O’Donnell’s clinch Junior decider berth at the expense of dogged Éire Óg

Graham Tarmac Junior Football Championship Semi-Final

Saturday 24th September

Report by Niall Kelly 

Cardinal O’Donnells 0-18    Éire Óg 1-10 (After Extra Time)

O’Donnell’s have sealed their spot in the Junior showpiece for the first time in nearly ten years overcoming a stubborn Éire Óg side in a captivating encounter. It took extra time to settle this one with both teams battling hammer and tongs in classic Championship fashion. The sizable crowd at Pairc MacRuari were treated to an engrossing and pulsating eighty minutes of football full of thrills and spills as both these titans duelled for a place in the final.

Many were perhaps expecting a facile victory for O’Donnell’s but it proved to be anything but. The Derriaghy natives ripped up that script and their pragmatic and efficient style of play saw them hold a two-point lead at half-time and with Kevin Clarke spearheading their attack, they looked a constant threat every time they ventured forward. They didn’t leave an inch on the field and their trojan-like work ethic caused constant headaches for the O’s and can take great pride in their efforts.

Nevertheless, with an array of heavy attacking artillery in their arsenal and in reserve, O’Donnell’s produced when it mattered most and demonstrated their genuine Championship credentials in extra time as they romped home in the second period of extra time.  Switching the commanding presence of full forward Ciaran Ferran to midfield proved to be a master stroke from O’D’s boss Joe Herald as Ferran proved to be the difference maker in the engine room and was the fulcrum of the host’s offence.

Éire Óg opened up a two-point gap in the opening five minutes with talisman Kevin Clarke providing the finishing touches to patient approach play. His opposite number-sake Padraig McKissock got the scoreboard moving for the hosts as he despatched a trademark free off the carpet three minutes later. Cailean Walsh levelled matters with a succulent effort off the outside of the boot before centre back Scott Thompson unleashed a drilled effort from distance to take the lead midway through the half.

O’D’s looked to be well in the ascendancy with further scores from Walsh and Richard McAvoy but a resurgent Éire Óg answered back as momentum swayed once again in their favour. Darragh Doonan’s improvised finish from close range was followed by yet another Clarke effort to reduce the margin to the minimum. In the closing five minutes of the half, the visitors hit a purple patch and reinstated their earlier two point lead with their number thirteen at the forefront. James Toal started the revival. Moments later, Clarke split the posts in style off the outside of his cultured right boot with Doonan striking again on the stroke of half-time. Their productivity in front of the posts was a constant theme as they accumulated very little wides.

The visitors then started the second period as they’d finished the first with an all too familiar source forcing the umpire to raise the white flag with Clarke’s tally increasing again. The dual sweeper system was causing O’D’s problems as they enjoyed large periods of possession without the killer finish as Éire Óg stifled their creativity and frustrated their Belfast counterparts.

However, when O’D’s began to pop the ball off the shoulder with more fluidity and purpose, they had established the winning formula to mount their fightback. Ciaran Ferran and Padraig McKissock steered their efforts between the posts before the former equalised on the forty-fifth minute finishing off a calculated move.

Kieran Ryan then made a vital clearance off the line for the visitors minutes later. Fergal McNerney’s goal-bound effort was stopped in its tracks but the signs looked ominous for the visitors as the O’s continued to pile on the pressure.  

With the game approaching its climax, the drama kept on coming. Two spectacular efforts from Padraig McKissock helped open up a two-point lead for the O’s now with less than seven minutes remaining. It looked as though they may just have done enough if they could retain the ball and take the sting out of proceedings. It was not to be. James Toal’s lofted ball into the square from a free caused havoc in the O’Donnell’s rear-guard and when they failed to clear their lines, substitute Oran McMenamin fired to the net with a predator’s instinct to hush the home faithful.

With the clock against them, the hosts sought to pursue any penetrative avenues of attack but were frustrated by the resolute Éire Óg defence. Thankfully for the hosts, the enviable talents of PJ Meenan came to their rescue as his composed finish under pressure two minutes from the end took the game into extra time.

