LOCC Solicitors Intermediate Football Championship – Quarter-Final
Gort na Mona 2-9 Dunloy 0-13
Tuesday October 2
Brendan McTaggart reports from Ahoghill
Gort na Mona progressed to the semi-finals of the LOCC Intermediate Football championship on Tuesday night in the most dramatic way possible. When Kevin McAllister split the posts in the first minute of injury time to complete what was a clinical comeback from the Cuchullains, it looked like the north Antrim men had done enough to make the last four having trailed by four at the interval. Gort na Mona and Dermott McVeigh had other ideas. In the third minute of injury time, substitute Padraig Mulvenna intercepted a stray Dunloy pass in midfield as the Cuchullains looked to see out the remaining time. The Gorts broke and with it broke Dunloy hearts in truly dramatic fashion. McVeigh with a major to sink the Cuchullains and book a last four date with All-Saints in Ahoghill on Saturday.
On a perfect but cold night in Ahoghill, both these teams played attractive football. In truth, a draw and possibly extra time would have been a fitting result to what was an excellent game of football. Dunloy started well before the Turf Lodge men settled into the game and took a four point lead into the half time break.
The Cuchullains made a raft of changes throughout the second half and went through the gears. The Gorts were reduced to 14 men when influential centre half Gary Doyle was given two yellow cards in the space of three minutes when the Gort lead was cut to the minimum but the Turf Lodge men had an eye for goal on the night. Paul Conlon’s 43rd minute strike coupled with McVeigh’s late, late show proving the old adage to be true yet again – goals win matches.
Dunloy’s Deaglan Smith in action. Pic by John McIlwaine
Coming just two days after their exit in the hurling championship, Dunloy made a bright start under the floodlights at the Ahoghill ground. Both teams set up initially with attacking intent, leaving three men on the inside forward line and while Padraig McHugh landed the first score of the match, the Cuchullains replied through Declan McGarry’s first of four for the match and a free from Caolan Gillan in the seventh minute.
The Gorts were getting joy from playing long ball into McHugh, the Gort forward causing the Cuchullains defence major problems in the first half while he had willing runners off his shoulder to create scoring opportunities. Desi McClean’s 10th minute point coming through this avenue to tie the sides once again but the Cuchullains were enjoying the lions share of possession in the opening quarter and landed a brace of points from Deáglán Smyth and McGarry to open a two point lead by the 13th minute.
That would be the Cuchullains last score of the opening 30 minutes however as Gort na Mona took control with their superiority in midfield turning the screw on the Dunloy defence. An excellent point from distance by McVeigh was added to by a brace of McHugh frees and the Gort’s had retaken the lead by the 24th minute.
The Turf Lodge men should have had the first major of the contest moments later when Darren Boyd was denied from point blank range by Dunloy ‘keeper Conor McGilligan. The Gorts had to settle for a Patrick McCaffrey point from the rebound.
Gort na Mona finished the half strongly with Patrick McCaffrey and McVeigh both splitting the posts in the time that remained to leave the half time score 0-8 to 0-4 in the Turf Lodge sides favour.
Half time couldn’t come quick enough for the Cuchullains who couldn’t stop the Gort onslaught at the end of the first half. Dunloy did start the second half on top with a free by Karl Fitzpatrick giving them their first score for 21 minutes and they should have been back on terms with the Gorts when they were gifted a goal chance. Kevin McAllister’s pointed effort came back off the upright and fell for Fitzpatrick in front of the posts but the Dunloy mans shot was saved by the diving Thomas McCaffrey.
Gort na Móna’s Paul Conlon fires the ball the Dunloy net. Pic by John McIlwaine
The Cuchullains introduced Callum Scullion and Keelan Molloy and the fresh legs and pace began to pay dividends. A Gillan free reduced the deficit to two points before McGarry split the posts with a sumptuous effort from wide on the left with his left foot.
Dunloy had the momentum and the Gort lead began to look precarious. It didn’t get any better for the Turf Lodge side when Doyle was sent off for a second yellow card but the Gorts scored their first goal of the match with the next attack. Darren Boyd’s pointed effort cannoned off the upright and unlike Fitzpatrick at the other end, Paul Conlon made no mistake when presented with the opportunity, blasting the ball to the back of McGilligan’s net in the 43rd minute.
The Dunloy response came through McGarry’s fourth point of the match before Keelan Molloy landed his first point of the match mid way through the second half to leave two points between the sides. The Cuchullains were pegging the Gorts in their own half with any Gort attacking fleeting at best and Dunloy had the Gort lead down to the minimum by the 47th minute when Molloy fired over from distance.
Fitzpatrick’s second free of the match restored parity to the sides once again with 10 minutes of the match remaining and while the Gorts edged ahead once again with Patrick McCaffrey’s third point of the match, the Dunloy response was instant with substitute Conal Cunning finishing an intricate passing move to bring the sides level with three minutes remaining.
With the game entering injury time, the Cuchullains were probing for space in a resolute Gort defence while the City men were looking to counter and catch the Cuchullains on the break. Dunloy got their reward when McAllister split the posts from 30 yards in the second minute of injury time but Gort didn’t lay down. As Dunloy looked to see out the clock, the Turf Lodge men forced an error with substitute Mulvenna sending McVeigh through on goal. The Gort forward showed composure and finesse to finish beyond the rushing McGilligan and just like in their league encounter last month, the Gort’s snatched the victory with a late major. The Turf Lodge side saw out the time that remained and can look forward to a semi-final encounter with All-Saints on Saturday afternoon.
Gort na Mona: Thomas McCaffrey; Connor Connolly, Tommy McGoran, Christopher Devlin; David McErlean, Gary Doyle, Brendan Burns; Paul Conlon, Chris Carson; Brendan Corr, Darren Boyd, Desi McClean; Dermott McVeigh, Padraig McHugh, Patrick McCaffrey.
Subs: Christopher McErlean for D McClean; Padraig Mulvenna for C Connolly (57); Desi McClean for P Conlon (60)
Scorers: Dermott McVeigh 1-2; Patrick McCaffrey 0-3; Padraig McHugh 0-3 (2 f’s); Paul Conlon 1-00; Desi McClean 0-1
Dunloy: Conor McGilligan; Kieran Hughes, Conor Kinsella, Karl O’Kane; Deáglán Smyth, Stephen McGuigan, Chrissy McMahon; Anthony Doran, Kevin McQuillan; Paudie Conlon, Karl Fitzpatrick, Declan McGarry; Kevin McAllister, Shane Dooey, Caolan Gillan.
Subs: Keelan Molloy for S McGuigan (39); Callum Scullion for A Doran (39); Conal Cunning for C Gillan (43); Nigel Elliott for D McGarry (53); Gabriel McTaggart for K Hughes (58); Stephen McToal for C McMahon (60)
Scorers: Declan McGarry 0-4; Keelan Molloy 0-2; Karl Fitzpatrick 0-2 (2 f’s); Caolan Gillan 0-2 (2 f’s); Kevin McAllister 0-1; Conal Cunning 0-1; Deáglán Smyth 0-1
Pics by John McIlwaine