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Gillespie goal helps Aileach beat Clonmany 20.01.12
Jackie Crossan Premier Division

Clonmany Shamrocks...0

Aileach FC...1
(Gillespie 47)

Report: Inishowen Independent

League leaders Aileach closed in on a first ever Premier Division title with a fine 1-0 victory over defending champions Clonmany on Sunday.
There’s a lot of football to be played before the honours are finally decided, but James Gillespie’s sublime finish early in the second half puts Bryan Bell’s team in pole position in the race for the title as they hold a four point lead, and a game in hand, over Clonmany. Glengad’s defeat to Redcastle on Sunday dented their title aspirations, with only Moville of the chasing pack recording a win at the weekend to keep their slim hopes alive.
Carn are the wildcards – they have been focusing on the FAI Junior Cup of late and have four games in hand on Aileach; the sides will meet twice before league honours are handed out, but even were Carn to win all their games in hand they’d still trail the Lakeside men by three points.
It’s Aileach’s title to lose, but that wasn’t how it looked at half time on Sunday when Clonmany had had the better of things in the first half. The home side had started a little shakily, but they grew into the game and had the better chances in the opening 45 minutes only for their final ball to let them down and Aileach keeper David McGeady to keep them at bay with a couple of good saves.
Deadlocked 0-0 at half time, Aileach struck early in the second half. Clonmany keeper Peter Devlin made a good save but the ball broke to James Gillespie just outside the box and the midfielder drilled it low to the bottom left corner past Devlin and the despairing lunge of a Clonmany defender on the goal line.
That breathed life into the entire team and having been on the backfoot for the 20 minutes before the break, Aileach were in the ascendant for the 20 minutes after it but couldn’t add to their tally.
Clonmany continued with their route one tactic for most of the second half, but to little effect. Keeper Peter Devlin’s long clearances were comfortably dealt with by Aileach centre halves Damian Barr and Cathal McElhinney.
With the game entering its final quarter, Clonmany introduced a couple of subs and put their opponents under tremendous pressure. But Aileach were able to soak it up and, while they lost Ciaran Craig to a second yellow card in injury time, were able to hold on for a vital victory.
SUNDAY’S game was a crucial one for both sides, with Aileach looking to bounce back from a 2-2 draw away to Moville a week earlier and Clonmany desperately in need of a win to keep the retention of their Premier Division title in their own hands.
Paul McLaughlin skied a shot over the Aileach crossbar within moments of kick-off and Declan O’Donnell did well to get a block in on Brendan Devlin as the striker was about to unleash a shot on seven minutes.
James Gillespie had a free header at the back post from a corner on 12 minutes, but nodded wide. The midfielder played a wonderful through ball to the right of the area for Anthony Doherty moments later, but the winger’s well struck shot flashed across the face of goal and narrowly wide.
Clonmany created their first good chance on the quarter hour when Jason Devlin’s shot from the edge of the area drew a magnificent fingertip diving save from Aileach stopper David McGeady.
Mark McLaughlin fired in a sharp cross from the right soon after, but with Brendan Devlin lurking in a dangerous position Cathal McElhinney got an important flick to head the ball to safety.
Eddie McIntyre drew a good save from Peter Devlin from a 20th minute free kick, and McElhinney’s follow up looping header was comfortably collected by the Clonmany keeper.
Aileach were pinned into their own half for much of remainder of the first half, with Clonmany probing and patiently seeking an opening to unlock the visitor defence.
While Michael Devlin, Mark McLaughlin and Jason Devlin all showed good movement, they failed to find a way though the Aileach rearguard where Damian Barr and especially Declan O’Donnell impressed.
Clonmany’s best chance of the first half came just after the half hour when Jason Devlin crossed and brother Brendan controlled the ball just on the 18 yard line. Brendan delayed his shot as a couple of Aileach defenders dived in to block him, but his shot flew just wide of the right hand post.
Mark McLaughlin fired over from 20 yards on 38 minutes, and Brendan Devlin directed a 42nd minute header on target, but the delivery he’d taken had no pace on it and his header fell comfortably into McGeady’s grateful arms.
Aileach did have one chance on the stroke of half time when the busy Eddie McIntyre put Ciaran Craig through. The midfielder shimmied left and then right, but his right-footed shot was straight at the keeper.

