Larkin Cassidy Solicitors
Intermediate Football Championship
Tuesday September 8
Dunloy 1-12 All Saints 1-9
Brendan McTaggart reports from Ahoghill
Dunloy’s annus mirabilis continues. A weary side with most still licking their wounds from Sunday’s epic contest with Rossa sealed their place in the Larkin Cassidy Intermediate football final with a three point win over All Saints.
It was an accomplished performance from Anthony McQuillan’s side who controlled this contest and had a foot in the final by the time Caolan Gillan scored their goal from the penalty spot in the 42nd minute. It put them 10 points clear of the Ballymena men but the Cuchullains had to withstand a rally from the Slemish Park side.
Ballymena played with more urgency, fluency and pinned the Cuchullains in their own half as they got the bit between their teeth. Time, however, was not their friend as Dunloy had enough on the scoreboard.
In a cagey start to the semi-final, the early signs were there for the Cuchullains. They looked threatening in attack with Chrissy McMahon and Caolan Gillan showing well while Keelan Molloy and Conal Cunning were conducting the Cuchullain orchestra.
Points apiece for Caolan Gillan and Kevin McQuillan gave them a two point lead by the seventh minute but All Saints opened their account two minutes later with the opening goal of the contest. Michael McCarry sent a speculative effort toward the Dunloy goal but the Cuchullains defence didn’t clear their lines. Brendan McDonnell’s shot was saved by Dunloy ‘keeper Stephen McIlroy only to see James McDonnell bury the rebound to the back of the net.
The Dunloy response was emphatic. Pressurising the All Saints kick outs, they were clinical and ruthless to nullify any would-be momentum from the All Saints goal. McMahon with a laces out score while Coby Cunning fired a trio of points unanswered to give the Cuchullains a three point lead by the first half water-break.
All Saints dropped Sean McVeigh into a sweeping position in an attempt to stop the attacking prowess of the Cuchullains supply of ball into the Dunloy forward line but their ability to change their method of attack kept them on top. Connell Lemon did score the All Saint’s first point of the match in the 21st minute but Dunloy continued to turn the screw with Molloy, McQuillan and Anton McGrath all influential. A brace of points from Gillan either side of Keelan Molloy’s 27th minute score put Dunloy into a five point lead.
All Saints substitute Rhys O’Mullan had the final say of the half as he split the uprights in injury time but Dunloy were in control by the short whistle with a score line of 0-9 to 1-2.
The Ballymena men had whatever wind was blowing at their backs for the second half and needed a quick start. It didn’t materialise. If anything the Cuchullains went up another gear in the opening 10 minutes of the second half as they stretched their advantage as they cut through the All Saints defence at will. Anthony Smith, Caolan Gillan both with goal chances before raising the white flags before Kevin McAllister finished a classic counter attack to make it three unanswered points for the Cuchullains in the opening eight minutes of the second half.
All Saints made changes with Cormac Lemon and Shay O’Brien both coming into the contest and while they had an effect in the last quarter, the All Saints were presented with mission impossible after Gillan scored Dunloy’s goal. Having been felled inside the box, the Cuchullain’s full forward dusted himself down to find the postage stamp on the top left hand corner with an emphatic penalty.
A 10 point deficit looked to be insurmountable with a little over a quarter of the game remaining but the All Saints men threw caution to the wind. Michael McCarry became more involved and influential while McVeigh and Kavan Keenan both began to win the majority of ball in the middle of the pitch.
They were buoyed with the black card dismissal of Caolan Gillan in the 52nd minute and took full advantage of their extra numbers. Brendan McDonnell was causing plenty of problems on the inside forward line with Peter McReynolds working his socks off around the middle third to try and revive his sides championship hopes.
Four points in six minutes, three from McCarry and the other from Brendan McDonnell gave them hope but they were going to need a goal to worry the Cuchullains but it never materialised. Defender Ciaran McGarry was sent off for a second bookable offence deep in injury time and McCarry’s third free and sixth point overall was all the Ballymena side could muster in the time that remained.
A disappointing ending to a campaign that promised much more for the All Saints. For Dunloy a fourth final in six years. Maybe the year of COVID might not be that bad for the Cuchullains after all.
Dunloy: Stephen McIlroy; Conor Kinsella, Karl O’Kane, Oran Quinn; Aaron Crawford, Callum Scullion, Anton McGrath; Kevin McQuillan, Ryan McFarlane; Keelan Molloy, Seaan Elliott, Conal Cunning; Kevin McAllister, Caolan Gillan, Chrissy McMahon
Subs: Anthony Smith for C McMahon (27); Liam McCann for S Elliott (HT); Padraig McGilligan for K Molloy (46)
Scorers: Caolan Gillan 1-4 (1-00 pen, 1f); Conal Cunning 0-3 (2f); Kevin McQuillan 0-1; Keelan Molloy 0-1; Kevin McAllister 0-1; Chrissy McMahon 0-1; Anthony Smith 0-1
All Saints: Steven McAvoy; Matthew Downey, James Gillan, James McDonnell; Ciaran McGarry, Peter McNicholl, Connell Lemon; Sean McVeigh, Kavan Keenan; Peter Reynolds, Michael McCarry, Emmet Killough; Conor Stewart, Eoin Campbell, Brendan McDonnell
Subs: Rhys O’Mullan for P McNicholl (27); Cormac Lennon for E Killough (39); Shay O’Brien for E Campbell (39)
Scorers: Michael McCarry 0-6 (3f); James McDonnell 1-00; Brendan McDonnell 0-2; Connell Lemon 0-1
Referee: Conal Roberts (Naomh Eoin)