Danske Bank MacLarnon Football Semi Final
Saturday 28th January
St Joseph’s Donaghmore 1-12 St Louis Ballymena 0-05
Report by Niall Kelly
St Louis Ballymena’s MacLarnon Cup adventure came to an end in Slaughtneil on Saturday at the hands of an exceptionally talented Donaghmore side. The men from Tyrone did the majority of the damage in the opening half with the talismanic Noah Grimes at the forefront. St Joseph’s diminutive number eleven grabbed the all-important goal on the 13th minute and from there St Louis faced an uphill battle. Despite battling tirelessly, the Kintullagh side struggled to deal with the fluidity and precision of their opponents. Patient and calculated approach play from the Tyrone side combined with tidy finishing from their talented weaponry up front proved to be the blueprint for their success.
St Louis started brightly and moved the ball around smartly but it was St Joseph’s who notched the first score of the day after five minutes with Noah Grimes putting the finishing touches on a fine move. The Ballymena side responded quickly though Shea O’Broin who despatched a free off the carpet from fifty odd metres out. However, this would prove to be their only score of the half as Donaghmore took a stranglehold off the game and dominated possession.
A Ronan Molloy pointed free on the tenth minute was followed up quickly with a superb goal from Grimes. The Donaghmore centre forward weaved this way and that before caressing a pinpoint effort into the top left of the St Louis net.
The Tyrone side’s major had a galvanising effect on them and their assurance and confidence in possession never waned as they continued to find penetrative avenues of attack despite the St Louis rear-guard’s best efforts. Darragh Donaghy’s marauding runs were a constant threat for the Antrim side and he split the posts twice from range before another effort from Grimes found its mark.
St Louis, to their credit, continued to battle for the remainder of the half and looked to have launched a few promising counter attacks but were frustrated in their attempts with the final pass often alluding them.
Another Donaghmore danger-man, Ronan Molloy, had the final say of the first thirty right on the stroke of the half-time whistle as he converted from the placed ball to leave the score at the interval 1-06 to 0-01 in favour of the Tyrone side.
Facing an uphill battle, St Louis emerged a rejuvenated side in the second period and sought to reduce arrears. Aodhan McGarry and Conor McKenna tried to drive their team forward with storming runs from deep but again the final pass was to be the Achille’s heal of the Ballymena side’s offense.
Donaghmore found their rhythm again and once more dominated the size five for large periods as Molloy popped up with another two fine scores from play. The Ballymena side responded well though through the cultured left foot of corner forward Shea O’Broin. The aforementioned two corner forwards exchanged points once more before Leo Hughes increased the margin for St Joseph’s with a beautifully angled effort from the left flank.
With proceedings entering the final quarter, Donaghmore looked to squeeze the life out of any St Louis’ revival with their pragmatism on the ball. However, the men in blue and yellow began throwing caution to the wind as more bodies flooded forward in search of some sort of lifeline. Cal O’Brien, who had worked tirelessly all game, made the pressure count as he split the posts from range with a ferocious effort on the fiftieth minute.
With the game more stretched, Donaghmore took full advantage and the ever-dangerous Molloy was on hand to put the gloss on a sweeping counter-attack with five minutes on the clock. Moments later, his partner in crime, Noah Grimes, then finished off yet another flowing attack to increase the gap to eleven points and effectively seal Donaghmore’s final berth.
Despite the knowledge that their fate was sealed, St Louis refused to lie down and continued to attack in their droves. It was perhaps fitting that they had the final say when O’Brien raised the white flag in added time with yet another superb effort.
Paddy McAleer and Sean Cassidy will still take a lot of heart from today. Their charges battled admirably throughout and despite Donaghmore progressing with a bit to spare, St Louis were resilient throughout. It has been a long, long time since they reached this stage of the competition and their heroics against St Paul’s will live long in the memory. Their exploits this year can be a foundation to build upon for next year’s MacLarnon journey.
St Joseph’s were just too strong on the day and have an enviable array of talent in their ranks. Portglenone Gael, Niall Kelly, is at the helm for Donaghmore and we wish him and his team all the best in the final.
Although the hopes of an all-Antrim final are now extinguished. The Saffron County will still have representation in the form of Rathmore who will look to stop the Donaghmore juggernaut from getting their hands on the silverware. The Belfast side’s emphatic victory against Milford will surely have them full of belief in the decider. Good luck to both sides in what should be an engrossing encounter.
St Joseph’s Donaghmore
L Quinn; J McNally, B Hughes, J Rafferty; D Donaghy (0-02,) J Clarke, C O’Neill; S Scullion, J McKenna; L Hughes (0-01,) N Grimes (1-03,) MJ Mansell; C Drayne (0-01,) M McNally, R Molloy (0-05)
St Louis Ballymena
J McLaughlin; C Kennedy, C Higgins, D Martin; J McCormick, A McGarry, T McFerran; C McKenna, C McMullan; K McCann, C McAuley, C O’Brien (0-02;) S Ó’Broin (0-03,) B McCloskey, H O’Donnell