THE SECOND HALF started with a bang with James Gillespie breaking the deadlock and drilling an accurate shot past the Clonmany keeper to give Aileach a 1-0 lead in the 47th minute. Brian Treacy and Anthony Doherty kept up the pressure from the visitors and combined to set up Eddie McIntyre five minutes later, but the striker’s shot flew over the bar.
Clonmany were still dangerous and not about to hand up their league crown without a fight. Brendan Devlin headed inches wide at the front post from a corner on the hour mark, and the veteran Clonmany striker had a shot blocked by Cathal McElhinney shortly afterwards.
Damian Barr too had to be alert to block Brendan Devlin on 69 minutes and Aileach could have doubled their lead moments later when keeper Peter Devlin and his right back got all mixed up and clearance broke to Ciaran McGrory 25 yards out, but with the keeper stranded the Aileach striker fluffed his shot and the ball went wide.
McGrory was a bit unlucky with that attempt, as was Anthony Shivvey when he flicked a low, driven corner kick across the face of goal and narrowly wide on 71 minutes.
They were almost punished when Clonmany created their best chance of the match. Brendan Devlin found space on the left side of the penalty area and lofted a cross over keeper McGeady’s head and into the path of the inrushing Mark McLaughlin, but the right back headed over the bar with an open goal gaping in front of him. It was a bad miss that blighted an otherwise good performance from the right back.
Clonmany substitute Jamie Coyle with a header and James Gillespie from a free kick went close at either end as the game entered the final ten minutes. Aileach continued to soak up the pressure, and Clonmany just couldn’t find a way through whether they played it high and long or on the deck.
Aileach’s day was spoiled a little when Ciaran Craig picked up a second yellow card following a needless altercation with Clonmany’s Paul McLaughlin late in the five minutes of injury time allowed by referee Terence Moyne. McLaughlin, too, was yellow carded for his part in it the tiff.

Clonmany Shamrocks: Peter Devlin; Mark McLaughlin (Alan Friel 87 mins), Liam Hirrell, Philip Devlin (Conor Bradley 50 mins), Michael Grant; Michael Devlin, Raymond McDaid, Steve Harkin, Jason Devlin (Jamie Coyle 71 mins); Paul McLaughlin, Brendan Devlin. Subs not used: Daniel McLaughlin, Jason Doherty.

Aileach FC: David McGeady; Dermot Doherty, Damian Barr, Cathal McElhinney, Declan O’Donnell; Anthony Doherty (Dermot McGlynn 90 mins), James Gillespie, Ciaran Craig, Brian Treacy (Conor McShane 65 mins); Ciaran McGrory (Stephen Doherty 82 mins), Eddie McIntyre. Subs not used: Neil McElhinney, Ruairi Bradley.

Referee: Terence Moyne.

Man-of-the-match
Liam Hirrell and Michael Grant were solid in defence for Clonmany, while the Devlin brothers showed good movement up front. But for all their intricate footwork, they couldn’t find a way past a resolute Aileach defence. Bell’s team set themselves up quite defensively, but their central midfielders were largely on top, Declan O’Donnell impressed at right back, but centre half Damian Barr – powerful in the air and composed on the ground – was man of the match.

Turning point
James Gillespie’s goal just after the restart was the game’s pivotal moment. Clonmany had been on top during the first half, but Aileach hit them early in the second half and, boosted by the goal, were pretty comfortable for the remainder of the game. While Clonmany did create one good chance before the end, but Aileach were very solid in the back and deserved their win.

Ref watch
Terence Moyne was authoritative and composed, talking to the players and management and explaining his decisions. He had to issue a few yellow cards, but the game was played in an honest, sporting manner. Ciaran Craig got involved in an off the ball altercation late on, leaving Moyne with no option but to issue a second yellow and then a red card.

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