From left: Padraig McGilligan (Dunloy), Odhrtan McDonnell (St. Gall’s), Callum Scullion (Dunloy) and Sean Stewart (St. Gall’s)
MFC Final Preview
Dunloy v St. Gall’s (1-30 Ahoghill)
Referee: Cathal McDermott (Tir na nOg)
Nobody saw it coming and at the start of the season Cuchullain’s and St. Gall’s weren’t on a lot of people’s radar as potential Minor Football Championship winners. Last year’s beaten finalists, St. Mary’s Aghagallon, St. Brigid’s and All Saints looked like the sides most likely to be in with a shout come October’s decider but Sunday’s finalists at Ahoghill are there on merit and are sure to provide an hour’s lively entertainment as an opener to the Senior final.
St. Gall’s are a side who have certainly come into Sunday’s final under the radar. They were within a kick of the ball from going out in their opening game at Milltown when All Saints were awarded a 13 meter free with the sides level as the game headed into time added on.
A stupid retaliation by the injured party saw the ball hopped instead and sent the game into extra time where the Milltown side found an extra gear to romp home convincingly. A week later they travelled to Ballymena and dispelled any notion that the championship result was a fluke with a big win over the home side.
St. Gall’s had seven points to spare over Glenravel in the next round, again at Milltown but a convincing win by Aghagallon over Cargin at the same stage suggested that the Lough shore side would have too much in the tank when they met St. Galls in the semi-final at Corrigan at the start of October.
Goals win games and St. Gall’s got off to a great start and Odhran McDonald struck the opening goal for the Milltown men and a coolly converted penalty from Lewis McGarvey had Sunday’s finalists 2-03-0-02 up at the break.
Aghagallon came back strong in the second period with a strong breeze advantage and four points in a row from Mark McAfee kicked them back into contention. St Gall’s had to see out the last minute of regular time and eight additional minutes with fourteen men after Conaill Murray received a second yellow card however they defended doggedly to book a place in the final.
Louis McCormick, Mark McKenna, Odhran McDonald, Lewis McGarvey, Lorcan McIlroy, Niall Burns, Sean Stewart and Paul McLoughlin were all to the fore in their victory over St. Mary’s and are all likely to figure in Sunday’s final.
Like St. Gall’s, Dunloy went into their semi-final meeting with a fancied St. Brigid’s as outsiders but the young Cuchullain’s defied the pundits with a battling display against the Musgrave Park side to emerge winners by two points at Sunday’s venue.
In a dominant first half they led St. Brigid’s by 1-4 to 0-3 at the short whistle with Rory McMullan getting the goal but they were forced to defend strongly in the second half as the Belfast side came back strongly.
St Brigid’s went through the gears 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 Brigid’s as the Musgrave Park side closed the gap. Shay Campbell’s 50th minute point restored parity to the sides with St Brigid’s in the ascendancy but Dunloy dealt the city side another hammer blow with their next attack.
Dunloy countered from the kick out and a good move opened up the St. Brigid’s defence and Callum Scullion was dragged down as he raced clear on goal with referee Darren McKeown awarding a penalty. Seaan Elliott made no mistake from the spot kick to give his side a huge boost going into the closing stages.
Elliott stretched the Dunloy lead to four points in their next attack but St Brigid’s hit back strongly with Shay Campbell’s effort coming back off the post. Brolly, Callum Webb and Henvey all pointed to reduce the Dunloy lead to one point but Elliott’s late free ensured the Cuchullain’s would progress to the final.
This is Dunloy’s second final in three years and like 2016 they are still on track to claim a football-hurling Minor championship double. Seaan Elliott, Anton McGrath and Aaron Crawford were all part of that success and are likely to lead the Dunloy challenge on Sunday.
Padraig McGilligan, Padraig Kinsella, Ciaran McQuillan, Callum Scullion, Daithi McGuigan, Rory McMullan and Anthony Smyth are others with the experience and know how to get Dunloy over the line but it won’t be easy with the country venue possibly given the Cuchullain’s a slight edge.
Dunloy v St. Brid’s: 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 Galls v Aghagallon: L McCormick, O Crawford, R Gilligan, C Maguire, C Ryan, C Murray, M McCaffrey, L McGarvey (1-00f),K Cruikshank, O McIlhatton, L McIlroy (0-01), P McLoughlin, O McDonald (1-00), M McKenna, N Burns (0-03, 0-02f). Subs: L O’Ciarnan for K Cruikshank (43 mins), C McCabe for P McLoughlin (53 mins), D Delaney for C McCabe (67 mins, black-card sub), E Burke for M McCaffrey (68 mins).
Left to Right: Sean Burns (St. Gall’s), Aaron Crawford (Dunloy), Connla Maguire (St. Gall’s) and Rory Mullan (Dunloy)