Minor Football Championship
Saturday October 6
Dunloy 2-7 St Brigid’s 0-11
Brendan McTaggart reports from Fr McGuigan Park, Ahoghill
Dunloy kept alive their hopes of a second minor double in three years on Saturday afternoon. The Cuchullains edged St Brigids in a hugely entertaining encounter with two points separating the sides at the end of a pulsating hour of championship football.
The north Antrim men were helped with goals in either half from Rory Mullan and Seaan Elliott but it was a hugely disciplined and impressive defensive performance from the Cuchullains that allowed them to edge the south Belfast men.
Rory Brolly top scored for the Musgrave Park men – finishing the match with 0-7 to his name out of his sides 0-11 in another excellent performance for his side but Dunloy’s knack of creating and taking goal chances once again proved to be decisive. Mullan and Elliott’s majors came at opportune times for the Cuchullains and ensured St Brigids were always chasing the game. Dunloy looked to soak up the relentless St Brigids pressure and try to counter with pace and make the most of the huge spaces in the St Brigids defence.
The Cuchullains held on despite the second half onslaught from St Brigids who were relentless in their pursuit. Peter King and Peter Henvey were imperious in the middle third as the Musgrave Park men dominated the aerial exchanges while the Dunloy defence were typically tenacious and impressively resolute throughout. The Cuchullains half back line once again impressed, Aaron Crawford imperious while Anton McGrath and Ciaran McQuillan fought and foraged for loose ball while providing an extra dimension in attack. McQuillan putting in a man of the match performance for his hours work.
While the Cuchullains attack may have lived off scraps in the second half, they were clinical and ruthless in the first half, making the most of any opportunities coming their way with Anthony Smyth top scoring for his side from open play. Their second half performance was gutsy and full of heart in the face wave after wave of St Brigids attacks. With time running out for the south Belfast side, they continued to press. The Cuchullains defence continued to scramble and it was only in the fifth minute of time added on that the Dunloy support at Fr McGuigan Park could breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Both sides looked to play open and attractive football from the first whistle. Neither set up with a sweeper and there was certainly no signs of blanket’s in the early exchanges. St Brigid’s settled into the game fastest out of the two protagonists, Brolly (free) and Henvey firing over to give their side an early two point lead.
Dunloy had the lions share of possession in the early exchanges put couldn’t carve open a resolute St Brigids defence. It wasn’t until the eighth minute of the match that the Cuchullains opened their account, Anthony Smyth splitting the posts before repeating the feat from a free moments later to bring the sides level by the ninth minute.
St Brigids took the lead through a Rory Brolly free in the 16th minute and but for some last gasp defending, the Musgrave Park side should have added a brace of goals to their tally. Thomas McCarney first denied by a swarming Dunloy defence before Marcus Lynch thought he had done enough only for Patrick Kinsella to be in the right place at the right time for the Cuchullains with Padraig McGilligan beaten between the sticks. The Cuchullains regrouped however and finished the first half on top. Seaan Elliott (free) and Anthony Smyth split the posts to give the Cuchullains the lead once again before they scored their first goal of the semi-final. Rory Mullan it was with the finish and a tidy finish it was too but the ball played into the Dunloy forward from Seaan Elliott was outstanding. Collecting the ball in midfield, Elliott spotted the run of Mullan and with the outside of his foot, delivered an inch perfect 40 yard pass to leave Mullan to do the rest in the first minute of injury time at the end of the half.
Half time score Dunloy 1-4 St Brigids 0-3
The Cuchullains wouldn’t have wanted the first half to end such was the momentum they had gathered but when Smyth split the posts in the second minute after the restart, it looked like the Cuchullains were going to pick up from where they left off. St Brigids went through the gears though and began to find their range in front of the target. Rory Brolly fired over four points (two frees) showing impressive composure and desire to lead the fight for St Brigids as the Musgrave Park side mounted a fight back. Shay Campbell’s 50th minute point restored parity to the sides with St Brigids in the ascendancy but Dunloy dealt the city side another hammer blow with the next attack.
Gathering a rare lose ball in the middle of the park, Dunloy countered and through the guile and agility of Smyth, fashioned a goal chance. The Dunloy forward played a pass to Callum Scullion but the Dunloy midfielder was dragged to the ground with referee Darren McKeown awarding a penalty. Seaan Elliott stepped up and blasted the spot kick down the middle to beat James McKenna between the sticks for St Brigids and give Dunloy a huge boost going into the business end of the semi-finals.
Elliott stretched the Dunloy lead to four points with the next attack but St Brigid’s hit back and could have managed a goal of their own in the 55th minute but Shay Campbell’s effort came back off the post. Brolly, Callum Webb and Henvey all pointed to reduce the Dunloy lead to one point once again but some heroic and stoic defending along with Elliott’s late free ensured the Cuchullains would progress to the minor final.
Dunloy: Padraig McGilligan; Oisin McErlane, Padraig Kinsella, Cathaoir McCloskey; Anton McGrath, Aaron Crawford, Ciaran McQuillan; Callum Scullion, Ryan McFarlane; Daithi McGuigan, Rory Mullan, Eoin McMullan; Eoghan McGrath, Anthony Smyth, Seaan Elliott.
Scorers: Seaan Elliott 1-3 (1-00 pen, 2 f’s); Anthony Smyth 0-4 (1 f); Rory Mullan 1-00
St Brigid’s: James McKenna; Harry McGuigan, Daniel Foster, John Morgan; Eoin Brown, Callum Webb, Shay Campbell; Conor Slevin, Peter King; Marcus Lynch, Peter Henvey, Thomas McCarney; Paul Bradley, Ronan Boyle, Rory Boyle.
Scorers: Rory Brolly 0-7 (4 f’s); Peter Henvey 0-2; Shay Campbell 0-1; Callum Webb 0-1
Referee: Darren McKeown (St Galls)