Moneyglass to finish the season with Championship win

Intermediate Football Championship final

St. Ergtnat’s Moneyglass v St. James’ Aldergrove

Saturday 5-00pm (Portglenone)

Referee; Cathal McDermott (Tir na nOg)

St. Ergnat’s Moneyglass start as firm favourites to win Saturday’s Intermediate Football championship final when they take on St. James’ Aldergrove in Portglenone. The Moneyglass side have had an excellent season, finishing second in division 2 and just missing out on promotion after losing narrowly in a playoff against St. Mary’s Ahoghill.

That playoff finished all square after the first leg with Ahoghill scoring two injury time points to draw level and it took a late goal from Patrick Graham to edge Ahoghill through in the second game.

In the Intermediate championship St. Ergnat’s have been impressive this year. They faced a stiff opening hurdle when they were drawn against Cuchullains Dunloy in the opening round having suffered one of only three league defeats in Dunloy and indeed there were those who fancied the Cuchullains to go all the way in the championship.

Two goals from Conaill Prenter and a man of the match performance from Colm Duffin ensured St Ergnat’s lived up to their pre-match billing as favourites.  The Moneyglass side saw off the challenge of Dunloy with seven points to spare at the end of a hugely entertaining hour of football.

Duffin top scored with 0-9 (0-3 frees) with Kevin ‘Kindo’ Marron 0-3, Patrick McCormick 0-2, Dermot McErlain, Sean Kelly, Jack McCoy, Conor Boyd and Jack Tohill all on target and providing a wide range of scorers.

Up next for St. Ergnat’s was a clash with neighbours, Tir na nOg and the Whitehill men asked questions of their Moneyglass opponents with some resolute defending but after a tough battle it was Donal Laverty’s side who prevailed.

Once again it was Colum Duffin who provided the game changing score with a goal, set up by Patrick McCormick, just before half time. Moneyglass pushed on to win by five with Duffin again top scorer with 1-4, Liam Brady 0-2, Jimmy McMeel 0-2, Patrick McCormick 0-2, Dermot McErlain and Niall Boyd on target.

So it was on to the semi-final and a meeting with surprise packet, Con Magee’s Glenravel ,who had defied the odds with a remarkable victory over Patrick Sarsfield’s in the quarter-final and once again St. Ergnat’s were cast in the role of favourites.

Two goals from Liam Brady and a goal late in the game from substitute Conaill Prenter ensured Moneyglass progressed to the Intermediate decider.  The St Ergant’s men had seven points to spare over the Con Magees at the end of the hour, maybe the score line slightly flattered the winners but it was another clinical Moneyglass performance nonetheless.

Brady top scored for the winners with a personal tally of 2-2 while Kevin Marrron and Colum Duffin weighed in with four points each.  Of the 3-14 scored by the St Ergnat’s men, only one point came from a free – Dermot McErlain converting in the 43rd minute.  A remarkable stat for a championship semi-final! 

While Moneyglass were grabbing the headlines on their way to tomorrow’s final, St. James Aldergrove had slipped under the radar on the other side of the draw but never the less are in the Intermediate final on merit.

Paddy Nugent’s side looked on their way out in their opening game at tomorrow’s venue when Rory McVeigh pointed for All Saints for the second time in the half to leave five between the sides in the 41st minute, this quarter-final looked over.  Aldergrove had just lost their ace marksman, Seamus McGarry to a black card following a yellow barely three minutes earlier and All Saints looked to be heading to a comfortable victory.  McGarry had scored five of Aldregrove’s points up to that moment and the Crumlin side were facing another early elimination from the championship.

What transpired in the final quarter was championship football at its finest.   Aldergrove chipped away at the Ballymena side’s lead with Kian Jones and Conor Morris leading the charge.  The pivotal moment came with four minutes of the match remaining.  Aldergrove had moved Ronan Hanna to the edge of the square, giving them an outlet and a target man with a long ball.  He was giving the Ballymena defence all they wanted and more and had already gone close to scoring a major 12 minutes earlier.  When he found the net in the 56th minute, Aldergrove took the lead and they pushed on to take their place in the semi-final.

