brady for Declan Brady (blood, 21), Ruairi Power for L McKenna (29), Darragh Brady for C Oates (37).
Mountnugent: Jonathan Givney; Reamon Finnegan, Joseph Adams, Felim Farrelly; Ronan Kearney, David Sheridan, Tomas McCabe; Tomas Brady, David Givney; Ciaran Caffrey (0-2), Eurich Reilly, Eoghan Smith; Adam Paterson (1-0), Darren Hennessey, Ronan Caffrey (1-1). Subs: Kevin Plunkett for E Reilly (40), Gerard Barkey for D Hennessey (48), Killian Fitzsimons for F Farrelly (55), Liam Hennessy for E Smith (60).
Ref: Kieran McCarville (Cootehill Celtic)
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