Creggan progress after dramatic climax at Pairc Esler

AIB Ulster Intermediate Hurling Championship Quarter-Final

Creggan Kickhams 3-17-2-21 Bredagh 

Kevin Herron reports from Pairc Esler

With extra time appearing to be on the cards Creggan’s Liam McCann proved his team’s hero when he broke clear of his marker around the middle of the field deep in second half injury time and sent over the winning point to seal the Antrim champions place in the semi-final of the Ulster Junior Club Hurling championship in two weeks’ time. There were chances for the Down men to draw level in the added time but the Creggan defence held firm and deny a luckless Bredagh side who contributed greatly to a top class game.

Both these team play their hurling in the Antrim leagues and both were relegated into the 3rd division at the end of this season, but anyone watching Sunday’s game would have been baffled by those lowly league positions as both performed at a good level. Creggan had the upper hand for much of the first half and were good value for their six point lead at the break. However after the change of ends Bredagh came out of the traps more impressively than the Loughshore men and they held the upper hand for a good part of that second period. Creggan were managing to hold a three point lead for most of that time and when Kevin Rice got their second goal to increase the lead to six it seemed like plain sailing.

However Bredagh fought their way back, and boosted by a goal from a close range free by Tiernan Sheehan they closed the gap, and when they drew level going into injury time the smart money would have been on them advancing. It was not to be however and Liam McCann’s great point from distance handed the imitative back to the Antrim champions and they held on to seal a narrow win and a place in the semi-final against Tyrone champions Carrickmore.

Conor McCann and Kevin Rice (left) celebrate after Rice scored Creggan’s third goal

The Down champions settled quickest in Pairc Esler with Niall Smyth and Ciaran McMullan sending over early scores, but Morgan Nelson responded for Creggan and back-to-back placed balls from Conor McCann (free and 65’) nudged the Antrim men ahead for the first time.

Bredagh levelled through a close-range point from Conor Costello but Creggan were begging to get on top and they soon went three clear.

A fantastic Thomas McCann point from range restored their lead, his brother Conor then dropped over his second 65’ and namesake Oran McCann sent one over.

Tiarnan Sheehan landed a free at the other end, but Creggan pushed further ahead with the game’s opening goal on the 19th minute.

A scramble ensued and the Bredagh defensive third and Conor McCann was in like a shot to fire home and give his side a 1-06-0-04 lead.

The gap was out to eight as points from Kevin Rice, Morgan Nelson and Sean Duffin pushed home Creggan’s advantage but Bredagh were thrown a lifeline before the interval when Ciaran McMullan’s high shot dropped over the head of Cormac Rice and into the net to make it 1-10-1-05.

Despite Sean Hughes finding a further point before the half was out, back-to-back McCann frees gave the south Belfast gave Creggan a 1-12-1-06 advantage at the interval.

Bredagh were revitalised when they emerged after the break and a point from a Sean Hughes free was followed by a well taken goal by  Mark Patterson which cut the game to just two points. (1-12-2-07)

It was score for score for a period time as Creggan got the gap out to three, only to see Bredagh cut it back to two

When Kevin Rice pulled a ground shot to the Bredagh net on 50 minutes Creggan had appeared to have done enough, but as things turned out there was to be no victory lap for Antrim men. As things turned out they were made to work very hard to win the race down the home straight as Bredagh battled back brilliantly.

Two points from Mark Patterson and Tiernan Sheehan’s goal from a free cut the gap back to the minimum, and when Sean McGouty found space on the left to fire over the equaliser the tension was palpable.

In a hectic final three minutes, it looked as if it could go either way, but Creggan got the break when Liam McCann broke clear of his marker on the 65 metre line and sent the winner high between the Bredagh posts.

Team captain Ruairi McCann makes a break

Creggan Kickhams: C Rice, A Maguire, A McKeown, J McAteer, S Maguire, K McCann, L McCann (0-02), S Duffin (0-03), R McCann (0-03), M Nelson (0-02), K Rice (1-01), O McCann (0-02), T McCann (0-01), C McCann (1-06, 0-04f, 0-02 65’), D Mulholland. 

Subs: E Carey-Small (0-01) for D Mulholland (38), L Johnston for C McCann (56), T McLarnon for M Nelson (59). 

Bredagh: I Galway, O McFlynn, L Smyth, L Hogan (0-01), M Woods, N McFarland (0-01), T Sheehan (1-02f), M Patterson (1-03), J Hanrahan, C McMullan (1-01), S McGourty (0-02), S Hughes (0-05, 0-02f), N Smyth (0-01), A Carey, C Costello (0-01). 

Subs: J McCollum for N Smyth (HT), M Lavery for L Hogan (55), E Maguire for O McFlynn (57), R McCamphill for C Costello (57), R Curran for C McMullan (58). 

Referee: Tarlach Conway (Derry)

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