Seamus McGarry top scored with 0-5 (2 f’s) before his dismissal and  Kian Jones 0-4; Ronan Hanna 1-1; Conor Morris 0-2 and Gerard Mallon 0-1 were the other Aldergrove scorers.

And so it was onto what looked like a fairly comfortable semi-final draw against Division 3 winners, St. Paul’s at Corrigan Park but as history shows, there is no such thing as an easy draw in the Intermediate Championship.

A late Seamus McGarry goal capped a second-half comeback which saw Aldergrove book their place in the final of the Larkin Cassidy Solicitors Intermediate Football final after a 3-08-2-07 win over St Pauls at Corrigan Park.

The Shaw’s Road side were there on merit following a good quarter-final victory over a strong St. Joseph’s Glenavy at Hannastown and they made a blistering start in this semi-final as they threastened to claim another division 2 scalp.

St Pauls dominated the opening quarter and Liam McKenna’s goal gave his side a 1-03-0-01 lead, though goals from Seamus McGarry and Ronan Hanna saw a rejuvenated Aldergrove hold a slender 2-04-1-05 advantage at the interval.

Liam McLarnon nudged St. Paul’s ahead again with an early second-half goal and the Shaw’s Road side held the lead until injury-time when Conor Morris drew the sides level with McGarry sealing the deal moments later to see his side into the decider with Moneyglass.

                                                                                WHO WILL WIN?

The respective paths to the final coupled with their league campaigns would suggest that St. Ergnat’s should start tomorrow’s final as favourites. They are an excellent side who play an entertaining brand of football. A good blend of youth and experience, packed with pace and a serious scoring threat from all over the pitch.

Mark Carey is an experienced keeper with Tiarnan Duffin and Conor Boyd anchoring a strong but youthful defence where the Kelly brothers, Sean and Eamon, Peter McCormick and Jack McCoy are likely to start.

Colum Duffin has been pivotal to their success and forms a strong mid-field with the mercurial Dermot McErlain and both players are capable of weighing in with important scores. Patrick McCormick will test the Aldergrove defence with his pace and direct running while Conaill Prenter, Kevin Marron, Seanchann Duffin, Liam Brady and Paul Tohill will all be hoping for a nod in the starting line-up.

Aldergrove started the season badly and finished in the bottom half of the league after the split but they have shown improvement as the season progressed and the introduction of Kian Jones and Chris Morrison from their good minor team has rejuvenated the side.

Their win over All Saints in their opening game and particularly the manner of their come-back will have boosted their confidence and they have a strong spine of experienced players who may see tomorrow as a last chance to claim an Intermediate title that has eluded them over recent years.

Ferdia Carson, Chris McVey, Conor Totten and Ronan Wilkinson are solid defenders while Ryan Owens and Brian McQuillan are both fine mid-fielders who are capable of getting on the scoreboard. Ronan Hanna will prove a handful on the edge of the square while Seamus McGarry always poses a scoring threat.

Moneyglass will start as favourites and if given space and time look to have too much firepower for the Crumlin side but if Paddy Nugent’s side can hang in there until the final quarter then they might not be too far away.

Late McGarry goal sees Grove into decider

Larkin Cassidy Solicitors Intermediate Football Championship semi-final

St Pauls 2-07-3-08 Aldergrove

From Kevin Herron at Corrigan Park 

A late Seamus McGarry goal capped a second-half comeback which saw Aldergrove book their place in the final of the Larkin Cassidy Solicitors Intermediate Football final after a 3-08-2-07 win over St Pauls at Corrigan Park this afternoon.

St Pauls dominated the opening quarter and Liam McKenna’s goal gave his side a 1-03-0-01 lead, though goals from McGarry and Ronan Hanna saw a rejuvenated Aldergrove hold a slender 2-04-1-05 advantage at the interval.

Liam McLarnon nudged his side ahead again with an early second-half goal and the Shaws Road side held the lead until injury-time when Conor Morris drew the sides level with McGarry sealing the deal moments later to see his side into the decider with Moneyglass.

