Injury Time Heartbreak for Tir na nOg in Semi Final

Ulster Club Championship Intermediate Football Semi-Final

Tir na nOg 0-8 Moortown 0-9

Saturday 18 December

Brendan McTaggart reports from Ballinderry

Tir na nOg’s Ulster Odyssey ended on Saturday afternoon as they fell in injury time to Tyrone champions, Moortown.  It was a cruel end for the Whitehill men who led all game with Ryan Kelly’s 67th minute score the first time Moortown edged ahead.

In a game played with high intensity from the first whistle and drama never far away, referee Barry Cassidy issued five black cards with both sides playing on the edge in an attempt to wrestle momentum.  

Randalstown began superbly and had a four point lead at the first half water break but crucially they were only to score three further points for the entirety of the game as Moortown adapted to the Tir na nOg game plan.

Of their eight points, just one came from placed ball for Tir na nOg as Moortown put in an efficient defensive performance, especially in the second half to restrict the Randalstown blues. 

They played with their usual mix of direct play and patient possession in the early stages that left Moortown largely chasing shadows.  In fact, St Malachy’s first legible effort for a score came in the 12th minute as they played with a reluctance to shoot and making the wrong choices in the final third.  Their attacking threats coming from deep in the shape of Ciaran O’Neill and Darren McCormick with Barry McCormick orchestrating play in a quarter-back role.

When Moortown got it right in the middle third, they looked more threatening with Shaun Conway pulling the strings and Peter Devlin causing plenty of trouble for the Tir na nOg defence.

Apart from the opening quarter, there was nothing between the sides.  Tir na nOg managing to get ahead every time Moortown got back.  The second half was championship football in its rawest form with big tackles, bad misses, dramatic saves and massives scores.  The large crowd at Ballinderry were treated to an early Christmas cracker.  Tir na nOg ‘keeper Sean Paul McAtamney pulling off some sensational saves to keep the Tyrone men at bay, namely either side of half time when he denied Shaun Conway and Christopher McGuigan.

Cathal McOscar Photography

Tir na nOg looked to their bench and super-sub Ciaran Dobbin landed the first score of the last quarter with his first touch of the ball.  It gave his side the lead once more and breathed fresh impetus into their challenge.  It was a game you just couldn’t take your eyes off though with so much happening all over the pitch.

Both sides kept Barry Cassidy busy and he needed the help of his assistants on a number of occasions. Five black cards were issued in total with Darren McCormick and Oisin McVeigh black carded in the first half.  With the game on a knife edge, Moortown lost Peter Devlin to a black card with 10 minutes remaining.  Tir na nOg led by the minimum.  Tarlach Quinn and Christy Sheerin with sumptuous scores but the only scores recorded in that 10 minute period.  The Whitehill men couldn’t stretch their lead and were reduced to 14 men at the end of the hour with Sean Duffin receiving a dubious black card.

The momentum swung dramatically in the closing stages with both sides landing knock out blows.  It was going to take something special for either side to win this semi final and Moortown found it.  With Tir na nOg ahead by one point, Moortown equalised for the fourth time in the game, Ryan Kelly collecting a rushed clearance from the Antrim champions and splitting the upright from distance in the fourth minute of injury time.

There was still time for a winner and neither side spared a quarter but once again it was Captain Kelly who held his nerve as the Moortown faithful held their breath, dissecting the posts with a mammoth free to break Tir na nOg’s hearts at the death.

Sean Kelly was black carded as play resumed and Tir na nOg had a sight of the posts to force extra time but it wasn’t to be for the Whitehill men as lady luck left them in injury time.

A heart-breaking end to a superb season for Tir na nOg who lived the dream in Ulster this year but found that Moortown had the resilience and tenacity to match their own at the end of a game that neither side deserved to lose.

Tir na nOg: Sean Paul McAtamney; Brandon McLarnon, Ciaran McGrellis, Darren McCormick; Ciaran O’Neill, Barry McCormick, Caoimhin Duffin; Christy Sheerin, Ryan O’Neill; Peter Cullen, Sean Duffin, Darragh Fegan; Aaron McNeilly, Kevin Sheerin, Ciaran McKeown

Subs: Ciaran Dobbin for R O’Neill (41); Eamon Og McAllister for K Sheerin (45); Kevin Kerr for C McKeown (59)

Scorers: Peter Cullen 0-2; Darragh Fegan 0-2 (1f); Darren McCormick 0-1; Ciaran O’Neill 0-1; Christy Sheerin 0-1; Ciaran Dobbin 0-1

Moortown: Colm Spiers; Paudraic O’Hagan, Michael Devlin, Connor Quinn; Conor McVeigh, Christopher McGuigan, Brian McLernon; Tarlach Quinn, Blaine Ryan; Sean Kelly, Peter Devlin, Karl Hagan; Shaun Conway, Ryan Kelly, Lee Kelly

Subs: Oisin McVeigh for R Kelly (blood sub 30); Ryan Kelly for L Kelly (33); Tiernan Corr for B McLernon (36); Shea Lawn for C Quinn (55)

Scorers: Ryan Kelly 0-3 (1 ’45, 1f); Karl Hagan 0-2; Connor Quinn 0-1; Tarlach Quinn 0-1; Blaine Ryan 0-1; Peter Devlin 0-1 (1f)

Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry)

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