Unforced errors Cost St. Brigid’s dearly

Ulster Club Intermediate Football Championship (Qtr Final)

St. Brigid’s (Antrim) 0-10 Rostrevor (Down) 1-13

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St. Bronagh’s Rostrevor started and finished strongly to dash the ambitions of St. Brigid’s Belfast in this keenly contested Ulster Club Intermediate Championship quarter final at Corrigan Park on Sunday.

A goal by Down county star, Caolan Mooney in the 14th minute left the Musgrave Park side chasing the game and at half-time they looked to have it all to do when they trailed the Mourne men 1-7 to 0-5. After the break the Antrim champions battled bravely and at one stage they looked to have the opposition on the ropes but Rostrevor finished strongly to claim a somewhat flattering 1-13 to 0-10 win.

The Mourne men crossed the winning line and into the semi finals holding a six point advantage but the Saffron champions will look to a series of unforced errors and a number of missed opportunities as they reflect on what might have been.

The South Belfast men  who have impressed this year on their way to their second Intermediate title in their short history, held their own in the opening phase but a stray pass allowed St. Bronagh’s in for an opportunist goal as Piaras Kane sent Caolan Mooney in to claim what was to prove the only goal of the game.

This goal gave Rostrevor the initiative and ensured they held a 1-07 to 0-05 interval advantage.

The Antrim champions had started well and a couple of early points from the ever accurate Ronan Mc Grady and one from James Smith ensured they were on level terms at 0-03 to 0-03 at the 12th minute but the concession of the Mooney goal seemed to knock them for six for a time.

Rostrevor began moving the ball with supreme confidence and points from Piaras Kane, Conor Feagan and another from net-minder Jonathan Parr, who despatched a 23rd minute ‘45’ between the posts, put them 1-07 to 0-03 ahead.

St Brigid’s regained composure in the latter stages of the half as Ronan Mc Grady despatched a couple of points, one claimed from away out on the left side in the 25th minute and another from 50 metres after the high fielding Enda Clark was fouled in the middle.

The Antrim champions dominated the closing stages of the half and indeed might have had a goal nearing the break but a cute James Smith chip went just wide of the posts.

St Brigid’s needed a good start to the second half if they were to get back into contention but in the event the Down side were to add a couple of points to their advantage by the 35th minute as Piaras Kane raised white in the 32nd minute and Conor Feagan clipped over another from a close range free a couple of minutes later.

Ronan Mc Grady saw his mammoth 60 metre free go wide off the post in between those concessions but he followed up with back to back points from placed efforts in the 37th and 40th minutes to get St Brigid’s back on course.

The Antrim champions were ruling the roost in the central zone where the high fielding Enda Clarke excelled and a foul on the latter in the 44th minute opened the way for the sharp shooting Mc Grady to add another point and the deficit was reduced to four points, 1-09 to 0-08.

 

Rostrevor seemed to have lost their way as the home side gained in confidence but another lapse in concentration and unforced error saw the Down men hit on the counter again.

Niall Farrell led the charge and a foul on Caolan Mooney was punished by the unerring Conor Feagan who claimed another point from the resultant free.

The St Brigid’s men were being asked serious questions but they were soon back in the groove again as Ronan Mc Grady raised another white flag.

This 48th minute score reduced the deficit to four points and indeed this could well have been reduced to the minimum when a poor kick out was seized upon by Mc Grady with the goal at his mercy with only the keeper to beat.

The ace marks man bore down on the target with intent but slipped as he was about to shoot and a great opportunity went a begging.

St. Brigid’s were now gaining the upper hand however as Enda Clark seized the kick out and sent James Smith in to send between the posts and only three points separated the sides with the Musgrave Park side now on top.

Rostrevor looked in trouble for the first time in the game  but again an unforced error was to cost St. Brigid’s dearly, as a stray pass on the ‘40’ was intercepted by corner back Jonathan Connelly and a well laid counter led to a  54th minute Piaras Kane point.

