Under-21 Football Championship (semi-final)
Kickham’s Creggan 2-14 St Brigid’s 3-18
by Geordie McGuckin
St Brigid’s booked their place in the 2018 under-21 decider when they saw off the challenge of Kickham’s Creggan in a rip roaring action packed game on the Staffordstown Road arena on Sunday afternoon on a winter sod which was in excellent condition.
Creggan got away to a flyer when Conor Small despatched a penalty to the back of the St Brigid’s net, following a foul on Dominic Mc Ateer and they maintained the lead until the 12th minute when an Ethan Carleton strike gave the city side a lead they would not subsequently lose.
The South Belfast team, with Patrick Finnegan dominating the central zone and James Smith proving superb in the target man role, had a six point cushion at the break, and although the Small brothers, Conor and Kevin were proving hard to handle in the home side’s offence they got to the break with a 1-11 to 1-05 cushion.
St Brigid’s started the second half on the positive and a 37th minute goal from wing half back Mick Cummings extended their advantage to nine points and in command. However Creggan were having none of that and when Conor Small found the net again at the end of the third quarter the comeback looked possible.
The South Antrim side looked to be under a bit of pressure at this stage, but despite having to find replacement for their injured keeper they stood tall in defiance and when corner forward Ethan Carleton found the net again for the second time they were on the way to the decider.
Creggan got away to a flyer when Kevin Small claimed the throw-in and when he delivered the ball to Dominic Mc Ateer the corner forward was upended as he closed down on goal and referee Jarlath O’Donnell pointed to the penalty spot.
Conor Small stepped up and delivered the spot kick to the net to ensure an excellent start for the home side, but the visitors were undaunted by their early set-back and started to work their way back into the game.
Peter Henvey despatched a 4th minute ‘45’ over the bar to get St Brigid’s on the board and Peter Webb was quick to follow suit with a well taken score from play.
Kevin Small’s 7th minute point did extend the Creggan lead but the city lads were finding their feet and with the impressive Patrick Finnegan dominating the central zone an eager attack force were moving forward with intent.
James Smith was up for anything delivered in his direction and he was soon rewarded for his endeavours as he collected a trio of points in as many minutes before a pin point pass from John Blayney sent Ethan Carleton in for the goal that really put the South Belfast side on the front foot.
Creggan regained their composure with points from Conor Small (2), Kevin Small and Dominic Mc Ateer but St Brigid’s followed with points from Patrick Finnegan, Peter Henvey, James Smith (2), and an extra special effort from Peter Webb (who was outstanding throughout) saw St Brigid’s take a 1-11 to 1-05 lead at the end of an exciting opening half.
Having concluded the opening period on the positive the South Belfast side returned to action in the same mode for the second period and when Michael Cummings strode forward from his defensive duties to plant the leather in the net they were on their way.
The wing half back having made his way into the strike force certainly showed all the poise and confidence of an accomplished forward as he left a couple of defenders sprawling in his wake before despatching to the back of the net to make it 2-12 to 1-07.
Creggan were in obvious trouble but a Conor Small point sparked a revival and when the hard grafting Jamie McCann cut through to deliver to Conor Small the latter did not waste the opportunity to plant the ball in the corner of the net and the Kickham’s looked on the comeback trail.
Greg Finnegan’s charges looked a little shaken and with the strong vocal home support urging the green and gold onward they needed a settling score and it soon arrived as James Smith’s lay off opened the way for the elegant Peter Webb to split the posts before he despatched a 40 metre free in the same direction.
The city lads were back in the groove and when corner back Henry Mc Guigan intercepted a clearance he found Pat King whose delivery opened the door for Ethan Carleton to find the net again and his 52nd minute strike gave his team a 3-14 to 2-09 advantage.
Creggan never gave up the fight and they tried to respond in the latter stages with Jamie Mc Cann leading the charge. McCann and Tiernan McAteer each hoisted whites flags, but those were cancelled out with similar scores at the other end provided by Peter Henvey, John Blayney and the ever impressive Webb.
The home side battled bravely but they were unable to reel back the impressive St Brigid’s and after their stand-in keeper stood tall to deny substitute Liam Quinn the end was in sight.
Jamie McCann sent over a third point for the home side in the latter stages but the last say was to belong to St Brigid’s and a 37th minute point from the excellent James Smith saw them breast the finish line and into the under-21 decider at 3-18 to 2-14.
St Brigid’s:Tom Dunford, Henry Mc Guigan, Conor King, Dara Mc Girvey, John Morgan, Odhran Boyle, Mick Cummings (1-00), Patrick Finnegan (0-01), Pat King, Peter Webb (0-06), John Blayney (0-02), Brogan Austin, Peter Henvey (0-03), James Smith (0-06), Ethan Carleton (2-00).
Daniel Foster for B Austin
Timothy Mc Carry for T Dunford
Shane Moran for M Cummings
John Toner for J Blayney
Creggan: Tom Johnston, John Mc Auley, Liam Mc Cann, Ciaran Rice, Mark Mulholland, Donal Carey, Jamie Mc Cann (0-03), Kevin Small (0-03), Keelan Mc Cann, Niall Rice, Tiernan Mc Ateer (0-01), Eunan Mc Ateer, Killian Burke, Conor Small (2-04), Dominic Mc Ateer (0-01)
Liam Quinn for N Rice
Morgan Nelson for L Mc Cann
Donal Carey for K Burke
Referee – Jarlath O’Donnell (Con Magees)