Junior Football Championship – Semi-Final
Con Magees, Glenravel 4-20 O’Donnell’s 0-7
Saturday September 22
Brendan McTaggart reports from Chapel Hill, Glenavy
I think it’s fair to say without fear of contradiction that no one seen this one coming. O’Donnell’s came into the semi-final as favourites to book their place in the Junior Football championship final in many peoples eyes. The men from Glenravel had other ideas. Two goals in either half, the first two from Decky Traynor, and an exhibition of accuracy throughout the 60 minutes from Con Magees ensured they eased past O’Donnell’s to reach the junior decider. 25 points and every inch the massacre on a football pitch the scoreline suggests.
It was an afternoon to forget for O’D’s. On the back of a tough year in Division Two, they came into the semi-final with a confident performance against Naomh Comgall’s and had high aspirations of bringing the junior crown to the Whiterock Road. It just didn’t happen for them as Glenravel blitzed, pressured and purred playing an entertaining brand to football to victory while O’Donnell’s lost the run of themselves. The Whiterock Road side ended the match with 12 men with all three red cards coming in the space of 30 seconds. An incredible stat but it reflected O’Donnell’s lack of discipline. All three dismissal’s were for second yellow cards and all of the second yellow cards were for dissent. Only two minutes of normal time remained when O’Donnell’s hit the self-destruct button and the dismissals had no bearing on the end result. Glenravel did manage to score 1-3 in the time that remained to add gloss to the score line but this was a day for the Con Magee’s to celebrate an incredible victory and leave them 60 minutes away from another junior crown.
O’Donnell’s Ciaran Ferran and Con Magees Nial Swann battle for the ball.
It was Glenravel who opened the scoring with corner forward Aidan O’Donnell firing over with barely 30 seconds on the clock. Ciaran Ferran replied in the second minute, splitting the posts for his first of three points over the hour but it was the north Antrim men who settled into their stride and took the game by the scruff of the neck. They pressurised the O’Donnell’s kickouts and dominated in midfield, winning the lion’s share of clean ball or second phase possession. They looked to go long when setting up attacks, employing Martin McCarry on the edge of the square and forcing O’Donnell’s to bring John Lavery back as a sweeper and while O’D’s may have nullified McCarry’s scoring ability, the rest of the Con Magee’s attacking unit stepped up. Playing with a high press, they restricted any O’Donnell’s attacks. To say they were fleeting would be an understatement. The Glenravel men hit four unanswered points McNeill (three) and Declan Traynor all raising white flags before Ferran landed his second point of the match. Kieran McKeown split the posts in the 20th minute to restore Glenravel’s four point lead before the Con Magee’s men scored their first goal of the match. Declan Traynor combining with McNeill to carve open the opportunity and finishing with the outside of his boot.
O’Donnell’s responded well with Padraig McKissock landing points either side of a point from the excellent Ciaran O’Connor before Glenravel scored their second major in first half injury time. Traynor getting on the end of a long delivery from David Higgins before beating two men and finishing with a deft touch to beat Conor Walsh in the O’Donnell’s goals. Two points from Josh McKeown underlined the Glenravel dominance and gave them a commanding 11 point lead at the short whistle.
Corner back Michael Laverty turns way in celebration after scoring Con Magees third goal. Pic by John McIlwaine
Half Time: Glenravel 2-9 O’Donnell’s 0-4
The Whiterock Road side made changes galore at during the break with Conor Walsh leaving full back and joining John Rafferty in midfield. Steven Seawright moved to the edge of the square while Ciaran McKissock and Jordan Toner swapped positions but that and the half time break did little to disrupt the flow of brilliance from Glenravel. They fired over the opening three points of the second half to take a 14 point lead, David Higgins, Aidan O’Donnell and Josh McKeown splitting the posts before Joseph McDonnell landed the first point of the second half for O’Donnell’s in the 42nd minute.
Both teams were tackling hard but fair and while the card count began to mount, it was by no means a ‘dirty’ game of football. It was played in the right spirit with both teams showing desire for their shirt but Glenravel continued to dominate while the O’D’s frustration began to mount. Ferran and Ciaran McKissock landed points either side of a Josh McKeown free to reduce the deficit to 12 points midway through the second half but that was the last score the west Belfast side would manage.
The third Con Magee’s goal came on the back of four unanswered points as the Glenravel men took the game by the jugular. The major came through the most unlikely of sources, Michael Laverty finding himself at the wrong end of the pitch but showed all the composure of an out and out attacker by rounding Walsh in the O’D’s goals and finishing a superb team move in the 57th minute.
It was then that O’Donnell’s lost the plot. Three yellow cards for dissent towards referee Kevin Parke, resulting in reds for Conor Walsh, Patrick Meenan and Kevin Kennedy meant a bad day at the office was turning into a footballing apocalypse.
Glenravel continued to fire over points at will, substitutes Eoin McCusker and Jonathan Fyfe along with McNeill’s fifth of the match extended the Con Magee’s lead to 22 points before McCusker had the final say with the fourth goal of the match. Substitutes Fyfe and Conleth O’Loan combining to create the chance and McCusker applied the finish to emphatically seal Glenravel’s place in the 2018 junior decider.
O’Donnell’s corner forward John Laverty gets back to help out his defence. Pic by John McIlwaine
Glenravel: Shaun O’Boyle; Ally McKeown, Paul McCurry, Michael Laverty; Gareth McKeown, Niall Swann, Ciaran O’Connor; Conor Carey, David Higgins; Declan Traynor, Kieran McKeown, Josh McKeown; Connor McNeill, Martin McCarry, Aidan O’Donnell.
Subs: Eoin McCusker for J McKeown (53); Jonathan Fyfe for D Traynor (57); Conleth O’Loan for A O’Donnell (58); Ruari Lennon for Connor Carey (inj); Charlie Henry for G McKeown (inj)
Scorers: Declan Traynor 2-2; Josh McKeown 0-5 (1 f); Conor McNeill 0-5 (1 f); Eoin McCusker 1-1; Aidan O’Donnell 0-3; Michael Laverty 1-00; Kieran McKeown 0-1; Ciaran O’Connor 0-1; David Higgins 0-1; Jonathan Fyfe 0-1
O’Donnell’s: Conor Walsh; Ciaran McKissock, Conor Walsh, Patrick Meenan; Kevin Kennedy, Marc Mallon, Conor O’Donnell; John Rafferty, Steven Seawright; Ciaran Ferran, Fergal McNerney, Jordan Toner; John Lavery, Padraig McKissock, Joseph McDonnell.
Subs: Jamie Walker for F McNerney (11); Joseph Rafferty for M Mallon (HT); Matthew McSwiggin for C O’Donnell (37)
Scorers: C Ferran 0-3; P McKissock 0-2 (1 f); J McDonnell 0-1
Referee: Kevin Parke (Naomh Éanna)
Pics by John McIlwaine