The semi-final was very much bonus territory for St Pauls – who had already achieved their season objective with promotion from Division Three and were impressive in their quarter-final victory over Glenavy. Whilst Aldergrove came into the semi-final off the back of a splendid comeback against All-Saints Ballymena.

Aldergrove almost hit the net within the opening two minutes as Brian McQuillan popped the ball into the path of Chris O’Kane whose low shot sailed inches past Kiefer Toolan’s near post.

But St Pauls settled into the game quicker and were dominant in the opening quarter. Liam McKenna converted a free to get his side off the mark and a terrific point from Liam McLarnon doubled their lead.

McKenna almost conjured up the opening goal on 8 minutes- but after twisting and turning his low shot was held by Shane O’Neill.

At the midway point in the opening half St Pauls extended their lead as Liam McLarnon fielded a high ball and laid the ball off to Liam McKenna whose shot rose high over the bar to make it 0-03-0-00.

Chris O’Kane got Aldergrove off the mark on the 16th minute, collecting a quick-free from Seamus McGarry and shooting high between the posts.

The opening goal arrived on the 17th minute at Corrigan Park and fell to St Pauls. Micky-Joe Cooper popped a quickly taken free into the path of Liam McKenna who raced clear and powerfully rifled to the net past Shane O’Neill to give his side a 1-03-0-01 lead.

McLarnon brothers Liam and Colm then combined with the later registering a further point, that was responded to by Ryan Owens.

St Pauls extended their lead to six-points as Niall Peoples cut back and angled the ball over the bar, but Aldergrove hit back instantly with a goal.

Brian McQuillan’s superb pass released Ronan Hanna who in turn found Seamus McGarry and the corner-forward’s low shot flashed past Toolan in the St Pauls goal to make it 1-05-1-02.

McGarry closed the deficit with a converted free and a minute before the break Aldergrove hit the front for the first time.

Full-forward Gerard Mallon slipped an inside pass to Ronan Hanna and the provider of the opening goal shot sailed into to the corner of the net to give his side a 2-03-1-05 lead.

A further point from McGarry before the break would ensure that Aldergrove led 2-04-1-05 at the break, despite being second best for the majority of the opening half an hour.

Micky-Joe Cooper reduced the deficit to the bare minimum with a converted free four minutes into the second period and sixty seconds later the Shaws Road side regained the lead.

A sideline free from Cormac O’Hanlon was gathered by Liam McLarnon who took off towards the target and let fly with a low shot that squirmed away from Shane O’Neill and into the net to give St Pauls a 2-06-2-04 lead.

Brian McQuillan saw his stinging shot rattle the crossbar in response and Ronan Hanna’s fisted effort was inches away after a high hanging ball into the St Pauls defensive third.

With little under a quarter of an hour remaining Liam McKenna converted his second free of the afternoon to extend his sides lead to three, but a quick-fire double from Seamus McGarry (free) and Conor Morris had a single point separating the sides with ten minutes remaining (2-07-2-06).

Aldergrove went all out for the equalising point although St Pauls defended robustly and restricted any clear cut opportunities.

It looked as though their best opportunity came and gone on the 58th minute as Ronan Hanna slipped the inside pass to Ryan Owens who appeared to panic and blasted wide from a promising position.

As the game ticked into added time St Pauls still held their narrow lead – but Aldergrove pulled level sixty seconds into the additional period.

Gerard Mallon collected a kick-out from Shane O’Neill and scurried forward before fisting to Conor Morris, the reintroduced corner-forward got himself into a shooting position and landed the equalising score to draw the sides level at 2-07 apiece.

St Pauls reached this stage courtesy of an injury-time Liam McLarnon strike but as fate would have it, they were about to experience the other end of a late Championship goal.

A stray pass in the St Pauls defensive third was intercepted by Oisin Graham and he picked out Seamus McGarry who slotted to the net for the second time to give his side the lead for just the second time.

