1990 Championship Win - Reports
 The Final
THE SLIGO CHAMPION    Friday, Sept. 14th 1990 

Gaels Grab Glory

Shamrocks turn on style to record first championship win

SHAMROCK GAELS……………..3-7       CURRY………………………………0-7

Shamrock Gaels, long regarded as the young aristocrats of Sligo football, finally came of age on Sunday last when they won the Co. Senior Championship for the first time in their history at sundrenched St. Mary’s G.A.A. grounds Maughreraboy.

A point in front at half-time, the Gaels’ briefly lost their momentum in the early stages of the second-half and Curry, playing a direct and uncompromising brand of football, must have sensed that the game was there for the taking. 

But with the wide expanse of the magnificent new pitch at St. Mary’s complex taking a heavy toll on weary limbs, it was the Gaels’ running power which proved decisive in the closing stages. A three goal-blitz decorated a performance of rich quality and if the nine point margin between the teams at the end of the contest was a little harsh on a gallant Curry team, there was no doubt that the Gaels emerged deserving champions. A succession of niggling fouls by both teams and one crude tackle by Curry’s Michael Haran on the Gaels’ midfielder Gerry Balantyne, near the end threatened to ruin the match as a spectacle but firm refereeing by Michael Kearins ensured the contest went off without any major incident. Overall, the match was played in an admirable sporting atmosphere and this was reflected in the after-match speeches by representatives of both clubs. 

The Gaels, born out of the famous Knockalassa and Sooey teams of the past, had to endure a long wait for the breakthrough at senior level but the years in the backwaters made the taste of success all the sweeter when it finally arrived. Not only did the Riverstown outfit win their first Championship since their formation in 1972 but they did it in style, not once compromising their ideas of how the game should be played. The Gaels have always put a heavy emphasis on skill and speed and it must have been a source of immense satisfaction to their mentors that these qualities, so often rejected by others in the pursuit of victory were the incisive factors in Sunday’s success. The Gaels’ had many heroes in this final with every one of the seventeen players used over the hour making a valuable contribution. But there were some who performed way and above the call of duty. Gerry Ballantyne, cast in the role of winning the vital midfield battle rose to the challenge in the manner of a man determined to prove that he has much to offer Sligo football in the future. 

Trebling as defender, midfielder and attacker, Ballantyne was never far from the heart of the action, winning clean possession and distributing the ball intelligently to his attackers. Ballantyne’s dominance of the midfield area identified him as an influential figure but his partner, John White, also played a highly significant role. Turning in one of his best displays ever in the Gaels’ shirt, White outplayed the opposition with some spectacular fielding and an unsparing work rate. Although Johnny Stenson, as wholehearted as ever, and Michael Haran, got through a lot of good work for Curry at midfield, the Riverstown pair always had the edge in this area and this was an important factor in the eventual outcome. 

In defence, Philip Kearns’ keen sense of anticipation in goals relieved many a dangerous looking situation while Benny Deignan, first at corner back and later at full-back, hardly put a foot wrong and his never-say-die attitude helped to lift those around him when Curry briefly threatened to take control. Michael Touhy often had to give second best to Curry’s powerhouse full-forward, Aiden Colleary, but considering that the Gaels’ defender was troubled by an injury that eventually forced his retirement from the action, this was a typically courageous performance by the full-back. 

At left corner back, Michael Conlon settled down after an indifferent start to play a key role, while James Kearns, Noel Willis and Toss McDermott formed a solid back line which coped adequately with the task of halting Curry’s most dangerous raiders. Lauri Quinn, a veteran of so many unsuccessful Gaels’ campaigns in the past, reflected the team’s hunger for success on this occasion with a storming performance at centre-forward. Johnny Kenny and Bernard Mulhern both prepared to come deep for possession and help out their midfield men, were a constant menace to the Curry rearguard. Tommy Deignan looked a player of exceptional promise at full-forward while Cormac Kearns capped a hard-working display with a magnificent goal in the second-half which killed off Curry’s brave resistance. Enda Deignan’s speed and clever combination play with his colleagues posed at threat which the Curry backline found hard to combat. The Gaels’ two substitutes, Kevin McDermott and Eugene Carroll, made their presence felt when they came on and did much to bolster the team in the closing stages. Curry showed tremendous character throughout. Despite getting of to a bad start when nothing seemed to go right for them, they settled down to play some exciting direct football and had the Gaels on the run for the closing ten minutes of the first-half. 

Ironically, Curry conceded a goal at a time when they were playing their best football and this left them trailing by a point at the interval. Nevertheless, they began the second period in splendid fashion but could never get their noses in front.