This score settled the visitors again and they finished strongly as Conor Feagan added a pointed free in the 61st minute and another by Caolan Mooney in the 65th minute ensured the Down men were on their way to the semis by virtue of a hard earned 1-13 to 0-10 victory over a gallant St Brigid’s.

 

Referee Niall Mc Kenna (Monaghan)

Teams

St Brigid’s

Stephen Morrissey, Andy Sweeney (c), Conor King, Finn Mc Kernan, Michael Cummings, Kevin Gallagher, Ben Synott, Enda Clark, Cathal Conway, Ruairdh O’ Neill, James Smith (0-02), John Blayney, Peter Webb, Ronan Mc Grady (0-08), Jack Dowling.

 

Subs

Ethan Carleton for J Blayney

Rory Flanagan for R O’ Neill

Niall George for C King

Ben Leonard for J Dowling

 

Rostrevor

Jonathan Parr (0-01), Jonathan Connolly, Darren Mc Elhinney, Jarlath Farrell (c), Conall Gordan (0-01), Niall Farrell, Christopher Magee, Caolan Mooney (1-01), Connor Magee, Brian Keenan, Peter Magee, Joe Morgan, Shaun Parr (0-01), Piaras Kane (0-03), Conor Feagan (0-06).

 

Subs

Nicky Murray for C Gordan

Jordan Feagan for P Magee

Conor Doyle for B Keenan

James Rice for C Magee

James Donaghy for J Morgan

Adam Clark for N Murray

 

 

Underdogs role will suit St. Brigid’s but St. Bronagh’s pose a serious threat

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Ulster Intermediate Football Club Championship (Corrigan park Sunday)

St. Brigid’s Antrim v St. Bronagh’s Rostrevor

St. Brigid’s head into this weekend’s Ulster Intermediate club championship against St. Bronagh’s Rostrevor cast in the role of underdogs but with the game scheduled for Corrigan Park, a familiar venue for the Belfast men I don’t think there will be much between the sides at the final whistle.

St. Brigid’s defeated All Saints in the semi-final of the Antrim championship at the same venue and were quite impressive, scoring four goals against the Ballymena side on the way to a convincing victory. In their first outing this year, a preliminary round, they found it much more difficult and only got through by a rather fortunate late goal against Tir na nOg, Randalstown.

Perhaps their biggest test came in the quarter-final where they were drawn against St. Enda’s and the Glengormley side went into that game as strong favourites having gained promotion to Division 1 but St. Brigid’s turned in a sterling performance to edge home 1-11 to 1-9.

James Smith top scored for St. Brigid’s with 1-1 and John Blayney (0-3), Ronan O’Grady (0-3), Jack Dowling (0-2) and Ben Leonard and Peter Webb were the scorers for the Musgrave Park side.

In the semi-final against All Saints the ‘Biddies’ really found their shooting boots, aided by an All Saints defence who went AWOL and the Musgrave Park side scored an impressive 4-9 to 0-11 win. John Blayney led the way with 2-0 and Jack Dowling and Ruairi O’Neill were the other goal scorers while Ronan McGrady weighed in with an impressive 0-5 and Cathal Conway, Peter Webb, Ruairi Finnegan and Ben Leonard were all on target.

In the Antrim final St. Brigid’s met a Cuchullain’s Dunloy side smarting from defeat in the previous two Antrim finals and there were many who felt that this would be Dunloy’s year due to the emergence of a number of young players who had been in sparkling form throughout the league and championship.

St. Brigid’s, on the other hand were searching for only their second Intermediate championship success and their first since 2005 and they were determined that this would be their year. The North Antrim men led by 0-6 to 0-5 at half time although their goal had survived a few scares late in the half.

The introduction of Ruaridh O’Neill in the second half proved a master stroke and the bearded red headstarted to pull the strings as St. Brigid’s began to get on top. There was little in it however at the end of the third quarter and indeed their keeper Stephen Morrissey pulled off his second splendid save of the game to deny Conor McKinley what looked a certain goal.