Aldergrove successfully managed out the remaining minutes and the insurance score arrived through a McGarry point seven minutes into added time as Paddy Nugent’s side pulled off the great escape for the second successive Championship outing to seal a place in the decider with Moneyglass in a few weeks time.

St Pauls: K Toolan, P Copeland, S Bradley, A Kavannagh, J Duffy, D Burns, N Ward, C O’Hanlon, J Farrell, D McWilliams, N Peoples (0-01), C McLarnon (0-01), MJ Cooper (0-01f), L McLarnon (1-01), L McKenna (1-03, 0-02f). Subs: C Finnegan for D McWilliams (40); A Brady for MJ Cooper (40).

Aldergrove: S O’Neill, P Cushley, F Carson, R Wilkinson, O Graham, C McVeigh, C Totten, R Owens (0-01), B McQuillan, K Jones, C O’Kane (0-01), R Hanna (1-00), C Morris (0-02), G Mallon, S McGarry (2-04, 0-03f). Subs: F Burke for R Wilkinson (23); S Fay for C Morris (38); C Morris for K Jones (47); C Fogerty for C Totten (66).

Referee: Eamonn McAuley (Cargin).

Moneyglass book final spot

LOCC Solicitors

Intermediate Football Championship Semi-Final

St Ergnat’s, Moneyglass 3-14 Con Magees, Glenravel 2-10

Saturday September 21

Brendan McTaggart reports from Toome

Two goals from Liam Brady and a major late in the game from substitute Conaill Prenter ensured Moneyglass progressed to the Intermediate decider.  The St Ergant’s men had seven points to spare over the Con Magees at the end of the hour, maybe the score line slightly flattered the winners but it was another clinical Moneyglass performance nonetheless.

Brady top scored for the winners with a personal tally of 2-2 while Kevin Marrron and Colum Duffin weighed in with four points each.  Off the 3-14 scored by the St Ergnat’s men, only one point came from a free – Dermot McErlain converting in the 43rd minute.  A remarkable stat for a championship semi-final. 

Despite trailing by three points at the short whistle, the Glenravel men produced an improved second half performance.  Just four minutes after the restart they had reduced the Moneyglass lead to the minimum but the St Ergnat’s men were happy to soak up the Con Magees pressure while using the speed of Eamon Kelly, Patrick McCormick and Jack McCoy to counter while Colum Duffin was pivotal for his side throughout.  Gavin Murray gave another accomplished performance as the sweeper for his side while Liam Brady and Kevin Marron paired together to form a potent attack.

Glenravel may rue a lacklustre first half where they trailed, despite a substantial wind in their favour.  Brady’s first goal came early and seemed to put the handbrake on the Glenravel game plan.  Sean Kelly providing the blind pass for Brady who finished with ease after just two minutes.

Marron pointed five minutes later, much against the run of play.  Glenravel had the lions share of possession but didn’t have the cutting edge to penetrate a well organised Moneyglass defence.  They opened their account with Eoin Hynds making use of the elements and splitting the posts from distance before Sean McKay left two between the sides midway through the half.

Marron and Colum Duffin reopened the four point lead for Moneyglass once again with a pair of quick fire points but Glenravel had finally settled into the semi-final.  Aidan O’Donnell splitting the uprights before McKay scored their opening goal.  Eamon Fyfe collecting a long ball and beating two challenges before finding McKay on the edge of the box and he palmed the ball to the net in the 23rd minute.

Hynds pointed with the first score from a free of the tie in the 25th minute to give the Con Magee men the lead but Moneyglass finished the half on top.  Marron with his third of the half, going one way and another before finding the yard of space he needed before Colum Duffin added a brace in the last minute of normal time.  Peter McCormick rounded off the scoring for the half to leave three between the sides at the interval.

Half time: Moneygalss 1-7 Con Magees 1-4

There’s no doubting Moneyglass would have been satisfied with their first half.  The wind was substantial and the fact they held a lead after facing the elements, put them as favourites to progress.  Glenravel started the second half superbly though and the lead was reduced to the minimum after just four minutes.  McKay and Eamon Fyfe finding the required accuracy for the Con Magees.

