Northern SwitchGear Antrim Senior Football Championship Quarter-final
Lámh Dhearg 3-14-2-13 St Galls
By Kevin Herron at Corrigan Park
Lámh Dhearg recovered from a nightmare start which saw them trail by 2-1 to 0-0 after just three minutes to record their first championship win over St Gall’s in 25 years in Friday evening’s quarter-final of the Northern SwitchGear Antrim Senior Football Championship at Corrigan Park.
The game was billed as a tie of the round between two clubs that are no strangers to each other, and it turned out be just that as both teams gave everything they had in an absorbing contest. The Lamh’s hopes of causing an upset appeared to be scuppered before they began as St Gall’s made a lightning start, but slowly the Hannahstown men clawed their way back as a goal from centre forward Ciaran Flaherty and two from Conor Murray helped them stage a remarkable comeback and book a place in the semi-final in four weeks’ time.
St Gall’s came flying out of the traps early on and within two minutes Niall O’Neill got in behind the Lámh Dhearg backline and rifled past John Finucane to give his side a dream start.
The Lámhs defensive frailties would come back to bite them again and with just three minutes on the clock they found themselves 2-00-0-00 down after CJ McGourty placed his low shot into the corner of the net past Finucane and the Milltown men were in firm control.
Thing go worse for the Hannahstown outfit when Mark Cummings hit Gall’s first point shortly after and it took six minutes for Lámh Dhearg to respond through Conor Murray who made an instant impact on his return from almost two months out injured.
Niall O’Neill and Ryan Murray traded scores but corner-forward Brendan Bradley split the posts to give his side a 2-03-0-02 lead with ten minutes gone.
Within a minute of Bradley’s score Lámh Dhearg found a lifeline however, Michael Herron won a turnover for the Red Hands and his long ball picked out half-forward Ciaran Flaherty who burst through and fired low past Chris Kerr make it 2-03-1-02.
Paddy Cunningham converted a free shortly after to put three between the sides at the midway point, but Mark Cummings hit his second of the evening to make it a four-point game once again.
The sides traded scores again through Cunningham with a converted free, though CJ McGourty replied instantly and after the usually reliable free taker sent one of his efforts wide; Bradley took responsibility for the next and conjured up another point to make it 2-06-1-05 with half-time looming.
There was to be a late sting in the tail however in first-half injury time as Domhnall Nugent’s attempted point was punched to the net by Conor Murray to make it a one-point game. St Gall’s were able to see out the remainder of the half and led 2-06-2-05 at the interval.
Lámh Dhearg levelled proceedings within two minutes of the restart through Paddy Cunningham’s third converted free of the evening and a minute later from the same scenario Cunningham brought his personal tally to four and gave his side the lead for the first time, 2-07-2-06.
Kieran McGourty landed an equalising score for St Galls, but Cunningham restored his sides lead with his third converted free in the space of six-minutes.
Jackson McGreevy hit back for St Galls and after Cunningham spurned the opportunity to restore his sides lead St Galls turned defence to attack and CJ McGourty split the posts with a wonder score to give his side a 2-09-2-08 lead.
St Gall’s potent corner-forward then converted a free as the pendulum appeared to have swung back in his sides favour, but midway through the second-period Domhnall Nugent landed a superbly struck 45’ to register his first score after a month and a half our injured before Paddy Cunningham atoned for his earlier miss as he landed another placed ball to tie things up at 2-10 apiece.
St Gall’s edged ahead for the second-time in the half through points from CJ McGourty and Michael Pollock to give them a 2-12-2-10 lead with seven minutes remaining.
At the same stage of their previous encounter against Portgleone St Gall’s were about to embark on a sensational turn around to win the game, there was a roles reversal on this occasion however and just when it looked as though Domhnall Nugent would spurn an opportunity to narrow the margin with a shot that was dipping short into the hands of Kerr, Conor Murray rose highest and bundled the ball into the back of the St Gall’s net to put his a point ahead, 3-10-2-12.
Murray’s brother Ryan would claim his second point of the evening under intense pressure shortly after and with little under two minutes remaining Paddy Cunningham put a goal between the sides with his fifth converted free of the half.
St Galls now needed a goal to keep their championship hopes alive but as the Milltown men drove forward in waves they couldn’t find an opening and instead had to make do with a converted McGourty free. The veteran Cunningham, who had never played on a winning championship team against St Gall’s in his sixteen year career, saved his best point for last with a superb effort from an acute angle to put three between the teams three minutes into injury-time. St Galls threw everything into attack looking for the goal that would bring the game to extra time but they were caught out as the Lamhs broke away and Ciaran Flaherty hit the insurance point with the final kick of the game to seal a semi-final place on a scoreline of 3-14-2-13.
Lámh Dhearg: J Finucane, C Nolan, A McAufield, M McGarry, D Lynch, M Herron, B McComb, P Fitzsimons, D Nugent (0-01), E McKeown, C Flaherty (1-02), C Murray (2-01), P Cunningham (0-08,0-07f), R Murray (0-02), K Quinn. Subs: B Rice for E McKeown (46 mins), T McCrudden for D Nugent (60 mins). Black card substitution: P Larkin for M McGarry (32 mins).
St Galls: C Kerr, T O’Ciarnan, R Irvine, J McGreevy (0-01), R Wilson, C Brady, M Kelly, S Burke, M Pollock (0-01), T O’Neill, K McGourty (0-01), N O’Neill (1-01), B Bradley (0-02,0-01f), M Cummings (0-02), CJ McGourty (1-05,0-02f). Subs: E McCabe for M Kelly (40 mins), S Kelly for M Cummings (50 mins), K Niblock for C Brady (54 mins), C Quigg for T O’Neill (60+2’). Blood sub: S Kelly for M Pollock (22 mins).
Referee: Sean Laverty (Moneyglass)