Morrisey’ breath taking save, coupled with the guile of O’Neill saw the Musgrave Park side push on and a splendid goal by substitute Ben Leonard with three minutes remaining killed off the Dunloy challenge and brought about scenes of wild celebration.

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WHAT OF ROSTREVOR

On Sunday at Corrigan Park, St. Brigid’s take on St. Bronagh’s Rostrevor in the Ulster club championship and they are sure to face stiff opposition from the Down men. St. Bronagh’s gained promotion to division 1 this season following a very successful league campaign.

On the way to the league title they recorded wins over Newry Shamrocks, Liatrom, Saval, Annaclone, Darragh Cross and Bredagh with their only defeat coming to Carryduff at the beginning of this month. On their way to Intermediate championship success they defeated Drumaness in round one before going on to complete a successful season when they defeated Annaclone in the championship final.

Their best known player is Caolan Mooney who has been a member of the Down county side for a couple of years now and has recently been nominated for a place of the 2017 PwC All Star side. Jonathan Parr in goals and Darran McElhinney and Niall Farrell are likely to anchor their defence and Mooney at midfield should be partnered by Joe Morgan.

In attack Brian Keenan (1-0), Conor Fegan (0-3), Piaras Kane (0-2), Damian Magee (0-1) and substitute Peter Magee with Caolan Mooney (0-2) were their scorers against Annaclone in the county final and they do appear to have a potent threat in attack.

Their captain Jarlath Farrell insists there is more to come from his side. “Our goal at the start of the year was to win the Intermediate Club Championship and win promotion out of Division Two,” said Farrell, “That’s one objective achieved and we have another one to go and we are not going to forget about it.” In the final Played in Pairc Esler, it was a contest that won’t go down as a classic, but that matters little to Rostrevor who did enough to keep Annaclone at bay.

St. Brigid’s will have run the rule over the Down side but are likely to concentrate on their own strengths and game plan as they attempt to get over the first hurdle in Ulster. They are a strong side with a good balance of youth and experience.

They have an excellent keeper in Stephen Morrisey who pulled off an exceptional save in both the semi-final and final while Conor King is a young full-back who gives little away. Ben Synott at centre half is an excellent defender who likes to push forward when the opportunity presents itself and captained the side to Division 2 honours in 2015.

Enda Clarke and Cathal Conway have been the mid-field pairing in recent games though Jack Dowling could line out there if fully fit. The Antrim county player has been carrying a niggling injury of late and has lined out in the full-forward line.

In attack Ruairi Finnegan, son of former Antrim and St. Paul’s player Greg, James Smith and Ronan McGready, all pose an attacking threat while Ruairidh O’Neill is likely to be challenging for a starting place following the impact he made when introduced in the Antrim final. James Smith and John Blayney are others challenging for a place.

Ben Leonard is another who will give the selectors a selection headache following his spectacular goal against Dunloy but for manager Eunan Conway it is a nice headache to have as he plots the downfall of St. Bronagh’s Rostrevor.

The Down champions will start this game as favourites but St. Brigid’s have run into a fine vein of form at just the right stage of the season and if they can produce their best form on Sunday then they can advance to a place in the next round.

 

Intermediate Football Championship Final: Managers View

St Brigids View

Conway: “It is great to have these guys to show an example to the underage teams in the club.”

By Brendan McTaggart

He had just watched his side produce a strong second half performance to come back from three down with five first half minutes remaining, to win by eight.  St Brigids manager Eunan Conway was obviously delighted as he watched his side lift the Intermediate crown on Saturday afternoon but it was business as usual.  While his players accepted the congratulatory handshakes from their support, Conway was found lifting all the extras from their dug out.  Typical of a man who has been with the Musgrave Park side through thick and thin.  Conway gave us his initial thoughts on his sides victory when we caught up with him on the Ahoghill pitch: “I am delighted. It was a great second half performance. In the first half, we were just a bit off colour – we weren’t composed enough in the final third.”