The game was still delicately balanced with just a point between the sides with only eleven minutes remaining. But then the Gaels struck for a stunning goal by Cormac Kearns and there was simply no way back for the tiring Curry men after that. But the South Sligo men lost nothing in defeat. Goalkeeper, Tom Gannon, brought off a number of crucial saves while defenders, Michael Marren, who was one of Curry’s best players on the day, Pat Hayes, P.J. Burke and Michael Hayes spared nothing in effort. Haran and Stenson worked diligently in midfield without ever getting the upper hand while Enda Henry, surely one of the most exciting prospects to emerge in Sligo in recent years, belied his relative inexperience with a top class display at centre-forward. Tom Howley was also very effective in the half-forward line, while Declan Henry must have covered every blade of grass on the pitch in an effort to swing the game in Curry’s favour. Aidan Colleary was magnificent at full-forward and it certainly wasn’t his fault that Curry lost, while Pat Beirne and John Henry occasionally looked capable of getting through for the scores which would have given the South Sligo side the breathing space they needed. 

Giving a warning of things to come. The Gaels roared into action right from the start and, revealing a worrying flaw in the attack Bernard Mulhern and Johnny Kenny shot wide from good positions within the first minute. But the Riverstown side found the range after three minutes when John White and Cormac Kearns combined to create an opportunity for Mulhern who confidently dispatched the ball over the bar for the opening point. There were two bad misses at both ends before Enda Deignan put the Gaels two points clear in the ninth minute following good approach play by Tommy Deignan and Gerry Ballantyne.  White was cleaning up everything at midfield at this stage and his forceful play created a chance for Enda Deignan after eleven minutes but the forward’s shot was well saved by Tom Gannon.   Cormac Kearns and Johnny Kenny were guilty of dreadful misses as the Gaels continued to make most of the running but Curry got the boost they needed in the 17th minute when, following a bout of pressure, Enda Henry powered his way through for an excellent point. 

The South Sligo men, very short on attacking ideas up to that point, suddenly got a new lease of life and had the Gaels’ defence at panic stations with a series of quick raids into opposition territory. But for all their pressure, Curry found scores hard to come by and had to wait until the 27th minute for their next point, an excellent free by Aiden Colleary from the right-hand touchline. 

The sides were now level and Curry edged in front for the first and only time in the game two minutes before half-time when John Henry got through for a well taken point following a tenacious piece of play by Enda Henry. The South Sligo club were firing on all cylinders at this stage but they were rocked on their heels just a minute later when the Riverstown side got through for a smashing goal. A move which covered the full length of the pitch was started by Johnny Kenny deep in his own half and carried on by John White who fielded the ball magnificently before releasing Bernard Mulhern. With the Curry defence on the retreat, the Gaels’ passed forward to Tommy Deignan who turned sharply to blast an unstoppable shot to the back of the net. A free-kick expertly converted by Enda Henry, on the stroke of half-time left just one point between the sides at the interval and the game was nicely set up for the second-half. John Henry had the sides on level terms just a minute after the restart but the Riverstown outfit regained the lead three minutes later when Enda Deignan, after taking a pass from Lauri Quinn, hammered the ball over the bar. Lauri Quinn put the Gaels two points clear eleven minutes into the second period and only a splendid save by Tom Gannon prevented Cormac Kearns from getting on the scoresheet after an enterprising move, involving Bernard Mulhern and Enda Deignan had unlocked the Curry defence. 

The deficit was reduced to the minimum in the 46th minute when Johnny Stenson set up John Henry for a well taken point but the decisive score came three minutes later when the Gaels fashioned a brilliant goal. Enda Deignan, roving deep to gain possession, played the ball in to Cormac Kearns behind the Curry defence on the retreat, the Gaels forward kept his nerve to unleash a powerful shot beyond the despairing dive of Tom Gannon. There were now four points between the sides and the Gaels stretched their lead in the 52nd minute when Lauri Quinn pointed a free after Gerry Ballantyne had been heavily challenged by Michael Haran. Quinn and Johnny Kenny added further points as the Gaels turned on the style and then came the third goal two minutes from time. A sweeping three-man move came to an abrupt end when Bernard Mulhern was tripped and Johnny Kenny gratefully slammed the resultant penalty to the net. Tom Howley had a consolation point for Curry just before the end but it was a case of too little too late for the South Sligo side. 

Scorers for Shamrock Gaels: Johnny Kenny (1-1); Lauri Quinn (0-3); Cormac Kearns (1-0); Tommy Deignan (1-0); Enda Deignan (0-2);    Bernard Mulhern, (0-1).  Curry: J. Henry (0-3); E. Henry (0-2); T. Howley (0-1); A. Colleary (0-1). 

