Ulster Football Club Championship
Intermediate Quarter Final
Tir na nOg 2-14 Carrickcruppen (Armagh) 1-11
Saturday 4th December
Brendan McTaggart reports from Ahoghill
Tir na nOg produced a mighty performance on Saturday afternoon as they saw off the challenge of Carrickcruppen with six points to spare. This quarter final was only decided in injury time with the Armagh champions looking to produce the Orchard version of the Great Escape but the men from Whitehill were full value for their win on a bitingly cold afternoon at Ahoghill.
Leading by three points at half time after a superb start, all three majors in the game came after the last minute of normal time. Ciaran Dobbin and Eamon Og McAllister taking advantage of Carrickcruppen goalkeeper Blaine Hughes going walkabout as the Naomh Padraig men looked to get back into the game while James Burns looked to have got the last touch on the ball for the Armagh champions goal.
In a frenetic end to the game, referee Niall McKenna issued three red cards with Burns and Conal O’Callaghan seeing red and Barry McCormick for Tir na nOg but in reality, the dismissals had no effect on the result. Tir na nOg played with precise organisation, to their strengths and in truth could have won by more but for a brilliant save from Hughes in the first half and McAllister’s opportunistic goal bound effort just going wide in the second half.
The Randalstown men started the game superbly and opened a four point lead before the Armagh champions found their footing in the game. Ciaran McKeown, Daniel Martin and a brace from Darragh Fagan giving them the ideal start.
Carrickcruppen finally opened their account in the 13th minute thanks to a free from Tiernan Kelly but Tir na nOg were bossing the contest with Darren McCormick, Christy Sheerin and Barry McCormick hugely influential. They used the speed of Aaron McNeilly and McAllister on the break, varying their method of attack with great effect. In truth, they should have been further ahead with McAllister testing the goal keeping abilities of Blaine Hughes with a rasping drive but the Armagh net minder produced a save of the highest quality, pushing the ball away at full stretch.
Barry McCormick fired over his first of two points in the game just after the water-break before McNeilly split the posts with a sumptuous score following some neat recycling while under pressure.
The Whitehill men lead by five points going into the last ten minutes of the half but the Armagh men finished strongly before the short whistle. Points from Tiernan Kelly and Blaine Hughes (free) came either side of a point from Barry McCormick. A Fagan free and Sean Duffin point opened a six point lead but Carrickcruppen scored three points unanswered to claw their way back into the contest with Richard Keenan firing over a brace of frees either side of a fisted point from Adam Matthews to leave three points between the sides at the break and a reminder to Tir na nOg that they wouldn’t get everything their own way at the end of a pulsating half of championship football.
Carrickcruppen needed to maintain their momentum in the second half and livewire forward Eoin Woods split the posts with a delightful score from the acutest of angles with the second half barely 10 seconds old. It was their fourth unanswered score but it was as close as the Armagh men got to Tir na nOg.
Despite a sedate feel to the contest after the restart, Tir na nOg remained organised and composed, frustrating Carrickcruppen while in attack they always threatened. Christy Sheerin and McAllister keeping the scoreboard ticking for them before another Keenan free restored the three point advantage.
Tir na nOg created another massive goal chance with substitute Ciaran Dobbin and McNeilly combining but Dobbin’s shot was superbly saved by Hughes.
With darkness falling and hailstones thundering from the skies, Tir na nOg found some of their first half fluency to fire over three points in as many minutes after the second half water-break to open a six point advantage with eight minutes remaining.
With the Armagh men looking to change the momentum of the game, they pushed up on Tir na nOg and Hughes left his goal keeping duties to create an extra body in midfield. Tir na nOg struggled to get out of their own half as Carrickcruppen turned the screw in midfield and halved the deficit with scores coming from Conor Sloan, Keenan and a ’45 from Hughes in the 57th minute.
With all 30 players in the Tir na nOg half of the pitch, the Blues had opportunities to seal the contest. The Armagh men rolled the dice but it was Tir na nOg who’s luck was in. Caoimhin Duffin and McAllister combined but McAllister’s effort from distance drifted agonisingly wide with the goal at his mercy. It was an audacious effort but he would have the final say.
Ciaran Logan playing the ball to Dobbin who spun his defender and raced through unchallenged to fire to the back of the net as the clock ticked into injury time.
Carrickcruppen fired back with an aerial assault on Sean Paul McAtamney’s goal and with a crowd of players on the edge of the square, it looked like James Burns got the last touch with the ball squeezing over the line to reignite the Armagh men’s hopes of a dramatic comeback.
With tensions high and the game in the melting pot, tempers flared with three players seeing red for second bookable offences. Christy Sheerin (second yellow) for Tir na nOg while Burns and O’Callaghan were off for Carrickcruppen but the game was put beyond doubt in the seventh minute of injury time. McAllister’s major came in similar fashion to Dobbin’s with Hughes caught in ‘no man’s land’ and the goal at his mercy to seal a memorable win for the Whitehill men.
Tir na nOg: Sean Paul McAtamney; Brandon McLarnon, Ciaran McGrellis, Peter Cullen; Ciaran O’Neill, Barry McCormick, Caoimhin Duffin; Christy Sheerin, Darren McCormick; Aaron McNeilly, Sean Duffin, Darragh Fegan; Ciaran McKeown, Eamon Og McAllister, Daniel Martin
Subs: Ciaran Dobbin for D Martin (38); Ciaran Logan for C McKeown (48)
Scorers: D Fagan 0-4 (1 ’45, 3 f’s); E Og McAllister 1-1; C Dobbin 1-1; B McCormick 0-2; A McNeilly 0-2 (1f); S Duffin 0-1; C Sheerin 0-1; C McKeown 0-1; D Martin 0-1
Carrickcruppen: Blaine Hughes; James Bennett, James Burns, Aaron Kimbley; Ross Flynn, Adam Matthews, Oisin O’Hare; Richard Keenan, Jack Cunningham; Conall O’Callaghan, Lorcan McParland, Eoin Woods; Tiernan Kelly, Stephen Loughran, Cathal O’Grady
Subs: Conor Sloan for C O’Grady (43)
Scorers: R Keenan 0-4 (3 f’s); J Burns 1-00; B Hughes 0-2 (1 ’45, 1f); T Kelly 0-2 (1f); A Matthews 0-1; E Woods 0-1; C Sloan 0-1
Referee: Niall McKenna (Monaghan)