The introduction of Ruaridh O’Neill proved to be a masterstroke by Conway and his management team as the St Brigids forward changed the dynamics of their forward line.  Conway paid tribute to the strength of his squad when he added: “We managed to get over the line. We have a good bench. We have some serious quality players to come on. That helped and we had fresh legs and it brought fresh impetus to us. Thankfully we took the chances when they came along.

“Ruaridh O’Neill was instrumental in getting scores at a vital time. He led the charge in the second half and was very influential.

“We are lucky to have a good panel of about 30 players who have knuckled down very well. All the players contributed to the cause and there are a few who didn’t get a run out who have trained very hard and aren’t far behind.

“We have a transformed from being a city-based team with a few culchies like myself, to being a Belfast-based club and we are bringing players through. We won the U16 (South Antrim) Championship on Friday night and now they have role models to look up to.

“It is great to have these guys to show an example to the underage teams in the club.”

With time running out in the first half, Dunloy led by three points.  St Brigids managed to reel the Cuchullains led in to just one point before the short whistle in a crucial period of the final.  Conway said that they felt that the Cuchullains lead was of their own doing: “That was vital. It wasn’t a game were Dunloy were massively ahead of us – we maybe could have been level when they were three ahead.

“They went three ahead, but we didn’t panic.

”We knew we would have a purple patch as well at some point. It was just a matter of taking your chances whenever they come along.”

Conway told us that they hadn’t even thought on who they would potentially face in the Ulster Championship before Saturday’s final and that they would enjoy their rewards for now:  “That’s for another day. We haven’t won an Antrim Championship since 2006 – that’s a long time ago. We won’t look forward to Ulster today – we’ll enjoy the celebrations.”

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Dunloy View

Dillon: “I’m disappointed but right now I don’t care about that.  I’m gutted for the lads.”

By Brendan McTaggart

Final defeats are never easy to take.  To comeback and make the decider the following year is even more difficult.  To taste defeat for the third year in succession at the final hurdle is stuff that nightmares are made off.  Dunloy manager Dominic Dillon was still trying to make sense of what had transpired as he walked off the Ahoghill pitch with his beleaguered band of brothers around him.  The Dunloy manager told us that his first reaction to the defeat is it’s the one that got away: “Look we’re devastated to be honest.  Despite this being the third time in a row that I’ve had to stand here and give this interview, it gets no easier.  Especially today.  Beforehand we felt that we had the team and game plan that would win out there today.”

St Brigids managed to plunder 1-3 in the closing stages to give the score line perhaps an unfair reflection and Dillon told us that he felt the game was decided by small margins: “Do I think there was eight points between the teams?  No, I think it was harsh.  Overall St Brigids were possibly the better team but it came down to small margins.  Missed chances at one end and chances taken at the other.

“When that happens in quick succession it can sap energy and knock your confidence.  I feel for the lads to be honest.  They’re a great bunch of lads and they didn’t deserve to lose out there today for the work and commitment they’ve shown us all year.  I’m disappointed but right now I don’t care about that.  I’m gutted for the lads.”

With just one point between the sides, Dunloy midfielder Conor McKinley was denied a major when St Brigids ‘keeper Stephen Morrissey produced an outstanding save to deny him.  Had Woody’s effort found the back of the net, it could have been a different story on Saturday.  One of the small margins that the Dunloy manager was alluding to previously but Dillon told us that he wasn’t pointing the finger of blame at anyone: “There’s no finger pointing by us.  Woody’s been brilliant for me since I’ve taken over as manager three years now and has been inspirational.  It was his point in injury time against Moneyglass that got us to the final in the first place so he more than played his part in our run.  A goal then would have made a difference but it wasn’t why we were beat today.”

