Intermediate Hurling Championship – Semi-Final
Creggan Kickhams 0-18 Carey Faughs 1-6
Brendan McTaggart reports from Glen Rovers, Armoy
It’s not often the bookies get it wrong. It’s not often the Saffron Gael get it wrong either. Well, maybe not. But Creggan put in a performance to defy the bookies and with a bit to spare over the Faugh’s into the bargain. Nine points separated these sides on the score board but on reflection of what transpired over the 60 plus minutes, the score line flatters the men from Ballyvoy.
Carey have been the ‘nearly men’ in the Intermediate championship now for longer than they care to remember. Saturday will be a performance they want to forget. Coming into the match on the heels of a resounding win and performance to match against Clooney Gaels in the previous round, Carey would have held high hopes of finally becoming the bride and not the bridesmaid. The bookies had them at 8/13 favourites on the day and in the run up to Saturday’s semi-final the experts called a close contest with the Faugh’s to edge the win. What we got was a comfortable nine point win for the Kickham’s and a Carey side who couldn’t reach the heights they had shown in the run up to the last four.
Carey’s James Black in action against Creggan’s Aidan Maguire (left) and Ruairi McCann.
Creggan started well and put Carey on the back foot. The returning Conor Small reforming his full forward partnership with Conor McCann to give Creggan a potent threat in attack but it was the Creggan men’s ability to win ball in the middle of the park and their distribution that kept Carey under pressure and ensure the Faugh’s couldn’t get any early momentum.
Donal Carey at centre half excelled for the Staffordstown Road men with Aidan McKeown a rock just behind. Thomas McCann’s sweeping ability and vision to pick a pass was a major asset for Creggan but the work rate and hunger of the Kickhams men to win ball, sometimes ball they had no right to win, and pressure Carey into errors was commendable. Sam Maguire was a shining light for the Kickhams in that regard, putting his body on the line time and again for his side producing blocks, tackles and an unnerving hunger for possession while Kealan and Ruairi McCann outclassed their counterparts at midfield.
Carey trailed by seven points at the short whistle and while they had the slight help of the elements in the second half, it wasn’t a seven point wind. They would have to dig in and produce a complete turnaround after the short whistle but their hopes were essentially ended when Shea Hunter was red carded for an incident off the ball ten minutes after the restart. Caolan McCaughan’s 59th minute proved to be scant consolation for the Faughs who just couldn’t produce their ‘A’ game when it mattered most. One point from play in a championship game of hurling won’t win many games of hurling and while James ‘Rocket’ Black top scores for Carey with 0-5 over the hour, all his points were from dead ball. Creggan had done their homework on the Faughs and nullified their threats all over the pitch. Sean McBride at full back was Carey’s best performer on the day but their were too few men in emerald green with pass marks by their side as Creggan cantered to the Intermediate final.
In a repeat of the 2015 final when the Kickhams men edged the Faughs with two points to spare, it was the first time since these two had faced each other in the heat of championship battle. Carey sought revenge and while just like three years ago Creggan were underdogs, they made all the early running. Conor Small opened the scoring in the second minute before Conor McCann, so impressive against Rasharkin in the quarter-final, continued his rich vein of form and landed his first of 13 points during the match to double the Creggan lead in the fourth minute. The Kickhams men were dominant in the early stages but their radar was off and their profligacy in front of target was keeping the Faughs within touching distance. The Ballyvoy men just couldn’t get any footing in the game. A further flurry of scores from Conor McCann (two – one free), Oran McCann and Conor Small gave Creggan a seven point lead by the 14th minute and already they had landed six wides in the same period.
Creggan’s Conor McCann who scored 13 points in his team’s win over Carey
The Carey attack were living off scraps but they did manage to score their first points of the semi-final when Rocket split the posts twice in as many minutes mid-way through the half. Conor McCann and Kevin Rice combined to cancel out Rocket’s frees and while John McBride landed the Faugh’s first from play in the 23rd minute, it would be their last point from play and last point of the half. Creggan continued to dominate but their accuracy left them and they could just manage another free from Conor McCann in the time that remained to leave the score 0-10 to 0-3 at the half time whistle.
In a slow start to the second half, both sides only managed pointed frees – Rocket and McCann landing the scores and while seven points isn’t a big lead in a game of hurling, the Carey task was made more difficult when Shea Hunter saw red for an off the ball incident with Conor McCann in the 40th minute.
Carey reshuffled their pack to fill the void Hunter left but their attack couldn’t make any inroads in an outstanding Creggan defence. McCann landed his second free of the half before a brace of points from Rocket (frees) left six between the sides with 15 minutes remaining.
Creggan almost scored the first goal of the game in the 47th minute but for Eoin Hill to make an outstanding block at full stretch to deny Ruairi McCann with the goal at his mercy. Creggan and Conor McCann went through the gears though in the final quarter. With the Kickhams half back line and midfield laying the foundations, McCann took advantage. A brace of frees was followed by a brace of points from play to take the Kickhams lead to 11 points with three minutes of the hour remaining.
Carey pushed for goals at the death and got their consolation when McCaughan pulled the sliotar to the back of the net after a free from Rocket landed in the mix. The Creggan defence, for the only time in the match, failed to clear their lines and McCaughan took advantage. McCaughan’s goal barely scratched the gloss of the victory for Creggan. Oran McCann landed his second point of the match in the second minute of injury time to end the scoring and continue the Creggan charge to Intermediate glory.
Creggan: Emmet Long; Jake McAteer, Aidan McKeown, Liam McCann; Kevin Small, Donal Carey, Aidan Maguire; Ruairi McCann, Kealan McCann; Kevin Rice, Sam Maguire, Oran McCann; Conor McCann, Thomas McCann, Conor Small.
Carey: Christopher Butler; Eoin Hill, Sean McBride, Peadar McVeigh; Michael McVeigh, Shea Hunter, James McCouaig; Patrick Butler, Caolan McCaughan; James Black, John McBride, Sean McLoughlin; Patrick Gillan, Martin Hunter, Fiachra McVeigh.
Scorers for Creggan: Conor McCann 0-13 (10 f’s); Conor Small 0-2; Oran McCann 0-2; Kevin Rice 0-1
Scorers for Carey: James Black 0-5 (5 f’s); Caolan McCaughan 1-00; John McBride 0-1
Referee: Fiontann McCotter (Sarsfields)
Pics by John McIlwaine