Bank of Ireland Paddy McLarnon Cup
Ulster U21 Club Football Tournament
Sunday January 13
St Brigid’s (Antrim) 3-10 Crosserlough (Cavan) 3-7
Brendan McTaggart reports from Páirc Chiceam
A strong first half and a man of the match performance from Patrick Finnegan laid the foundations for St Brigid’s superb win over Crosserlough on Sunday. Finnegan put in a stellar first half and another huge shift after the restart in a typical strong and controlled performance. Sitting deep and reading the game while playing against the wind, the St Brigid’s midfielder was the catalyst for numerous attacks, providing an extra attacking dimension.
Three points separated the sides at the end of the hour but it was the first half when the Musgrave Park side took a strangle hold of this quarter-final. Goals from the attacking duo of Peter Henvey and John Blaney in the first half gave St Brigid’s an eight point lead during the opening 30 minutes but the Cavan champions hit back before the short whistle. A brace of goals from Tommy Boylan late in the half reduced the half time lead to two points.
St Brigid’s controlled the second half, maintaining at least their two point advantage and looked to have sealed the win when Rory Brolly scored their third major in the 54th minute to open a six point advantage. Crosserlough continued to press and Shane McVeety’s stunning effort kept them within touching distance but the south Belfast side saw out the remaining time without major incident to book a semi-final place and a meeting with neighbours Carryduff.
The Cavan champions started strongly with Patrick Lynch looking dangerous in attack. St Brigid’s gave Brogan Austin the unenviable task of being his permanent shadow while Michael Cummings stayed deep to try and thwart any direct ball from Crosserlough.
A brace of points from James Smith and Lynch gave Crosserlough a two point lead by the third minute but St Brigid’s were beginning to find their game. Peter King and Finnegan dominated the midfield exchanges with some outstanding fielding while the St Brigid’s half backs and forwards were scurrying for any loose ball, winning the lions share during the opening 30 minutes.
Henvey opened St Brigid’s account before scoring the first goal of the quarter-final in the eighth minute. Daniel Foster floated a high ball towards Smith with the full forward judging the flight of the ball perfectly before laying the ball into Henvey’s path. The finish was composed and Henvey’s major gave St Brigid’s the lead for the first time and one they would hold onto for the remainder of the contest.
Further scores from Peter Webb and James Smith (three, one free) extended the St Brigid’s lead further with Smith second of the trio a certain effort for goal. The Antrim champions were dominant and taking full advantage of the pressure they were creating.
A brace of points from Patrick Lynch and Peter Smith brought Crosserlough to within four points once again but St Brigid’s landed another sucker punch and their second major. Henvey turned architect this time, playing the ball into the path of Blaney with the St Brigid’s man having the presence of mind to punch the ball over the rushing Anthony Smith between the posts for Crosserlough and into the back of the net.
Peter Webb landed his second of the match, this time from a free to open an eight point lead only for Crosserlough to hit back. Substitute Tommy Boylan scored their opening goal with his first touch of the contest, pouncing on a loose ball after a free from Lynch had dropped short with St Brigid’s for once failing to clear their lines. Boylan assisted with the next attack, Peter Smith pointing for his second of the tie with Henvey replying instantly for the Antrim champions.
St Brigid’s were at their attacking best for long periods of the first half but their were caught in possession two minutes from the short whistle and Crosserlough once again took full advantage. Lynch rounding Foster before laying the ball into Boylan’s path and the Crosserlough sub applied the finish.
St Brigid’s controlled 25 minutes of the first half but the five minutes where they took their eye off the ball was enough for Crosserlough to show they wouldn’t go down easily. Boylan’s late double gave the Cavan men a fighting chance in the second half and sounded a warning to the Musgrave Park side that this quarter-final was far from over.
If the first half was devastating from St Brigid’s, the second was controlled and composed. They learned from the mistakes Crosserlough made and didn’t leave the gaps in their defence while being patient and clinical when it mattered. Points from Webb and James Smith (free) opened a four point lead once again and while the Cavan champions responded with a brace of points from Stephen Smith and Lynch (free), St Brigid’s always looked in control.
Peter Webb pointed for his fourth white flag of the quarter-final and his second from play midway through the half before Rory Brolly scored St Brigid’s third goal with his first touch. Collecting a long ball, Brolly took on Eddie Devereaux-Gilsenan and while he would have been forgiven for fisting the ball over the bar, the St Brigid’s man made no mistake with a cool finish to leave six points between the sides and as many minutes remaining.
Crosserlough’s response was instant and equally as emphatic. Shane McVeety’s effort found the top corner from easily 30 yards to leave three points between the sides once again but St Brigid’s saw out the time that remained without any further major incidents to book a last four encounter with neighbours Carryduff.
Crosserlough: Anthony Smith; John Cooke, Patrick O’Reilly, Conor Lee; Michael Smith, Conor Rehill, Ben Kelly-Flynn; James Smith (0-1), Eoin Smith; Brandon Boylan, Shane McVeety (1-00), Stephen Smith (0-1); Sean Briody, Patrick Lynch (0-3, 2 f’s), Peter Smith (0-2).
Subs: Eddie Devereaux-Gilsenan for C Lee (19); Tommy Boylan (2-00) for N Galligan (23); Emmett Boylan for J Smith (43); Cian Boylan for S Briody (43); Conor Lee for Eddie Devereaux-Gilsenan (inj)
St Brigids: John Toner; Henry McGuigan, Conor King, Daire McGarvey; John Morgan, Daniel Foster, Brogan Austin; Peter King, Patrick Finnegan; Peter Webb (0-4, 2 f’s), John Blaney (1-00), Michael Cummings; Ethan Carleton, James Smith (0-4, 2 f’s), Peter Henvey (1-2).
Subs: Shane Moran for B Austin (HT); Frank McCormack for H McGuigan (41); Rory Brolly (1-00) for E Carleton (48).
Referee: Sean Hurson (Galbally, Tyrone)