LOCC Solicitors Intermediate Football Championship
St Brigid’s 1-13 Dunloy 0-8
Saturday October 14
Fr. McGuigan Park, Ahoghill
Referee: Paul McKeever (Portglenone)
By Brendan McTaggart
St Brigid’s bridged an 11 year gap on Saturday afternoon as they claimed the Intermediate football championship for just the second time in their history. Eight points separated the sides after the hour as the south Belfast side inflicted more championship heartache on the Cuchullains.
It’s the third year in succession that Dominic Dillon has taken his team to the decider and the third time they’ve come away empty handed. A record the Dunloy men will want to forget but despite trailing by one point at the short whistle, St Brigid’s were worthy winners after the 60 minutes.
It was the strength of the St Brigids bench that was ultimately the difference between the sides. The south Belfast side introduced Ruaridh O’Neill and Ben Leonard in the second half and the duo contributed 1-2 to their cause, Leonard bagging the only goal of the game in the 57th minute with his first touch. They held the Cuchullains to just two points in the second half and a scoring burst of 1-3 in the last three minutes plus injury time ensured it was the Musgrave Park side who were celebrating at the final whistle.
In an edgy first half where both sides showed plenty of nerves, it was the Cuchullains who made the brighter start. Indeed, St Brigids were indebted to Stephen Morrisey between the posts when he denied Conor McKinley a certain goal with just two minutes on the clock. He somehow managed to stop the ball breaching his line in the Cuchullains first attack of the match and it wouldn’t be the last time the St Brigids shot stopper would foil the Cuchullains during the final.
A Keelan Molloy point and McKinley free either side of a Ronan McGrady free gave Dunloy an early lead after the first quarter and it was the minimum the Cuchullains deserved. Deaglan Smith and McKinley were on top in the midfield while Molloy and Kevin McAllister were taking the game to St Brigids. A couple of uncharacteristic misses from the normally accurate McGrady kept the momentum with the Cuchullains in the first half and they had opened up a three point advantage by the 26th minute when scores for Nigel Elliott, Molloy, McKinley and Cunning were answered to by scores from McGrady (45) and Peter Webb’s first of the final.
The St Brigids were growing into the final but some last gasp defending from the Cuchullains kept denying them in front of the goals. McGrady first of all but Kieran Hughes managed to deny him when the St Brigids man was presented with an open goal while John Blaney showed tremendous composure to carve an opening moments later but pulled his shot to the wrong side of Frankie Cochrane’s post.
The St Brigids men were creating dangerous chances and in the closing stages of the first half the Dunloy goal held a charmed life as the Cuchullains held out but the south Belfast side finished the half strongly. Two points, one each for Peter Webb and McGrady’s third (free) of the match gave the score line a healthier complexion as far as the city side were concerned but Dunloy would have been satisfied with their first half display, leading by a score line of 0-6 to 0-5 at the interval.
Half time probably came at a bad time for St Brigids. They were on top in the closing stages of the half and looked like it was only a matter of time before they scored the game’s first goal. The second half was barely one minute old when they carved another opening, half forward James Smith with a strong run through the heart of the Dunloy defence but a last gasp tackle from Hughes once again kept the Dunloy goal intact.
Substitute Ruaridh O’Neill made an impact in the opening exchanges of the second half and scored the first point to draw the sides level in the 39th minute and when Jack Dowling split the posts after John Blaney displayed his creative side moments later, St Brigids had the lead for the first time in the final. Keelan Molloy pointed a free in the 42nd minute to bring the Cuchullains back on terms but O’Neill’s second of the match edged St Brigid’s ahead again after 12 second half minutes.
O’Neill was having a major influence and looked to be an inspired substitution but St Brigids were left to thank Morrisey once again when Dunloy created a glorious goal opportunity in the 46th minute. Conal Cunning found McKinley in space, the Dunloy man went low but Morrisey was equal to his effort and pushed the ball to safety with a superb save.
Morrisey’s save proved to be pivotal. The reprieve acted as a catalyst for the south Belfast side as they found another gear. Two McGrady points (one ’45) came either side of a squandered goal chance for Conor King to open a three point lead for St Brigids for the first time in the match. Keelan Molloy replied with a free in the 55th minute to restore the Cuchullains hope once again but that was the last score for his side as St Brigids landed the decisive goal in the 57th minute.
Ben Leonard was barely on the pitch two minutes when McGrady found him in space. He was one on one with Cochrane but still 20 yards out. He unleashed a left footed shot that beat the Dunloy ‘keeper for pace and bulged the back of the net with what was his first touch of the match. Advantage St Brigids.
The Musgrave Park side added further gloss to their score line when Cathal Conway, Webb and McGrady split the posts in injury time to cap off a superb second half display as the Cuchullains hearts were broken for a third year in a row at the final hurdle. At the final whistle it was a blue and yellow day in the south west as St Brigids claimed the 2017 Intermediate championship with eight points to spare.
Dunloy: Frankie Cochrane; Jamie McFerran; Karl O’Kane; Kieran Hughes; Shane Dooey; Gabriel McTaggart; Kevin McQuillan; Conor McKinley; Deaglan Smith; Ryan Elliott; Nigel Elliott; Kevin McAllister; Keelan Molloy; Eoin O’Neill; Conal Cunning
St Brigid’s: Stephen Morrisey; Andrew Sweeney; Conor King; Paul Finnegan; Michael Cummings; Ben Synott; Kevin Gallagher; Enda Clarke; Cathal Conway; Ruairi Finnegan; James Smith; John Blaney; Peter Webb; Ronan McGrady; Jack Dowling
Dunloy: Keelan Molloy 0-4 (2 frees); Conor McKinley 0-2 (1 free); Conal Cunning 0-1; Nigel Elliott 0-1;
St Brigids: Ronan McGrady 0-6 (3 frees, 2 x ‘45’s); Peter Webb 0-3; Ben Leonard 1-00; Ruaridh O’Neill 0-2; Jack Dowling 0-1; Cathal Conway 0-1
Referee: Paul McKeever (Portglenone)