Shamrock Gaels: Philip Kearns, Brendan Deignan, Michael Touhy, Michael Conlon, James Kearns, Noel Willis, Toss McDermott, Gerry Ballantyne, John White, Johnny Kenny, Lauri Quinn, Bernard Mulhern, Cormac Kearns, Tommy Deignan, Enda Deignan. Subs., Kevin McDermott for Michael Touhy; Eugene Carroll for Toss McDermott and John Quinn for Lauri Quinn. 

Curry: T. Gannon, M. Marren, P. Durcan, P. Hayes, F. Henry, M. Hayes, P.J. Burke, J. Stenson, M. Haran, T. Howley, E. Henry, D. Henry, P. Beirne, A. Colleary, J. Henry. 

Referee, M. Kearins
 The Semi Final



SHAMROCK GAELS ……………. 2-11                             TUBBERCURRY ……….. 2-06 

Shamrock Gaels made history on Sunday last when they qualified for the senior county final for the first time by ousting Tubbercurry in the first semi-final at Keash. 

Conditions were almost perfect for the encounter with no elements of any sort to contend with. The stranglehold which Tubbercurry have had on the county final day in the past seven years was finally broken and it was fitting perhaps that it was the men from the East Division who should finally put them out of the premier competition as over the years they have threatened to go all the way on many occasions. 

It must be said that they were full value for their victory and in truth they would not have been flattered by a more comfortable winning margin at the finish. They were just guilty of some wayward finishing over the hour and in the concluding stages alone shot five wides in a three-minute spell when they were still not assured of victory, knowing the tradition and fighting qualities of Tubbercurry. 

Shamrock Gaels looked the more composed side for most of the game apart from a brief period at the start of the second ­half, but even then Tubbercurry never showed the same fluency as in the past and they struggled badly in most sectors of the game.

The Gaels attack played the ball around at every opportunity and this put the Tubber defence under considerable pressure. True to say that the short passing game often did not bring about the desired result but they still had Tubber in severe trouble. Tommy Deignan at full ­forward had a superb game and it was his finishing ability that proved one of the crucial factors in the game. He accounted for 1-5 and over the hour gave Gerry Gilmartin a very torrid time. Enda Deignan took some time to settle after his lay-off but he really came good when he was wanted most in the second-half and looked very sharp and incisive when in possession. 

Tubbercurry moved Walshe out of the area when they brought in Eugene Gilmartin and they seemed to suffer as a result. The Gaels' defence played with a lot of fire and passion in the opening half and closed the opposition down well at every opportunity. Brendan Deignan was given the job of marking Paul Seevers and gave him very little room all through the hour. Padraig McKeon, Michael Tuohy and Michael Conlon gave very little away in the second half. His replacement, Kevin McDermott played with a lot of assurance after his entry and cleared his lines well. Noel Willis and James Kearns were vigilant and resolute in the half-line; while Philip Kearns effected a number of saves and also placed his clearances well on all occasions.


Tubber battled bravely until the final whistle but on the day they will be first to admit that the laurels rested where they belonged. Their defence was under pressure from the start and the pace of the Gaels was a major stumbling block. John Brennan, Gerry Gilmartin, Ollie Wynne and Louie Gilmartin still battled all the way while up front Noel Killoran never gave in and over the hour was one of their best performers. Paul Seevers and Brendan Murphy looked most dangerous. 

Both sides were slow to settle and early nerves were very obvious as shots were off the target at each end. It was the Gaels who went in front with a point from Johnny Kenny in the 8th minute. And it appeared a goal was in the offing but he opted for the minor instead. Paul Seevers pointed from a free on the left in the 12th minute but missed from a similar position at the end of the opening quarter. Tommy Deignan had a great point for the Gaels in the 17th minute but Tubbercurry were back on level terms with a point from a free by Seevers after a foul on Brendan Murphy. Nine minutes from the break the Gaels had their first major score when Johnny Kenny provided the pass for Tommy Deignan to set the net dancing with a well struck shot and give his side a firm grip of the game which their approach work deserved. Gerry Ballantine missed from a free and Bernie Mulhern missed two good chances from play while Brendan Murphy was guilty of missing a good chance at the break. Paul Seevers pointed from play but the Gaels finished strongly with two well, taken points from play by the in-form, Tommy Deignan, with Mulhern proving to be the initiator on each occasion to leave the Gaels ahead by 1-4 to 0-3 at the interval. 