The Dunloy manager refused to commit to another year at the helm of the Cuchullains, such was his disappointment at Saturday’s defeat, adding maybe it’s time for a fresh face in the Dunloy changing room: “I’m not going to make any hasty decisions now at this stage.  It’s tough to take another final defeat and it’s not going to be easy to try and pick yourself up after it.  That’s the third year in succession we’ve gone January to October only to fall at the final hurdle.  Maybe it’s time for someone else to take over and see if they can get that extra five or 10% out of these lads and get them over the line?  I don’t know.  I’ll have to think about that one over the next few weeks.”

“I am delighted. It was a great second half performance. In the first half, we were just a bit off colour – we weren’t composed enough in the final third. “We managed to get over the line. We have a good bench. We have some serious quality players to come on. That helped and we had fresh legs and it brought fresh impetus to us. Thankfully we took the chances when they came along. “Ruaridh O’Neill was instrumental in getting scores at a vital time. He led the charge in the second half and was very influential. Two big scores before half-time: That was vital. It wasn’t a game were Dunloy were massively ahead of us – we maybe could have been level when they were three ahead. “They went three ahead, but we didn’t panic. ”We knew we would have a purple patch as well at some point. It was just a matter of taking your chances whenever they come along. “I am delighted. It was a great second half performance. In the first half, we were just a bit off colour – we weren’t composed enough in the final third. “We managed to get over the line. We have a good bench. We have some serious quality players to come on. That helped and we had fresh legs and it brought fresh impetus to us. Thankfully we took the chances when they came along. “Ruaridh O’Neill was instrumental in getting scores at a vital time. He led the charge in the second half and was very influential. Two big scores before half-time: That was vital. It wasn’t a game were Dunloy were massively ahead of us – we maybe could have been level when they were three ahead. “They went three ahead, but we didn’t panic. ”We knew we would have a purple patch as well at some point. It was just a matter of taking your chances whenever they come along.

Leonard Goal Pivotal as St. Brigid’s Take Intermediate Honours

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LOCC Solicitors Intermediate Football Championship

Final

St Brigid’s 1-13 Dunloy 0-8

Saturday October 14

Fr. McGuigan Park, Ahoghill

Referee: Paul McKeever (Portglenone)

By Brendan McTaggart

St Brigid’s bridged an 11 year gap on Saturday afternoon as they claimed the Intermediate football championship for just the second time in their history.  Eight points separated the sides after the hour as the south Belfast side inflicted more championship heartache on the Cuchullains.

It’s the third year in succession that Dominic Dillon has taken his team to the decider and the third time they’ve come away empty handed.  A record the Dunloy men will want to forget but despite trailing by one point at the short whistle, St Brigid’s were worthy winners after the 60 minutes.

It was the strength of the St Brigids bench that was ultimately the difference between the sides.  The south Belfast side introduced Ruaridh O’Neill and Ben Leonard in the second half and the duo contributed 1-2 to their cause, Leonard bagging the only goal of the game in the 57th minute with his first touch.  They held the Cuchullains to just two points in the second half and a scoring burst of 1-3 in the last three minutes plus injury time ensured it was the Musgrave Park side who were celebrating at the final whistle.

In an edgy first half where both sides showed plenty of nerves, it was the Cuchullains who made the brighter start.  Indeed, St Brigids were indebted to Stephen Morrisey between the posts when he denied Conor McKinley a certain goal with just two minutes on the clock.  He somehow managed to stop the ball breaching his line in the Cuchullains first attack of the match and it wouldn’t be the last time the St Brigids shot stopper would foil the Cuchullains during the final.

A Keelan Molloy point and McKinley free either side of a Ronan McGrady free gave Dunloy an early lead after the first quarter and it was the minimum the Cuchullains deserved.  Deaglan Smith and McKinley were on top in the midfield while Molloy and Kevin McAllister were taking the game to St Brigids.  A couple of uncharacteristic misses from the normally accurate McGrady kept the momentum with the Cuchullains in the first half and they had opened up a three point advantage by the 26th minute when scores for Nigel Elliott, Molloy, McKinley and Cunning were answered to by scores from McGrady (45) and Peter Webb’s first of the final.

