O’Neill’s All County Football Leauge Division One
Kickhams Creggan 2-15 St John’s 1-15
Brendan McTaggart reports from Creggan
Creggan kept their hopes of league honours alive with a three point win over St John’s on Saturday afternoon. It was an incredible turnaround by Kevin Madden’s men who after 15 minutes trailed by eight points but they were a different side after the half time break and timed their comeback to perfection. Creggan didn’t take the lead until the first minute of injury time at the end of the hour as St John’s wilted under the tidal wave of pressure from the home side in the final quarter.
Kevin Small top scored for the loughshore men, finishing the match with a hugely impressive 1-8 for his hours endeavours but it was the work rate, industry and movement of Liam Quinn that proved to be the constant thorn in the St John’s side. The diminutive Kickhams forward finished the match with three points from play but as St John’s tried to get to grips with him, especially in the second half, frees followed with Small and Creggan benefiting.
The St John’s first half performance was methodical, machine like with clinical precision. The Johnnies have a game plan and they followed it through to perfection in the first 15 minutes and were fully deserving of their four point half time lead. Paddy McBride was having the kind of day that only comes once in a blue moon, everything he touched in the first half either created a score or ended up between the posts. Four of his seven points over the hour came in the opening 30 minutes while his county team mate Matthew Fitzpatrick scored their goal in the sixth minute. Fitzy’s goal rounded off a perfect start for the Corrigan Park side, playing with the elements restricted Creggan to living off scraps while methodically picking holes in the home sides defence before landing their scores. The home side had to wait until the ninth minute of the game before they landed a shot in anger at Eighan Lambert’s goals as they raced into an early seven point lead. Creggan hit back after a poor opening quarter to the game and in the end were deserving of their three point win after a pulsating hour of entertainment.Matt Fitzpatrick scores St John’s goal early in the game. Pic by John McIlwaine
St John’s treated the ball as their own and possession was king. They were camped in the Creggan half for long periods with Conor Johnston and Fitzpatrick picking passes and orchestrating the Johnnies into a half time lead. The Creggan comeback didn’t really materialise until the death. Fintan Burke’s first half goal kept them in the game and while Kevin Small’s major in the second half brought to them within touching distance, it was their relentless pressure at the death that eventually won the day. Quinn’s brilliance before having to be carried off and Small’s accuracy from placed ball while Conor McCann, substitute Kevin Rice and Thomas McCann dominated the breakdown to take Creggan over the line.
McBride and Fitzpatrick opened the scoring with efforts in the opening two minutes. The Johnnies carved a goal chance soon after when Fiztpatrick played Conor McEvoy through on goal with a defet touch but the St John’s forward’s effort was well saved by Oisin Kerr in the Kickhams goals. St John’s were well on top as they dominated the opening exchanges and their sixth minute goal was a touch of brilliance and just reward for their opening efforts. Paddy Cooey with the assist as Fitzpatrick planted his shot first time beyond the reach of Kerr in the Kickham’s goals.
Conor Johnston and McBride landed points to take the Johnnies lead to seven points after 13 minutes before Kevin Small finally opened the home sides account from a free in the 15th minute. It was a rare foray into the Johnnies half for the home side but they showed signs of coming to life. Further scores from Andy McGowan and Stephen Tierney stretched the St John’s advantage before Creggan fired their first goal of the match. Working the ball through the heart of the St John’s defence, Creggan put together the move of the match. Quick, incisive, clinical and brilliant. The move was only matched by Fintan Burke’s finish. Emphatic as his drilled, powerful effort found the bottom corner.
The St John’s response was perfect. McBride landed another free before scoring a ridiculous point from wide on the right. No angle to work with and under pressure, the Johnnies Captain managed to split the uprights to reopen a five point lead for St John’s before Johnston’s second point of the match banished the memory of Burke’s major. Creggan finished the half well though with Quinn and Small (free) raising white flags in the tome that remained to leave the visitors ahead 1-9 to 1-5 at the short whistle.
If there was a possession stat for the opening 30 minutes, the Corrigan Park side would have dominated it. Creggan weren’t at the races in the opening 15 minutes and struggled in the second quarter. The home side had the wind at their back in the second half but it was going to take a dramatic shift in momentum for the Kickham’s men to get anything out of the game.
Even after the opening exchanges it didn’t look like the dramatic finale would materialise. McBride and Small exchanged scores while substitute Tiernan McAteer and Tierney repeated the fete shortly after to leave four points between the sides after 10 minutes of the second half.Liam Quinn swings over a Creggan point. Pic by John McIlwaine
Good work by Matt Fitzpatrick gifted another score for McBride before Creggan scored their second goal in the 42nd minute. Another incisive move cut through the St John’s defence with Quinn providing the final pass for Small to fire into an empty net. Matthew Rodgers split the uprights soon after to leave the minimum between the sides with just over a quarter of the game remaining and Creggan were on the charge.
The Johnnies managed to stay ahead with McBride and McGowan landing scores either side of a point from Quinn but when Jack Hannigan split the uprights it looked like St John’s had weathered the Creggan storm. That would be St John’s last score of the match though as the home side took control.
Creggan were relentless though and but for the brilliance of Lambert between the sticks, they could have added another major in the 53rd minute. David McGuckin engineered a move through the St John’s defence before firing to the top corner. Lambert managed to get finger tips to his shot and deflected the ball onto the angle of crossbar and post. A superb save but a brace of frees from Small brought the home side to within one point with four minutes of normal time remaining.
Creggan were all over the St John’s kickouts as they sensed an opening. A point from Ruairi McCann brought parity to the sides for the first time in the game with two minutes remaining before another Small free edged them ahead in the first minute of injury time.
Thomas McCann and Small added scores in the time that remained to round off a superb end to the hour by the home side and proving the old cliché right once again, it’s not how you start but how you finish that counts.
Creggan: Oisin Kerr; Conor McCann, Aidan Maguire, Oistin McAteer; Ruairi McCann, Thomas McCann, Jamie McCann; Conor McCann, Dermott McCann; Matthew Rodgers, Kevin Small, Fintan Burke; Paddy Coey, David McGuckin, Liam Quinn
St John’s: Eighan Lambert; Ciaran Garland, Paul Gribben, Liam Laverty; Jack Hannigan, Michéal Dudley, Paddy McBride; Simon McDonagh, Ryan McNulty; Andy McGowan, Conor Johnston, Luke Peden; Conor McEvoy, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Stephen Tierney.
Scorers for Creggan: Kevin Small 1-8 (7 f’s); Liam Quinn 0-3; Fintan Burke 1-00; Ruairi McCann 0-1 (1 ’45); Thomas McCann 0-1; Matthew Rodgers 0-1; Tiernan McAteer 0-1
Scorers for St John’s: Paddy McBride 0-7 (3 f’s); Matthew Fitzpatrick 1-1; Andy McGowan 0-2; Conor Johnston 0-2; Stephen Tierney 0-2; Jack Hannigan 0-1
Referee: Eamonn McAuley (Cargin)
Pics by John McIlwaine