Each side missed a clear-cut opportunity in the first minute of the second-half before Brendan Kilcoyne pointed from a free after a foul on Pete Regan. Mulhern responded with a fisted point for the Gaels. Noel Killoran missed from play for the South Sligo side but they had two points in as many minutes from a free by Paul Seevers after Michael Conlon was penalised and from play by Brendan Kilcoyne when he took a pass from J.P. Walshe. Tommy Deignan pointed from a free in the seventh minute as the tempo increased with every move. Ten minutes into the half, it really came alight when a centre from the right by Pat Kilcoyne was listed to the net by Brendan Murphy and the sides were now deadlocked. 

Cormac Kearns pointed from a free in the 13th minute but Brendan Kilcoyne was off target at the other end. As the game  entered the final quarter the men from the South jumped in front for the very first time when following a goalmouth scramble, Brendan Murphy fired to the net to give his side a two point advantage. This score really put it up to the Riverstown side and it was a test of their character and endurance to get back in the game. They showed all the qualities of a good side by taking almost complete control of the rest of the half and in fact Tubber failed to score for the remainder of the game.  With ten minutes remaining the Gaels got back in front when a 45 by Larry Quinn was saved from going wide by a very alert Cormac Kearns and Enda Deignan was on hand to pick up the loose ball and shoot past Neary in the Tubber goal. Seevers and Noel Killoran missed from play for the losers before Enda Deignan had a wide for the Gaels eight minutes from the finish. His brother Tommy fired over a superb point from play and with four minutes remaining Enda Deignan pointed from play after he took a pass from Cormac Kearns to give them a three-point lead once again. J.P. Walshe and Brendan Kilcoyne missed chances for Tubber while the Gaels had five wides which could have been costly from good positions, Deignan on two occasions, John White, John Kenny and Cormac Kearns being the guilty parties. In the last minute Enda Deignan fired over the insurance point and in injury time veteran of many battles the great hearted Larry Quinn put the icing on the cake with a well-taken point from play and the men from the East were county final bound for the first time in their history. 

Scorers for Shamrock Gaels were: Tommy Deignan 1-5; Enda Deignan 1-2; Johnny Kenny, Bernard Mulhern, Cormac Kearns, Lauri Quinn, 0-1 each.

Tubbercurry: Brendan Murphy 2-0; Paul Seevers 0-4; Brendan Kilcoyne 0-2._


Shamrock Gaels: Philip Kearns; Padraig McKeon, Michael Tuohy, Michael Conlon, Brendan Deignan, Noel Willis, James Kearns, John White, Gerry Ballantine, Johnny Kenny, Lauri Quinn, Bernard Mulhern, Cormac Kearns, Tommy Deignan, Enda Deignan. Subs: Kevin McDermott, John Quinn.               

Tubbercurry: A. Neary, J.­ Brennan, G. Gilmartin, J. Gallagher, L. Gilmartin, 0 Wynne, P. McCarrick, J.P Walshe, B. Kilcoyne, P Kilcoyne, N. Killoran, P. Seevers, P. Regan, B. Murphy. Subs J Stenson, G. Ring, E. Gilmartin. 

Referee Francie Finan.


 The Quarter Final

THE SLIGO CHAMPION - Friday August 3rd 1990

Gaels hold off Harps' late rally to book semi-final place


SHAMROCK GAELS............................................... 2-10         EASTERN HARPS.................................................. 2-08


WITH both teams fiercely determined to progress and both capable of producing passages of attractive flowing football, this proved to be a top quality match, with Shamrock Gaels desperately hanging on at the finish, having looked comfortable most of the way. 

Eastern Harps, showing great character to recover from a sluggish start in which they had to contend with driving wind and rain in their faces, came back within a point of Gaels with only four minutes to play, having trailed by a seven point margin ten minutes earlier. At that stage, the Gurteen men had good reason to regret their first-half performance when, despite enjoying substantial possession, their tendency to over-elaborate in the build-up cost them vital scores. And so, it was left to man-of- the-match, Gerry Ballantine, to tap over a close-in free in the dying seconds to ease Shamrock's nerve and put the game finally beyond the brave Gurteen men. But the Gaels deserved their victory, if only for their more direct style of play which brought them a number of text book scores. Their admirable team­ work was complicated by a few outstanding individual performances, notably from the excellent Ballantine, and the dangerous raiding of Johnny Kenny, Tommy Deignan and Cormac Kearns. Harps weren't without heroes either, P.J. Langton and Niall Molloy had stormers in the half­back line; Sean Higgins knew his good moments at centre-field, while John Brennan, Ray Clarke, Eamon Molloy and John Higgins were lively in attack. Substitute, Marty Grady also made a huge impression during the second-half and his well-taken goal almost transformed the course of the game.