The St Brigids were growing into the final but some last gasp defending from the Cuchullains kept denying them in front of the goals.  McGrady first of all but Kieran Hughes managed to deny him when the St Brigids man was presented with an open goal while John Blaney showed tremendous composure to carve an opening moments later but pulled his shot to the wrong side of Frankie Cochrane’s post.

The St Brigids men were creating dangerous chances and in the closing stages of the first half the Dunloy goal held a charmed life as the Cuchullains held out but the south Belfast side finished the half strongly.  Two points, one each for Peter Webb and McGrady’s third (free) of the match gave the score line a healthier complexion as far as the city side were concerned but Dunloy would have been satisfied with their first half display, leading by a score line of 0-6 to 0-5 at the interval.

Half time probably came at a bad time for St Brigids.  They were on top in the closing stages of the half and looked like it was only a matter of time before they scored the game’s first goal.  The second half was barely one minute old when they carved another opening, half forward James Smith with a strong run through the heart of the Dunloy defence but a last gasp tackle from Hughes once again kept the Dunloy goal intact.

Substitute Ruaridh O’Neill made an impact in the opening exchanges of the second half and scored the first point to draw the sides level in the 39th minute and when Jack Dowling split the posts after John Blaney displayed his creative side moments later, St Brigids had the lead for the first time in the final.  Keelan Molloy pointed a free in the 42nd minute to bring the Cuchullains back on terms but O’Neill’s second of the match edged St Brigid’s ahead again after 12 second half minutes.

O’Neill was having a major influence and looked to be an inspired substitution but St Brigids were left to thank Morrisey once again when Dunloy created a glorious goal opportunity in the 46th minute.  Conal Cunning found McKinley in space, the Dunloy man went low but Morrisey was equal to his effort and pushed the ball to safety with a superb save.

Morrisey’s save proved to be pivotal.  The reprieve acted as a catalyst for the south Belfast side as they found another gear.  Two McGrady points (one ’45) came either side of a squandered goal chance for Conor King to open a three point lead for St Brigids for the first time in the match.  Keelan Molloy replied with a free in the 55th minute to restore the Cuchullains hope once again but that was the last score for his side as St Brigids landed the decisive goal in the 57th minute.

Ben Leonard was barely on the pitch two minutes when McGrady found him in space.  He was one on one with Cochrane but still 20 yards out.  He unleashed a left footed shot that beat the Dunloy ‘keeper for pace and bulged the back of the net with what was his first touch of the match.  Advantage St Brigids.

The Musgrave Park side added further gloss to their score line when Cathal Conway, Webb and McGrady split the posts in injury time to cap off a superb second half display as the Cuchullains hearts were broken for a third year in a row at the final hurdle.  At the final whistle it was a blue and yellow day in the south west as St Brigids claimed the 2017 Intermediate championship with eight points to spare.

TEAMS

Dunloy: Frankie Cochrane; Jamie McFerran; Karl O’Kane; Kieran Hughes; Shane Dooey; Gabriel McTaggart; Kevin McQuillan; Conor McKinley; Deaglan Smith; Ryan Elliott; Nigel Elliott; Kevin McAllister; Keelan Molloy; Eoin O’Neill; Conal Cunning

St Brigid’s: Stephen Morrisey; Andrew Sweeney; Conor King; Paul Finnegan; Michael Cummings; Ben Synott; Kevin Gallagher; Enda Clarke; Cathal Conway; Ruairi Finnegan; James Smith; John Blaney; Peter Webb; Ronan McGrady; Jack Dowling

SCORERS

Dunloy: Keelan Molloy 0-4 (2 frees); Conor McKinley 0-2 (1 free); Conal Cunning 0-1; Nigel Elliott 0-1;

St Brigids: Ronan McGrady 0-6 (3 frees, 2 x ‘45’s); Peter Webb 0-3; Ben Leonard 1-00; Ruaridh O’Neill 0-2; Jack Dowling 0-1; Cathal Conway 0-1

Referee: Paul McKeever (Portglenone)

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