Laochra’s resolve sees them advance at Woodlands

Graham Tarmac Antrim Junior Football Championship Group 1

Eire Óg 2-11 Laochra Loch Lao 2-13

Paul McIntyre reports from The Woodlands

Photographs: Kevin Herron

Laochra Loch Lao showed great resolve to fight back from an eight-point deficit to claim a two-point win over Eire Óg at The Woodlands on Friday evening.

As the game approached half time, Eire Óg looked to be coasting to victory as Kevin Clarke’s second major of the evening put his side 2-9 to 1-4 ahead.

But the Óg’s failed to raise a flag of any colour for the next 26 minutes and the visitors took full advantage.

An unanswered 1-7 saw Paddy Murray’s side take a two-point lead in the third quarter, and despite having midfielder, Éanna Ó Ceallaigh dismissed on a straight red card in the 44th minute, the Falls Road side did enough to hold on for a famous win.

Conor McGucken top scored for the winners with 0-8 and he also claimed a sublime assist for his side’s first goal in the 12th minute after his inch perfect pass through the heart of the Óg’s defence picked out the run of Diarmurd McPhilis. McPhilis showed great composure to finish to the corner of Thomas Malone’s net.

The winners were also well served by the tenacious pair of Niall Ó hAodha and Oisín Mac Crabhagain in defence while in attack the piercing runs of Rian Mac Seáin caused the home defence trouble from first whistle.

James Toal and Kevin Clarke carried the scoring threat for Eire Óg. Conall Smyth, Caomhan Daykin and Conor McKenna gave the homeside the perfect platform to launch a continued assault on the visitor’s goal in the first half, with Smyth in particular combining his play making skills to his ball winning abilities to assist Toal and Clarke in the scoring department.

With O’Donnell’s already confirmed as section winners, the battle for second spot added spice to this derby clash. And both teams showed their intent from the off in what was largely, a very entertaining affair.

A free from McGucken opened the scoring in the 5th minute, but it was Eire Óg who were asking all the questions.

Toal levelled the tie a minute later, and after kicking two wides from play, Kevin Clarke opened his account from a free.

Eire Óg took further control on the scoreboard through Toal and Smyth, but McPhilis’s goal in the 12th minute levelled the tie.

But the sides were level for less than 60 seconds.

Daykin claimed a Mark from Malone’s kick-out and quickly picked out Adam McKenna. McKenna’s first-time flick put Stephen Erskine in the clear who unselfishly picked out Kevin Clarke who palmed the ball over Seán Ó Heachain to restore the Óg’s three-point advantage.

It was all Eire Óg now and further points from Ciaran Rice, Toal, Smyth and Ronan Donnelly pushed their lead out to seven-points as the clock ticked towards the break.

Eire Óg’s stranglehold on the game tightened in the 27th minute. Loachra’s goalkeeper, Ó Heachain allowed Eanna McNulty’s effort to spill through his hands, and Kevin Clarke was on hand to turn the loose ball into the net.

It opened up an eight-point lead, but in the final minutes of the half, Loachra Loch Lao’s running game was rewarded with three frees, two of which were converted by McGucken, and one by Mac Crabhagain. And at the break, only five-points separated the sides with Eire Óg ahead, 2-9 to 1-4.

Loachra Loch Lao built on their strong finish to the first half as McGucken and Mac Seáin equally shared the first four points of the second half.

It cut the deficit to just one-point, but in the 42nd minute came the game’s defining score.

Tomás Ó Tuathalain done well to win possession wide on the right and he picked out Caoimhin O Daimhin.

As O Daimhin drew the attention of two defenders, he spotted Mac Seáin in space and his powerful drive into the roof of the net gave the visitors the lead.

But all their hard work looked to set come undone just two-minutes later when Éanna Ó Ceallaigh was dismissed for a strike on his opposite number Conor McKenna.

Toal’s point in the 50th minute was Eire Óg’s first score in 26 minutes. It cut the gap to just one-point, but they failed to make use of their numerical advantage.

Possession they had in abundance, but they failed to make any clear-cut scoring chances and the final act was left to Caoimhin O Daimhin to split the posts with a piercing drive in the fourth minute of additional time to seal a famous comeback win.

Teams & Scorers:

Eire Óg: Thomas Malone, Alex McKnight, Paddy Loughran, Ryan Clarke, Ciaran Rice (0-1), Ronan Donnelly (0-1), Daniel Campbell, Conor McKenna, Caomhan Daykin, Eanna McNulty, Adam McKenna, Conall Smyth (0-2), Stephen Erskine, James Toal (0-4), Kevin Clarke (2-3 3f).

Replacements: Conor Erskine for Loughran (38), Kevin Comber for S Erskine (38), Emmett Holmes for Donnelly (48), Gavin Donnelly for Campbell (56).

Laochra Loch Lao: Seán Ó Heachain, Niall Ó hAodha, Deaglan Macthom, Padai O Tiarnaigh, Conch ubhar Mac Gafraidh, Padraig Fryers, Liam Mac Thréinfhir, Éanna Ó Ceallaigh, Cathal O Ceallaigh, Conor McGucken (0-8 7f), Diarmurd McPhilis (1-0), Rian Mac Seáin (1-3), Caoimhin O Daimhin (0-1), Tomás Ó Tuathalain, Oisín Mac Crabhagain (0-1).

Replacements: Eamonn O Coinn for Macthom (HT), Aaron Ó Straitheain for Ó Tuathalain (52).

Referee: Mr Eamon Hamill (St Teresa’s).

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