Moneyglass responded with Patrick McCormick firing over his first of two second half points before Marron opened a three point lead once again in the 38th minute.  It should have been more though with Patrick McCormick spurning a massive goal chance.  He went for placement off the deck after Brady played him through but he spooned his effort wide.

Glenravel were once again enjoying more possession but Moneyglass were always dangerous on the counter.  Brady and Hynds exchanged points before Dermot McErlain scored Moneyglass’ only scoreable free of the match in the 43rd minute.  With four between the sides going into the final quarter, Moneyglass took a massive step in securing their final place by winning a penalty.  Paul Tohill and Liam Brady combining to set Marron through on goal but he was brought down by Jonathan Fyfe.  Brendan Toland awarded a penalty and Fyfe’s game was ended with a black card.  Glenravel brought on Neil McCafferty as his replacement but his first action was to pick the ball out of the net from the resulting penalty.  Brady blasting the ball to the top left hand corner with a superb penalty to open a seven point lead.

The Con Magees men responded with David Higgins and Aidan McCafferty splitting the uprights before Aidan O’Donnell fired over from a free but Moneyglass were more clinical in attack.  They pressurised the Con Magee’s kickouts and were able to score in bursts, finding their scores more easily come by than their opponents.  Colum Duffin and Patrick McCormick fired over before Conaill Prenter scored their third goal in the 58th minute.  The substitute finishing another St Ergnat’s counterattack to open a nine point lead and all but seal his sides passage to the decider.

Glenravel hit back with McKay scoring their second goal.  Hynds delivering a long ball to the heart of the Moneyglass defence where Eamon Fyfe outjumped the St Ergants defence to catch a ball he had no right to claim.  He laid the ball off to McKay and he fired home but time was running out for the Con Magees.

Brady rounded off the scoring to take his tally to 2-2 for the afternoon in the last minute of normal time and the St Ergnat’s men saw out the remaining time with controlled composure.  A seven point win for the men from Marion Hill and on this form it’s hard to look past them in the decider.

TEAMS

Moneyglass: Mark Carey; Sean Kelly, Tiarnan Duffin, Peter McCormick; Jack McCoy, Conor Boyd, Eamon Kelly; Colum Duffin, Dermot McErlain; Jimmy McMeel, Paul Tohill, Patrick McCormick; Liam Brady, Kevin Marron, Gavin Murray.

Subs: Jervis Weir for S Kelly (33); Conaill Prenter for J McMeel (54)

Scorers: Liam Brady 2-2 (1-00 pen); Kevin Marron 0-4; Colum Duffin 0-4; Conaill Prenter 1-00; Patrick McCormick 0-2; Peter McCormick 0-1; Dermot McErlain 0-1 (1 f).

Con Magees: Jonathan Fyfe; Michael Laverty, Paul McCurry, Connor Carey; Kieran McKeown, Niall Swann, Conleth O’Loan; Connor Carey, David Higgins; Eoin Hynds, Aidan O’Donnell, Seanan Black; Sean McKay, Eamon Fyfe, Josh McKeown.

Subs: Charlie Henry for C Carey (12); Aidan McCafferty for S Black (39); Neil McCafferty for J Fyfe (black card, 45); Martin McCarry for Aidan O’Donnell (53); Aiden McKenna for J McKeown (inj); Aidan O’Donnell for S McKay (inj).

Referee: Brendan Toland (Lámh Dhearg)

O’Donnell points Con Magees towards semi’s

LOCC Solicitors

Intermediate Football Championship

Quarter-Final

Con Magees, Glenravel 1-12 Patrick Sarsfields 1-11

Sunday September 8

Brendan McTaggart reports from Fr McGuigan Park, Ahoghill

The opening match of the double header in Ahoghill on Sunday afternoon served up a proper championship contest between two evenly matches sides.  Con Magees and Sarsfields went toe to toe for the hour and it took two points in injury time to find a winner with the Glenravel side coming out on top.

