GYMCO Junior Football Championship
St Comgalls, Antrim 0–18 Rasharkin 0-18 (aet)
St Comgalls win 3-2 on penalties
Sunday October 31
Brendan McTaggart reports from Ahoghill
St Comgall’s and Rasharkin played out a classic final on Sunday afternoon with the junior crown on the line. In the end, it was the men from Antrim town who held their nerve form the penalty spot, substitute Peter McAuley with the decisive spot kick.
It was an epic final between two evenly matched sides with momentum swinging like the proverbial gate and both sides looking like they had it won at the end of the hour. The sides were tied incredibly on 10 occasions over the 80 minutes with two points the biggest lead either side held at any stage. The fate of the junior championship was decided by the lottery of penalties but that will matter little to the St Comgall’s.
Dylan Murdock fired over the first of his two points for the opening score of the match after barely 30 seconds. A delightful score with the outside of his boot to get the Antrim men up and running. Rasharkin started the final brightly as well with Eamon McNeill’s instinctive point in the second minute opening the scoring for the men from Dreen. Early ball into the Rasharkin marksman and a classy finish we’ve seen plenty of over the years.
A free from Shane Hasson and point from Conor McFerran opened a two point lead for Rasharkin by the seventh minute. St Comgall’s began to find their way into the final with Miles Devine the man with the answers as they turned a two point deficit into a two point lead in the space of 10 minutes. A brace of frees from Devine preceded Murdock’s second score of the game and the score of the first half from Tom Pratchett. The St Comgall’s centre half forward finishing off a fine move involving James McCabe and Joseph Webb.
St Comgalls had set up to stop Rasharkin from delivering quick ball into McNeill and Conor McFerran and a mix of patience and guile, they had the upperhand for most of the opening quarter.
A free from distance from Andrew Hasson and composed finish by Fearghal Kennedy restored parity to the score once more but Devine was punishing any discretions by the Rahsarkin defence with an exhibition of free taking to open a two point lead for his side once more.
Andrew Hasson’s second and third free’s of the game came either side of a score from Conor McAuley to give St Comgall’s a one point lead at the half time whistle.
Half time score, St Comgall’s 0-8 Rasharkin 0-7.
Like the start of the game, St Comgall’s opened the scoring after the restart with their first attack. Patrick O’Connor with the finish but Rahsarkin began the second half with more urgency and noticeably delivering the ball into their forward line more quickly.
A trio of points from Andrew Hasson (one free) gave the men from Dreen a one point lead by the seventh minute of the second half before a superb score from Conor McAuley from wide on the left brought St Comgall’s level. It was brief respite for the Antrim men however as Rasharkin were flying in the third quarter. A fisted point from Gerard O’Hagan fired them into the lead once more before McNeill’s second of the match in the 42nd minute brought the Rasharkin crowd to life at Ahoghill.
St Comgall’s threatened at the other end of the pitch and but for the brilliance of Tiernan O’Boyle, they could have scored the opening goal of the final. Conor McAuley seeing his effort bravely saved from point blank range by the Rasharkin shot stopper. Murdock fired over with the outside of his boot to leave the sides tied on 12 points each at the second half water break.
An instinctive finish from Tom Patchett gave St Comgall’s the lead once more but Andrew Hasson was proving any free inside of 50 yards was being punished as a further brace of frees gave Rasharkin a two point lead with five minutes of the hour remaining.
St Comgall’s and Devine hit back however with three points from their star player (one free) giving them a one point lead in the third minute of injury time.
Rasharkin pushed for another equaliser and St Comgall’s were reduced to 14 men when Conor McAuley saw red for an overzealous tackle on Pearce Kelly. The men from Dreen rolled the dice and brought ‘keeper O’Boyle up to take a free from close to 55 yards only to see his effort dropping short and a goal bound effort was deflected wide. Tiernan O’Boyle stood over the resulting ’45 in the sixth minute of injury time and celebrated as soon as he made contact with the ball. The rest of the crowd watched on as the ball sailed over the bar with effectively the last touch of the hour with the sides tied on 15 points apiece.
With cramp hitting both teams in extra time and bodies falling everywhere, it was a survival of the fittest in the additional 20 minutes but again, neither side could pull away decisively. James McCabe and Devine (free) fired over either side of Shane Hasson’s free for Rasharkin in the opening 10 minutes but the men from Dreen edged ahead with five minutes remaining once again. Andrew Hasson and Fearghal Kennedy raising the white flag to give their side hope of taking the crown but St Comgall’s and Devine had other ideas. His ninth point of the game, seventh free of the match from 45 yards out brought the sides level for the tenth time and neither side could find a winner in the time that remained.
Penalties to decide who would be junior champions and it was St Comgall’s who blinked first. James McCabe’s penalty was saved superbly from Tiarnan O’Boyle after Andrew Hasson fired the opening penalty. Ruairi O’Boyle’s penalty fired wide of the left post as Miles Devine’s penalty made sure it was ‘as you were’ on the score line after two penalties each. Shane Hasson’s spot kick cannoned back off the cross bar before Caolan O’Loan’s converted his spot kick to make it advantage to St Comgall’s. Tiarnan O’Boyle found the top corner with his spot kick before Tom Pratchett’s penalty sailed over the bar to leave the sides tied on two successful spot kicks each after four penalties.
Anto Watson saved Seamus Ellis’ diving to his right hand side paving the way for Peter McAuley to fire the winning spot kick and send the St Comgall’s faithful into delirium. A cruel way to end a final but Rasharkin more than played their part in a hugely entertaining final. Scant consolation for the men from Dreen who will ply their trade in Division 2 in 2022. For St Comgall’s, the season rolls on with a journey in Ulster to look forward to.
St Comgalls: Anto Watson; Kian Walker, Ryan McAuley, Caolan O’Loan; Dylan Murdock, Michael McCabe, Ruairi Graffin; Danaan O’Hara, Miles Devine; James McCabe, Tom Patchett, Patrick O’Connor; Conor McAuley, Joseph Webb, Paddy Quinn
Subs: Louis Higgins for D O’Hara (41); Aaron McGaw for K Walker (48); Peter McAuley for J Webb (59); Rory McLarnon for R Graffin (ET 5)
Scorers: Miles Devine 0-9 (7 f’s); Dyland Murdock 0-2; Conor McAuley 0-2; Tom Patchett 0-2; James McCabe 0-1; Patrick O’Connor 0-1
Rasharkin: Tiernan O’Boyle; Pearce Kelly, Emmett McFerran, Conor Doherty; Gerard O’Hagan, Conor Hasson, Fearghal Kennedy; Jack Quinn, Ruairi O’Boyle; Andrew Hasson, Donagh Quigg, Seamus Ellis; Shane Hasson, Eamon McNeill, Conor McFerran
Subs: Odhran McGarrell for G O’Hagan (46); Oran McFerran for E McNeill (59); Callum Montgomery for C Doherty (ET 13)
Scorers: Andrew Hasson 0-9 (7 f’s); Eamon McNeill 0-2; Shane Hasson 0-2 (2 f’s); Gerard O’Hagan 0-1; Fearghal Kennedy 0-1; Conor McFerran 0-1; Tiernan O’Boyle 0-1 (’45); Odhran McGarrell 0-1
Referee: Brendan Toland (Lamh Dhearg)