FonaCAB St Paul’s Ulster Minor Tournament Final
St Canice’s 2-07-1-08 Four Masters
Kevin Herron reports from Pairc Naomh Pól
Padraig Haran netted two minutes from time to ensure that St Canice’s became the 38th winner of the FonaCAB Ulster Minor Tournament at St Paul’s when they defeated Four Masters 2-07-1-08 in a thrilling final at Pairc Naomh Pól this afternoon.
It has been three years exactly since the decider was last played on the Shaws Road, on that occasion Lavey defeated Termon and little did all assembled imagine, it would be three years before St Paul’s showpiece event would return- due to the Covid pandemic.
But it was well worth the wait long wait as St Canice’s and Four Master’s served up a breath-taking spectacle.
Canice’s controlled the play in the early stages after surviving a scare in their defensive third. Seanán Carr charged down an attempted Padraig O’Kane clearance and headed for the target, but his driven shot crashed off the underside of the bar.
The Derry side quickly turned defence to attack and opened the scoring themselves through a measured point from Eoin Higgins.
They doubled their advantage when Odhran Murphy dropped a high shot between the posts and Murphy would turn provider for Darach McGonigle making it 0-03-0-00.
Four Masters were quiet in the opening quarter- but hit back approaching the midway point in the half.
The angle was against Conor Meehan- whose free dropped shot and into the path of Seanán Carr to rifle past Odhran McElhinney and into the net to draw the team’s level.
St Canice’s restored their lead after Eoin Higgins was upended and he slotted the resulting free between the posts.
It was short-lived though as Four Masters replied, another angled free from the oppositre side dropped short and Conor McCahill produced a stunning point, shooting over his shoulder and the bar.
Higgins gave his side the lead for the final time in the half after Darach McGonigle was impeded.
Four Masters hit back for the third time and McCahill doubled his tally for the half, despite being dragged back on route to steering his high between the posts.
The Donegal Champions hit the front for the first time in the half when Kevin Muldoon claimed a mark, took a few steps and guided his shot over.
It looked as though the sides would depart with the scores level when Eoin Higgins steadied himself and shot over his second from play and fourth of the half, though Leo McGowan popped up at the other end to give Four Masters a 1-04-0-06 lead at the midway stage.
Four Masters increased their lead upon the games resumption when Callum McCrea took a lay-off from Daniel Quinn and shot over the bar. Conor Meehan then opened his account for the afternoon from the placed ball.
On 39 minutes St Canice’s hit back and drew level, Darach McGonigle saw his attempted shot drop short into the hands of Shea McLaughlin- who sent a low shot into the bottom corner past Daniel McGinty to make it 1-06 apiece.
A converted Eoin Higgins free ensured his side were back in the driving seat for the first time since the 26th minute, but Conor Meehan restored parity from the same scenario as the sides were locked together for the sixth time.
With five minutes remaining Four Masters put themselves back in the driving seat though a splendid Kevin Muldoon point and that score was the difference until the 58th minute when the score arrived.
St Canice’s were in search of a leveller and Odhran Murphy swung the ball out left to Darach McGonigle, the wing-half forward decided to cut in at the by-line and steer the ball into the area where Padraig Haran intercepted, steadied, and showed composure to fire to the net and give his side a 2-07-1-08 lead.
There were three minutes added on and still time for further drama, although there were no further score both sides would finish with 14-men as Leo McGowan and Eoin Higgins departed with black cards.
Canice’s successfully saw out the remainder of time and there were scenes of delirium at the final whistle as the Dungiven outfit bridged a 32-year gap to leave Pairc Naomh Pól with the Jimmy McConville Cup at the end of a breath-taking afternoon of excitement.
St Canice’s: O McElhinney, K O’Connor, J Dunne, D Colgan, P Haran (1-00), KB Mullan, J Dillon, E Higgins (0-05, 0-03f), B Butcher, S McLaughlin (1-00), P O’Kane, D McGonigle (0-01), C Gaile, O Murphy (0-01), D O’Neill. Subs: P O’Neill for D O’Neill (36).
Four Masters: D McGinty, T Colhoun, F O’Donnell, T McGovern, L McGowan, D Monaghan, C Sweeney, J Bell, J Graham, C McCahill (0-02), S Carr (1-00), K Muldoon (0-02), C Meehan (0-02f), D Quinn, C McCrea (0-01). Subs: T Carr for D Quinn (45), O Doherty for C McCahill (55), D McIntyre for J Bell (60+1).
Referee: Colm McDonald (Naomh Gall)