In an incredible game where neither side deserved to lose, two injury time frees from the Con Magees proved decisive.  Eoin Hynds with his second of the half to equalise and Aiden O’Donnell to fire the winner with his fourth of the match.  It was a breath-taking end to what was an exhilarating hour of football that ebbed and flowed with both sides enjoying different times of dominance but the Con Magees edged the closing stages to celebrate a one point win.

Aidan ODonnell fires over Glenravels winning point in injury time

Sarsfields started this quarter-final tie superbly and could have had the opening goal after just two minutes. Garry Lennon bringing the best out of Jonathan Fyfe between the sticks for Glenravel but the Paddies didn’t have long to wait before they found the net.  Playing a one-two with Jack Daniels, Niall McAlea fired the opening score and goal of the tie in the third minute.

The Con Magees responded well with Aiden O’Donnell and Sean McKay finding the required accuracy in front of the target but when Lennon and Tomas Skillen replied, Sarsfields held a deserved three point lead after the opening 11 minutes of action.

Both sides played with two on the inside forward line but made great use of the ball when countering.  Sarsfields showed more directness however and although Eamon Fyfe scored Glenravel’s third point of the match in the 12th minute, three unanswered points from Kevin McKernan, Darragh McGuinness and a Niall McKenna free opened a five point lead midway through the half.  

McKenna’s free was the first score from placed ball during a hugely entertaining opening 16 minutes of the match.  Both sides were playing attractive football and attacking with speed and precision but Sarsfields had been that bit more economical up to that point.  McKenna’s free was the Paddies last score of the half however as Con Magees found another gear.

Sarsfields Niall McKenna gets away from Glenravels Eneas Carey

Eamon Fyfe scored his second point of the match before the Paddies ‘keeper Michael Brady pulled off a quite brilliant double save to deny the Glenravel men a certain goal in the 22nd minute, the first from Eoin Hynds before picking himself off the ground and denying McKay with an outstanding piece of goalkeeping.

The Con Magees midfield were turning the screw with David Higgins in particular dominating with Eamon Fyfe, Josh McKeown and McKay always posing a threat.  Unanswered points from Eamon Fyfe and two from Josh McKeown cut the Paddies lead to just the minimum at the short whistle.

Sarsfields were in bad need of the half time whistle when it came.  They had seen their five point lead all but disappear and needed to reorganise.  Half time gave them that opportunity and when Lennon split the uprights for his second point of the match, they looked to have regained control after the restart.  The Con Magees had other ideas.  A brace of frees from Aidan O’Donnell were answered with another Niall McKenna free before the Glenravel men scored their goal in the 38th minute.  Eamon Fyfe making the break and with the close attentions of two Sarsfields defenders, he still managed to get his shot away.  It was blocked however and Seanan Black was on hand to make the most of the rebound, slotting the ball to the back of the Paddies net with a first time strike and giving his side a two point lead.

Glenravel goalkeeper Jonny Fyfe saves a shot from point blank range from Sarsfields Tomas Skillen

Another McKenna free was Sarsfields response and they could have scored another goal but for an outstanding block from Michael Laverty to deny Kevin McKernan with the goal at his mercy.  The Paddies retook the lead with a pair of frees from McKenna by the 54th minute and looked to have saw off the Con Magees resurgence.  They had chances to extend that lead but the Glenravel men kept plugging away.  Hynds restoring parity before flying half back Jack Daniels looked to have secured the Paddies progression when he pointed in the last minute of normal time to give his side the lead.

The Con Magees went again however and put Sarsfields defence under huge pressure in injury time. Hynds pointed from a free to restore parity before O’Donnell had the last say.  Wide on the left and 30 yards from goal, the angle may have suited the Con Magees man but it was a pressure kick.  Any nerves in the crowd were eased before the ball reached the target however as the Glenravel bench roared and O’Donnell seconds after the free was struck.  Over the black spot with a huge score that took last year’s junior football champions into the last four of the Intermediate and a meeting with Moneyglass in two weeks’ time.

