Dromore take Ulster U21 honours

Bank of Ireland Ulster U21 Club Football Tournament Final

Sunday February 17

Dromore (Tyrone) 1-9

Carryduff (Down) 0-8

Brendan McTaggart reports from Páirc Chiceam, Creggan

Dromore became the third team from Tyrone to claim the Paddy McLarnon Cup on Sunday afternoon as they saw off the challenge of Carryduff.  A man of the match performance from Emmett McNabb, the Dromore man finishing the match with six points beside his name and Tiernan Sludden’s 49th minute goal proved to be the difference on the day as Dromore proved to be more clinical when it mattered throughout the hour.

Sludden was sent off for a second yellow card in the last minute of normal time but his dismissal had little impact on the score line.  After an intense opening 30 minutes where both sides sized each other up, Dromore held a precarious one point lead at the short whistle.  Playing with a substantial wind advantage, it didn’t seem like it was enough but the Tyrone men excelled in the second half, dominating possession and starving Carryduff of space and time all over the pitch. 

The Down champions went scoreless for 26 minutes of the second half and while they had a couple of half chances for goal before Sludden’s decisive major, Dromore had a stranglehold of the final with Ryan McCusker and Gareth Henderson hugely impressive throughout the hour.

The final was slow in kicking into life as both sides sized each other up in the opening exchanges.  Carryduff were keeping possession and looking to feel their way into the final while Dromore were strong in the tackle showing huge intensity and forcing turnovers all over the pitch.  The Tyrone men however seemed reluctant to play the long ball into Sludden that had proved to fruitful in the earlier rounds.  Instead, they looked to the genius of McNabb.  The Dromore forward finished the first half with four points from play in his overall tally of 0-6 as Carryduff struggled to deal with his trickery and pace.  McNabb’s ability to get the half a yard required to get a shot away is instinctive and the Dromore forward was on form in the opening 30 minutes.

Carryduff kept in touch with the free taking ability of joint captain John McGeough.  Taking up the mantle of taking the frees, McGeough struck four frees in the opening 30 minutes with three from distance despite the strength of the wind coming in from the Lough.

One point separated the sides at the interval with Dromore winning 0-6 to 0-5 but there’s no doubt Carryduff would have been the happier side at the short whistle.  They curtailed Dromore in the first half with the Tyrone men only making use of the elements once, Caolan Slevin’s 19th minute point the only score coming from distance.

Carryduff started the second half brightly and were back on terms five minutes after the restart, McGeough’s fifth free of the final restoring parity of the score line for the fourth time.  It was the last time Carryduff would register a score for the next 26 minutes however as Dromore took a stranglehold of the Paddy McLarnon Cup.

Pressing all over the pitch and bringing even more intensity to their tackling, Dromore forced errors and made Carryduff cough up more turnover ball to ensure they could keep the pressure on their opponents.  The trio of Ryan McCusker, Peter Teague and Cahir Goodwin prominent as Dromore turned the screw, dominating possession.  Phase after phase, they starved Carryduff of quality ball, space and time while systematically probing for space or looking for the man on the burst.

A brace of frees from McNabb and Caolan McCarron opened a two point lead but they had their ‘keeper to thank for maintaining their stranglehold.  Josh Connery made a break through the usually watertight Dromore defence before off loading to Peter Loughran.  His shot came from an acute angle but Mark McGale saved his blasted effort.  Moments later, Pierce Laverty went for point but his effort hung in the air with Owen McCabe waiting on the dropping ball on the edge of the square with Ruairi Teague for company, his palmed effort fell into McGale’s waiting arms.  A yard either side and it would have been a goal but Dromore made the most of the reprieve.

Once again probing for space, substitute Odhran Rafferty went for a point from range.  The ball dropped but Carryduff ‘keeper Darren Ross failed to deal with the danger, Sludden did the rest and managed to squeeze the ball over the line to open a five point lead with 11 minutes remaining.

Sludden’s goal proved to be decisive, giving Dromore more control of the closing stages.  They had a match winning lead going into the closing stages and when McNabb slotted his sixth point of the final with his second free of the half, Dromore were in cruise control. 

Dromore were reduced to 14 men when Sludden saw red for a second yellow card in the 59th minute but it had no bearing on the resuly.  Carryduff pressed in the time that remained with McGeough’s first from play and a Ronan Beatty free in injury time but it wasn’t enough as Dromore saw out the remaining time with controlled assurance and consummate professionalism to seal their first men’s Ulster crown. 

Dromore: M McGale; C Colton, R Teague, C Slevin (0-1); N McCarron, R McCusker, O Gallogly; P Teague, C Goodwin; J MacRory, A McGrath, C McCarron (0-2, 2f’s); D McNulty, T Sludden (1-00), E McNabb (0-6, 2f’s).

Subs: O Lafferty for Cathal Colton (30); E McShane for John MacRory (HT)

Yellow Cards: J MacRory (13), D McNulty (17), E McNabb (22), T Sludden (53 & 59), R Teague (60), E McShane (60)

Black Cards: none

Red Cards: Tiernan Sludden (59).

Carryduff: D Ross; L Toal, G Henderson, C Cunningham; J McGeough (0-6, 5f’s), D Coogan, D Guinness; P Laverty, J Connery; R Anderson, O McCabe, P Loughran; D Connolly, R Beatty (0-2, 1f), S Reilly.

Subs: M Lawson for Shea Reilly (45); R Lavery for Darragh Connolly (52).

Yellow Cards: G Henderson (40), J McGeough (51).

Black Cards: none

Red Cards: none

Referee: S Laverty (Moneyglass, Antrim)

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