Harps led just once in the match, and then for only three early on. They were subsequently rocked by two excellent goals from Cormac Kearns, which propelled "Gaels into a comfortable 2-5 to 0-4 interval lead.

Despite the best efforts of Harps that trend was maintained for the early part of the second period, but goals from Marty Grady and Niall Molloy suddenly changed the complexion of the match, and Gaels were clearly sweating it out as the seconds ticked by with only a point separating the teams. The early play was spoiled somewhat by a blinding downpour of heavy rain, accompanied by quite a stiff breeze, which made life difficult for all the players, but particularly for the Gurteen men who were facing the elements. It didn't take Gaels long to settle, however, with Johnny Kenny opening their account with a well ­taken point inside the first minute. A flowing move by Harps, with John Bruen heavily involved, paved the way for an instant equaliser from Michael Murray. Good work by Ray Clarke earned a free for Harps, and Eamon Molloy duly obliged from the placed ball to give them the lead for the one and only time in the match.

The sharpness of the Gaels' play was underlined by their next point. James Kearns won a line ball when it seemed there was nothing on, and then he took the kick quickly from the hands to Gerry Ballantine who knocked it over the bar from some distance. Within two minutes, Gaels consolidated their position when a mistake by Harps full-back Peter Mitchell, allowed Gerry Ballantine take up possession and he linked well with Tommy Deignan, before sending Cormac Kearns in for a spectacular goal from a most acute angle.

An excellent point, from Ballantine, who shook off the heavy, tackles before sending over from long range, stretched Gaels lead to four points midway through the half. But Harps lacked nothing in effort and despite losing scores they continued to enjoy at least equal possession. But their short passing game wasn't suited to the conditions, and their tendency to over-elaborate cost them scores at a time in the match when they were causing real problems for the Riverstown defence.

Their anxiety to go for goal when points were available also cost them dearly. They were unfortunate, though, in the 22nd minute when great work by the lively John Higgins opened up the Gaels defence; and a clever pass sent Niall Molloy free in front of goal. There would have been no difficulty in taking the point, but he went for goal and was unlucky to see his well struck left foot shot narrowly miss the post.

Eamon Molloy did manage to pull a point back and shortly afterwards; the Gaels took up the running again with a point from Johnny Kenny, and then a second goal from close range by Cormac Kearns, after clever approach work by Bernard Mulhern. Tommy Deignan and Niall Molloy swapped points before the break to leave Gaels leading by 2-5 to 0-4 at half-time.

Harps needed a good start to the second-half and points from John Bruen and Niall Molloy provided the tonic. It took a splendid "70" by Lauri Quinn to open Gaels second-half account twelve minutes after the restart, and this was quickly followed by a point from play, by Gerry Ballantine to restore their seven point advantage. But Harps revival gained impetus when Marty Grady punched home a superb goal, following a long ball from Eamon Molloy, only minutes after coming on as a substitute. An excellent solo point by the elusive Tom Deignan steadied the Riverstown men and then Cormac Kearns pointed to give them a six points advantage with nine minutes left.

But still Harps refused to yield. A well taken point by Sean Higgins was followed by an opportunist goal from Eamon Molloy, after good work by Marty Grady and suddenly there was just two points between them with five minutes remaining. As the excitement mounted. John Bruen notched an excellent long range point to narrow the game to just one point with four minutes left. But for all their gallant work, that was to be Harps' last score and it was fitting that the last point of the match should fall to Gerry Ballantine in the dying seconds, as it was his never say­ die spirit which best epitomised the quality of a match that was a credit to both teams.

Scorers for Shamrock Gaels were Cormac Kearns, (2-1); Gerry Ballantine (0-4); Johnny Kenny, Tommy Deignan (0-2) each; Lauri Quinn (0-1).

Scorers for Eastern Harps were Eamon Molloy (1-2); Marty Grady (1-0); John Bruen, Niall Molloy, (0-2) each; Sean Higgins, Michael Murray, (0-1) each.

Shamrock Gaels: Philip Kearns, Brendan Deignan, Michael Tuohy, Michael Conlon, James Kearns, Noel Willis, Toss McDermott, John White, Gerry Ballantine. Lauri Quinn, Bernard Mulhern, John Quinn, Tommy Deignan, Cormac Kearns. Subs. Padraig McKeon, Brendan McKenna, Kevin McDermott.

Eastern Harps: K. O'Hara, P. Mitchell, S. McCoy,. P.J. Langton, N. Molloy, S. Fox, S. Higgins, M. Murray, D. Higgins, J. Bruen, J. Higgins, R. Tansey, R. Clarke, E. Molloy. Sub M. Grady. 

Referee: Mr. P. Gorman.