TEAMS

Glenravel: Jonathan Fyfe; Connor Carey, Paul McCurry, Michael Laverty; Conleth O’Loan, Niall Swann, Kieron McKeown; Connor Carey, David Higgins; Seanan Black, Eoin Hynds, Aiden O’Donnell; Sean McKay, Eamon Fyfe, Josh McKeown.

Subs: Martin McCarry fro S Black (58); Aiden McCafferty for M Laverty (59).

Scorers: Aiden O’Donnell 0-4 (3 f’s); Seanan Black 1-00; Eamon Fyfe 0-2; Eoin Hynds 0-2 (2 f’s); Josh McKeown 0-2; Sean McKay 0-1; David Higgins 0-1

Sarsfields: Michael Brady; Gary McPolin, Martin McPolin, Ethan Mervyn; Jack Daniels, Niall McAlea, Connor Laverty; Cormac Murray, Niall McKenna; Declan Laverty, Kevin McKernan, Darragh McGuinness; Tomas Skillen, Sam Walsh, Garry Lennon.

Subs: Kevin Flood for D McGuinness (30); Kieran McCullagh for D Laverty (52); Ryan Carson for S Walsh (53).

Scorers: Niall McKenna 0-5 (5 f’s); Niall McAlea 1-00; Garry Lennon 0-2; Kevin McKernan 0-1; Darragh McGuinness 0-1; Tomas Skillen 0-1; Jack Daniels 0-1.

Subs

Referee: Eamon McAuley (Cargin)

St Ergnat’s roll continues to the last four

LOCC Solicitors

Intermediate Football Championship

Quarter-Final

Moneyglass 1-12 Tír na nÓg 0-10

Saturday September 7

Brendan McTaggart reports from Páirc Uí Cheallaigh, Portglenone

Moneyglass underlined their credentials as favourites for the Intermediate championship with a hard-fought win over Tír na nÓg on Saturday afternoon.  Five points separated the sides at the end of the hour but this quarter-final was everything it promised to be in the build-up.  Intensity in abundance, big hits, tough tackles and super scores.  In the end, the St Ergant’s captain Colum Duffin scored the only goal of the game which ultimately proved to be the difference between the sides.

It was a hugely disciplined performance from the Tír na nÓg men who will feel the final score flatters their neighbours.  Midway through the second half they had reduced Moneyglass’ three point half time lead to the minimum and were well placed to push over the line but the St Ergnat’s men didn’t panic and with their own defence on top form led superbly by Conor Boyd, Eamon Kelly and Peter McCormick, they restricted the Whitehill side to just two points in the final quarter.

Tír na nÓg were reliant on the free taking of Aaron McNeilly for scores over the hour, the half forward finished the contest with 0-6 beside his name on the scoresheet while two of Leigh Martin’s three points also came from placed ball.  The St Ergnat’s men controlled the final quarter with Patrick McCormick pulling the strings and Colum Duffin showing his class as the game progressed.

Both sides played with two men on their forwards and packed the midfield.  The early exchanges weren’t exactly fast and furious but were intriguing nonetheless with big hits and intensity the order of the day.  Tír na nÓg were fighting for every ball and matching Moneyglass in every facet of the game from the first whistle.  With defences on top, turnovers were greeted like winning scores and scoring chances were at a premium and while Moneyglass went into an early two point lead through Patrick McCormick and Liam Brady, Tír na nÓg were back on terms by the ninth minute with Leigh Martin and McNeilly finding the required accuracy from frees.  Colum Duffin edge Moneyglass ahead once again in the 12th minute but the game was so evenly balanced that the scores were coming tit for tat.  Leigh Martin scored Tír na nÓg’s first from play with an exquisite finish with the outside of the boot after a well worked move and when he landed his second free of the match midway through the half, Tír na nÓg had taken a deserved lead for the first time in the match.  Tír na nÓg were looking to create space with their movement and McNeilly was leading that charge, he caused Moneyglass plenty of problems in the first half and his pace was a major asset coming up against a packed defence.

