Creggan finish strongly to book a final place

U20B Football Championship semi-final

Kickham’s Creggan 3-8 Tir na nOg 3-7

A Sean Duffin inspired Kickham’s Creggan produced a strong final quarter to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and earn a place in this year’s U20B football final at the expense of a battling Tir na nOg in Creggan on Saturday.

An excellent Tir na nOg had built up a two point lead and looked on their way to victory going into the final quarter in a game where both sides missed a bagful of chances but as space opened up in the closing stages Duffin fired over two frees and another from play with John Paul O’Neill adding another to put the Staffordstown side two in front.

Tir na nOg went looking for the goal that might have turned it back in their favour but lost a man to a Red card with time almost up and had to settle for a point from Sean McKeown, deep in injury time and it is Kickham’s who now await the outcome of the other semi-final between Casement’s and Sarsfield’s in Portglenone on Sunday.

Sean Duffin pointed the home side ahead in the third minute but Tir na nOg responded and Peter McGinley pulled off a good save as Shane Martin threatened for the visitors. Tir na nOg’s opening score wasn’t long coming however as Colla McDonnell side footed a tantalising cross to the net with 10 minutes gone.

The Creggan reply was quick and decisive as Sean Duffin got on the end of a good build up from the resulting kick-out to fire past Adam Reid at the other end and Joe McAteer followed with a point to move Creggan 1-2 to 1-0 ahead with 13 minutes on the clock.

It was end to end stuff as both sides battled for supremacy in what had turned into a real championship encounter and Joe McCormick and Connor McKenna fired over at the other end to level the contest.

Back came Creggan and another promising move should have resulted in a goal with Duffin this time the provider but his astute pass to Callum McCann saw the big attacker fire wide of the posts with the goal at his mercy.

Things got worse for the Kickham’s when a Colla McDonnell shot for a point deceived Peter McGinley in goals and dipped to the net and Connor Hastings followed with a great long range point as the Whitehill side began to enjoy a period of supremacy.

The visitors continued to press and it took a last ditch block to deny Shane Martin as the flying corner man threatened again and with time almost up Sean Donnelly handed his side a lifeline when he somehow finished to the net from close range while down on one knee to leave just a point separating the protagonists at the break.

It was Creggan who made the early second half running but Cian Graffin and Sean Duffin both fired wide in the opening minute before Connor Hastings showed just how it should be done with a fine point at the other end to move Tir na nOg two in front.

The visitors were still enjoying the better of the exchanges and Ethan Higgins looked to have put them in a commanding position when he reacted first to a handling error in the Creggan defence to finish to the net from close range in the 7th minute to extend their lead to five.

Sean Duffin for Creggan and Colla McDonnell for the visitors exchanged further points before Cillian McLarnon finished to the Whitehill net from close range with Duffin again the provider to put the home side back within touching distance as we headed into the final quarter.

When Shane Martin fired between the posts at the other end following an excellent build up to put his side three in front with 13 minutes remaining the momentum looked to be very much in favour of Tir na nOg but it would be their final score until deep in injury time as Kickham’s picked themselves off the canvas once more.

It was that man Duffin who began the comeback as he pointed a free and then full-back Sean McAuley got forward for an excellent point before Sean Paul O’Neill levelled matters with a good point in the 22nd minute.

Duffin edged the home side ahead from another free as they began to get on top and the same player followed from play to move his side two ahead with two minutes of normal time remaining.

Tir na nOg’s cause wasn’t helped when they lost a player to a straight Red card but they continued to battle to the end with Sean McKeown’s point deep in to injury time closing the gap to one but it was to prove the final score of the game.

A great game of real championship endeavour and it is a pity there had to be a loser but the Tir na nOg support and management can certainly be happy with the performance of their team, if not the final result and I’m sure many of the side will go on to represent their club with distinction at senior level.

In the end it was the never say die attitude of Kickham’s Creggan that got them over the line and in Sean Duffin they have a player of real quality who came in for some rough treatment over the hour but produced the vital scores when the chips were down.

Kickham’s Creggan: 1 Peter McGinley, 2 Fintan O’Neill, 3 Sean McAuley, 4 Caolan Hughes, 16 Peadar McGuckian, 6 Dylan Hinfey, 7 Rory McVeigh, 9 Sean Donnelly, 8 Lee Johnston, 10 Cillian McLarnon, 11 Joe McAteer, 12 Callum McCann, 13 John Paul O’Neill, 14 Sean Duffin, 15 Cian Graffin

Tir na nOg: 1 Adam Reid, 2 Jude Carey, 3 Ethan Higgins, 4 Dara Martin, 17 Paul McCloskey, 6 Brandon McLarnon, 7 Sean McKeown, 8 Callum English, 18 Joshua Higgins, 10 Connor McKenna, 11 Connor Hastings, 12 Joe McCormick, 13 Colla McDonnell, 14 Alexander O’Donnell, 15 Shane Martin. Subs: Daniel O’Neill, 22 Brian Fitzgerald, 19 Odhran Loughran, 20 Rory Mullan.

Referee: Danny O’Neill (Gort na Mona)

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