Bank of Ireland Paddy McLarnon Cup
Ulster U21 Club Football Tournament
Clann Éireann, Lurgan (Armagh) 0-8 St Eunan’s, Letterkenny (Donegal) 0-7
Brendan McTaggart reports from Creggan #UlsterU21Club19
A strong first half performance proved to be the foundation for Clann Éireann as they edged past St Eunan’s in the Paddy McLarnon Cup preliminary round. One point separated the sides after the hour with Conan O’Carroll’s 58th minute point proving to be the winner. The Donegal champions had chances to force extra time with in the time that remained but the Lurgan side held on to book a place in the quarter-final.
Both sides were forced into key changes before the throw in with Niall O’Donnell unable to field for St Eunan’s and Ryan Owens absent for the Clann’s. Playing with the help of the wind coming in from the Lough in the opening half, the expectation was St Eunan’s would make all the early running but Clann Eireann were excellent in the opening quarter. The trio of captain Conor McConville, Sean McCarthy and Tiernan Kelly were dominant in the midfield while the sweeping capabilities of Barry McCambridge would prove to be pivotal throughout the contest. McCambridge would take the Man of the Match award for his display in a strong, powerful performance manning the Lurgan sides defence with an astute awareness while providing an extra dimension in attack when the need arose.
The Clann’s opened the scoring in the second minute with Aodhán McConville firing over his first of three first half points. They were making light of playing against the elements but their end product was letting them down when it mattered. St Eunan’s equalised in the seventh minute with Niall Hannigan scoring his first of three over the 60 minutes only for Aodhán McConville to put the Armagh champions ahead once again in the 12th minute.
Chances were at a premium for large periods of the first half with both defences proving difficult to break down. Clann Eireann looked more likely to make something happen but St Eunan’s Eoin McGeehan and Cormac Finn’s influence was growing. It was Finn who restored parity to the sides midway through the half and while both sides wrestled for momentum, they spurned goal scoring chances. First St Eunan’s ‘keeper Eoin O’Boyle made a double save from Conor Turbitt before moments later Oisin Purdy saw his goal bound effort cleared off the line by McCambridge with Eoghan Mulholland beaten between the sticks for the Clann’s.
A brace of points in as many minutes from Aodhán McConville and Rioghan Meehan opened a two point lead for the first time in the contest for the Lurgan side and while Hannigan pointed for the first score of the game from a free in the injury time, Ruairi McDonald had the final say of the half for the Clann’s to give the Orchard men a lead of 0-5 to 0-3 at the interval.
St Eunan’s were probably unfortunate to go into the interval trailing. They weren’t at their fluent best but six wides to Clann Éireann’s none in the opening 30 minutes and two missed frees threatened to derail their challenge.
The Armagh men certainly would have been content with their first half efforts but they too began to struggle in front of the target after the restart. After a clinical first half, they fired six wides in 13 minutes with St Eunan’s Niall Hannigan scoring the only point of the opening quarter of the second half from a free. The Clann’s were struggling for free takers with a couple of chances going a begging and the Donegal men were growing into the game once again.
They could have scored the opening goal of the game in the 41st minute but Aaron Deeney’s effort came back of the upright with Mulholland beaten in the Clann’s goals. The St Eunan’s midfielder was undoubtedly going for a point but his effort had the Clann’s ‘keeper scrambling before they cleared the danger.
Ruairi McDonald doubled his tally and the Clann’s advantage with a classy left footed point in the 46th minute but substitute Brian McEntyre left the minimum between the sides with his first touch of the game.
A goal was always going to be a game changer in a low scoring contest and the Clann’s almost made the breakthrough with six minutes of the tie remaining. Tiernan Kelly surging through the heart of the St Eunan’s defence with a strong and powerful run. He used the outside of his left foot to try and deceive O’Boyle between the sticks but the St Eunan’s ‘keeper managed to somehow tip the ball away with a superb piece of goal keeping.
Barry McCambridge stepped up to score a ’45 and once again open a two point lead and solve his sides free taking problems, underlining his man of the match credentials only for St Eunan’s to halve the deficit once again with Eoin McGeehan pointing a free from close range in the 57th minute.
With the game in the melting pot, both sides pressed for the scores that would ensure the victory. Conan O’Carroll restored the Clann’s two point lead and while Michael McGroary reduced the lead once again, time wasn’t on the Donegal men’s hands. They were once again denied by the woodwork with McGeehan denied and the bounce of the ball eluding McEntyre with the goal at his mercy. Clann Éireann held on for a one point win and a meeting with Tyrone champions Dromore in the last quarter-final.
Clann Éireann: Eoghan Mulholland; Conor McDonald, Oscar McKeagney, Jack Haddock; Conan O’Carroll (0-1), Rioghan Meehan (0-1), Tiernan Harbinson; Conor McConville, Sean McCarthy; Daniel Magee, Tiernan Kelly, Aodhán McConville (0-3); Ruairi McDonald (0-2), Conor Turbitt, Barry McCambridge (0-1, 1 ’45).
Subs: Jack Conlon for C Turbitt (48)
St Eunan’s: Eoin O’Boyle; Conor Moore, Darragh Toal, Michael McGroary; Anthony Gallagher, Oisin Toal, Peter McEniff (0-1); Sean McGettigan, Aaron Deeney; Cormac Finn (0-1), Kevin Kealy, Niall Hannigan (0-3, 2f’s) ; Oisin Purdy, Rory Carr, Eoin McGeehan (0-1).
Subs: Subs: Brian McEntyre for O Toal (blood sub 9 mins, reversed 12 mins); Brian McEntyre (0-1) for R Carr (47)
Referee: Karol Doherty (St Mary’s, Rasharkin)