The match continued to ebb and flow however with Jimmy McMeel restoring parity before another McNeilly free restored the Tír na nÓg advantage but that was the Whitehill sides last score of the half as Moneyglass landed the first knock out blow of the tie in the time that remained.  Their goal came in the 23rd minute and the quality of the build up was matched by the exquisite finish from Duffin.  A fast, incisive move through the hands with Patrick McCormick giving the final pass to Smiley and the St Ergnat’s captain finished with a left footed strike to the back of Sean Paul McAtamney’s net.

Jimmy McMeel’s second of the half took the Moneyglass lead to three by the short whistle, 1-5 to 0-5.  A harsh lesson for Tír na nÓg who took their eye off the ball and Colum Duffin for a split second but the Moneyglass man had the quality to produce the goods when it was needed most.

The second half began with Colum Duffin scoring Moneyglass’ first free of the match in the 33rd minute but Tír na nÓg found a second wind under the floodlights at Páirc Uí Cheallaigh.  McNeilly pointed a free either side of a super score from Ryan O’Neill to leave just one between the sides going into the final quarter.

Moneyglass continued to show belief in their own game however and while it would have been easy to hit the panic button, they remained patient.  Pressing and probing for the half yard of space needed in the scoring zone and refrain from high risk shots.  A trio of points in as many minutes from Liam Brady, Colum Duffin and Dermot McErlain put them in the driving seat going into the final ten minutes.

McNeilly’s fifth free for Tír na nÓg stopped the mini charge from Moneyglass but the St Ergnat’s men were always a step ahead.  They would have had another goal but for the brilliance of Sean Paul McAtamney between the posts for Tír na nÓg, the Whitehill ‘keeper deflecting a goal bound effort from Patrick McCormick over the bar to give his side a cushion point once again.

Tír na nÓg were pushing further up the field and leaving gaps in defence as they tried to revitalise their championship hopes in the dying embers of this quarter-final but Moneyglass were coolness personified and the picture of calmness in those closing minutes.  They sucked the life out of the game by keeping possession and while McNeilly scored his sixth point of the match, scores from substitute Niall Boyd before and Colum Duffin’s fourth white flag of the match ensured a last four spot for Moneyglass after a cagey affair.

It wasn’t the feast of pure football they produced in the previous round but Moneyglass showed a different side on Saturday.  A side that can grind out a win when the occasion arises and they did enough to edge past the tenacious talents of Tír na nÓg.  Their championship journey continues with a semi-final meeting and the winners of Con Magees and Sarsfields.  All eyes on Fr McGuigan Park, Ahoghill on Sunday.

Moneyglass: Mark Carey; Sean Kelly, Tiarnan Duffin, Peter McCormick; Jack McCoy, Conor Boyd, Eamon Kelly; Colum Duffin, Dermot McErlain; Jimmy McMeel, Paul Tohill, Patrick McCormick; Liam Brady, Kevin Marron, Gavin Murray.

Subs: Niall Boyd for J McCoy (Black Card 30 mins); Seanchann Duffin for K Marron (52); Jervis Weir for G Murray (56); Ryan Doyle for T Duffin (Black Card inj).

Scorers: Colum Duffin 1-4 (1f); Liam Brady 0-2; Jimmy McMeel 0-2; Patrick McCormick 0-2; Dermot McErlain 0-1; Niall Boyd 0-1.

Tír na nÓg: Sean Paul McAtamney; Sean Redmond, Niall Cassidy, Ciaran Logan; Barry McCormick, Caoimhin Duffin, Darren McCormick; Christy Sheerin, Malachy Duffin; Ryan O’Neill, Aaron McNeilly, Peter Cullen; Ciaran O’Neill, Leigh Martin, Darragh Fagan.

Subs: Kevin Sheerin for P Cullen (HT); Ciaran Dobbin for D Fagan (40); Declan Mallon for M Duffin (52); Ronan O’Neill for L Martin (Black Card 55 mins).

Scorers: Aaron McNeilly 0-6 (6 f’s); Leigh Martin 0-3 (2 f’s); Ryan O’Neill 0-1

Referee: Kevin Parke (Naomh Éanna)