McClean’s late magic sends Gorts to semis

AIB Ulster Club Junior Hurling Championship quarter-final

Gort na Móna (Antrim) 1-14 St Eunan’s (Donegal) 1-13

A point from a Dessie McClean free with the final puc of the game saw Antrim champions Gort na Móna book a place in the semi-final of the Ulster Junior Hurling Club Championship at the expense of Donegal champions St Eunan’s Letterkenny on Sunday afternoon. The Turf Lodge men led by two points (1-9 to 1-7) at the end of a keenly contested first half but any thoughts their fans might have had of them getting on top in the second period were not well founded as the Letterkenny based outfit more than matched the Antrim champions and had moved two points clear in the closing minutes. The Gorts fought back to level entering injury time and when Darren Boyd pointed them in front it seemed that they had done enough to claim the win. However St Eunan’s captain Conor O’Grady stepped up to the mark to hit the equaliser on 62 minutes and extra time looked like the most likely outcome until Dessie McClean stepped up to fire over the winner and send the Gorts fans into raptures.  

Darren Boyd runs at the St Eunan’s defence

Gort na Móna started the brighter of the two sides and points from McClean and Boyd gave them an early edge but things changed when St Eunan’s took advantage of a defensive slip to claim the first goal. With the game nearing the quarter mark Gorts took charge again with a well worked goal involving McKenna and McClean, which was well finished by centre forward Martin Ward but their hosts were giving as good as they got and they were able to peg back the Antrim champions who only held a two point lead at the break.  

During the second half the Donegal men kept up the pressure on the visitors and a Conor O’Grady point, this time from play, closed the gap to the minimum. Martin Ward had a chance for a second goal soon afterwards but his shot was off target and it set a trend as the Antrim men were unable to create a gap between themselves and their hosts. In fact St Eunan’s took the lead in the final quarter and though midfielder Declan Hughes pointed to bring the Gorts back on terms. However the Donegal champions came back with points from Hartnett and O’Grady and with just eight minutes of normal time to play, a real upset seemed on the cards. Veteran substitute Sean Kelly came to the Gorts rescue when he fired over the bar to cut the gap to a single point again and a sweet strike from a free by Dessie McClean tied up the scores in the final minutes.

Gorts midfielder Padraig McCaffrey in action

Padraig McCaffrey appeared to have sealed it when he pointed from play but St Eunan’s hit back with two points from O’Grady to edge in front at the game went into injury time, but once again Dessie McClean found an answer to tie things up yet again. Boyd appeared to have sealed it with his late point but the Gorts fans had more anguish to endure as O’Gardy hit his eight score of the game. The Turf Lodge side must have been getting ready for extra time when not for the first time this season Dessie McClean produced his magic and his wonderful point from distance sealed a dramatic win.     

GORT NA MÓNA: P Fryers; S Doyle, N Henry, C Devlin; G McKenna, P McHugh, M Rea; D Hughes, P McCaffrey 0-3; T McCaffrey, M Ward 1-0, C McCann; B Quinn, D Boyd 0-2, D McClean 0-8 (0-7fs).

Subs: S Kelly 0-1 for Ward (48mins), C McErlaine for Doyle (48mins), N Healy for Quinn (55mins). .

ST EUNAN’S: C Hennessy; B McIntyre, A Gaffey, S Halvey; J Matthews, S Doherty, C O’Donnell 0-1; S McVeigh 0-1, C Finn; M Ahern, R Hilferty, T Hartnett 0-1; J Hartnett 1-0, C O’Grady 0-9 (0-7fs), K Kealy 0-1.

Sub: O McGonigle for Ahern (46mins).

REFEREE: A Ferguson (Fermanagh)

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