St Louis edged out the Tower in a classic semi-final in 1988

Mageean Cup preview

St Louis won their first Mageean Cup title in 1988 with a runaway win over St Mary’s in the final in Glenariffe, but in the semi-final they were pushed all the way by Garron Tower at the same venue. Many of the Tower players on that team look back on this game as the one that denied them their chance of winning a Mageean medal, but St Louis, with the Gillan brothers Niall and Brian, whose father Dan had been a member of the Tower’s winning sides in the 1950s, denied them, Brian scoring 3-3 in a man of the match performance, while Niall grabbed a goal

My match report in the Ballymena Chronicle read……………….

St Louis pip the Tower in thrilling semi-final

St Louis 5-5 St MacNissi’s 3-8

By John McIlwaine

St Louis qualified for the final of the Mageean Cup when they beat St MacNissi’s Garron Tower by 5-4 to 3-8 in a cracking semi-final in Glenariffe, and now go forward to meet holders St Mary’s CBS in the final.

It may sound a much overused cliché but it is a pity there had to be a loser in this game. The Tower gave it everything they had as they turned in their best display of the season, but they squandered several chances during the second half when they had an abundance of possession. St Louis on the other hand were most economical in their use of the ball, none more so than right half forward Brian Gillan who scored 3-3.

But it was in defence that St Louis excelled, particularly in the second half. In full-back Declan Heggarty and centre back Kevin McCann they had two real stars that kept the opposition at bay when it seemed at times the Tower were taking control. McCann in particular really dominated his area, particularly in that second period, and though St MacNissi’s tried a few different permutation in attack they could not curb his effectiveness.

The Tower made an encouraging start and were ahead after three minutes when full forward Luke McBride found the net after a goalmouth scramble. In their first threatening attack St Louis showed their scoring power when centre half forward James McMullan fired to the net to level the score, but the Tower retook the lead with a point from McMullan’s Glenariffe club mate Shane McDonnell, who sent over a great point.

Brian Gillan opened his account with a goal in the 11th minute to give St Louis the lead, and though Rory McEldowney pulled one back from a free, Gillan increased the St Louis lead with point in the 14th minute and a goal in the 19th. Randall McDonnell and James McMullan exchanged points to keep the gat at five, but the Tower finished the half strongly in the dying minutes of the first half.

Brendan Wheeler knocked over a point in the 27th minute and then corner forward Aidan O’Neill took full advantage of a goalkeeping slip to fire to the net to close the gap to the minimum. However just on half time Brian Gillan sent over a point at the other end to give St Louis a two point cushion at the break.

The Tower came out with all guns blazing in the second half. With Shane McDonnell and Rory McEldowney dominating midfield they had the better of the exchanges in the first ten minutes. McEldowney kicked over a point in the 34th minute to cut the gap to the minimum and four minutes later Randall McDonnell brought the sides level with another well taken point. James McMullan had good effort for goal well saved by Frank McCaughan in the St MacNissi;s goal, before the Tower took the lead through a Conor Arthurs pointed free in the 43rd minute.

One minute later James McMullan soloed through the Tower defence and his cross was volleyed to the net by Brian Gillan to give St Louis back the lead, but Conor Arthurs responded with a goal at the other end to put the Tower back in front with only seven minutes left to play.

However that was to be the last time the Tower led and within a minute Niall Gillan showed that anything his brother can do he can do better as he fired home his team’s fifth goal. Not to be outdone Brian added a point one minute later to put St Louis two ahead, and though Conor Arthurs pulled a point back for St MacNissi’s that was as close as they would get as St Louis held out for a historic victory.

SCORERS

St Louis – Brian Gillan 3-3, James McMullan 1-1, Niall Gillan 1-0

St MacNissi’s – Conor Arthurs 1-2, Luke McBride 1-0, Aidan O’Neill 1-0, Rory McEldowney 0-2, Randall McDonnell 0-2, Brendan Wheeler 0-1, Shane McDonnell 0-1

ST LOUIS

G McGrath, A Quinn, D Heggarty, T McKeown, C Connolly, T McKeown, D Fyfe, T McAuley, K Kearney, K Quigley, J McMullan, B Gillan, G McCollum, J McGale, N Gillan.

ST MAC NISSIS

F McCaughan, C McNeill, N McAuley, RP Campbell, R Ferguson, P McSparran, P Campbell, R McEldowney, S McDonnell, G Delargy, L McBride,  C Arthurs, B Wheeler, R McDonnell, A O’Neill. Referee – Brenan McGaughey (Ruairi Og)

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