Both teams emptied the benches for the twenty minutes which followed. Fresh legs proved to be of vital importance for O’D’s as well as a positional change which saw Ciaran Ferran deployed at midfield.

Éire Óg forged a 0-02 0-01 lead half-way through the first period thanks to Stephen Mullin and Kevin Clarke efforts either side of a Ferran point from range. However, that was to be as good as it got for them as a rejuvenated O’D’s buoyed on by their raucous home fans, produced some slick and fluent football to break the hearts of their opponents.

Padraig McKissock, who had a storming game, soared over yet another effort off the carpet before Ciaran Ferran steered an audacious, long-range effort between the posts to retake the lead. Richard McAvoy stroked over to double the deficit just before the interval.

The hosts then managed to keep Éire Óg scoreless in the second period and their constant movement in attack caused major problems. Géaroid McKernan and that man Ferran split the posts before Keely Loughran finished matters off as he slotted over from close range to trigger a deafening roar from the raucous home support. Éire Óg can certainly keep their heads high.

Although they’re no doubt devastated, they played out of their skins and battled tirelessly throughout. Their tenacity and industry will serve them well next year and they possess a lethal weapon in their attack with the prowess of Kevin Clarke.

A huge win for O’D’s who have impressed throughout this campaign and remain undefeated in the Junior grade. Winning is a hard habit to break and with the strength in depth Joe Herald has at his disposal, the Whiterock side will go into the final against familiar foes Pearses brimming with confidence in what should be an intriguing game.



C Murphy; C Doherty, S Seaswright, J McKenna; G McKernan (0-01,) S Thompson (0-01,) K Kennedy; J Rafferty, Conor Walsh; PJ Meenan (0-01,) C Walsh (0-02,) F McNerney; P McKissock (0-05,) C Ferran (0-05,) R McAvoy (0-02)

Substitute scorers:

K Loughran (0-01)

Éire Óg:

J George; P Loughran, K Ryan, J Devine; C Rice, R Donnelly, A McKnight; D Murray, T Malone; C McKenna, J Toal (0-01) S Erskine; K Clarke (0-06,) D Doonan (0-02,) B Shannon

Substitute scorers:

O McMenamin (1-00)

S Mullin (0-01)

Referee: Colin Mallon (Aghagallon)

Na Piarsaigh too good for St. Malachy’s at Cherryvale

Graham Tarmac JFC Semi-Final

St. Malachy’s 0-3 Na Piarsaigh 1-10

Photrographs: Bert Trowlen

Na Piarsaigh proved too good for St. Malachy’s in this Graham Tarmac JFC semi-final at Cherryvale on Saturday and now go forward to meet O’Donnell’s in the final in two weeks-time. The North Belfast men led from early in the game and were never really troubled by a St. Malachy’s side who failed to reproduce the form they had shown in the group stages.

Na Piarsaigh led 0-5 to 0-2 at the half way stage and any notions of a comeback by the Markets men in the second half were quickly dispelled as Pearses pushed on to win convincingly with St. Malachy’s only able to add one second half score.

Piaras Donaghy edged Na Piarsaigh ahead with a fine long range point with Aidan Connor levelling the contest with 7 minutes gone.

Slowly Na Piarsaigh began to take command and Stephen Fitzsimmons, Sean Moreland and Fionn Grew fired over unanswered points to move them 0-4 to 0-1 ahead going into the second quarter as Bannon and Donaghy took control at mid-field’

The final score of the half fell to the men from the Markets as Ciaran Vernon sent a ‘45’ directly between the uprights and despite a lacklustre opening 30 minutes St. Malachy’s must have felt they were still in with a fighting chance.

The Group 2 winners needed a good start to the second half but in the event it was Na Piarsaigh who started the half on the front foot and points from Stephen Fitzsimmons and the impressive Aodhan McCavanna extended their lead to five after 10 minutes.

The North Belfast side continued to move the ball around with confidence and their pace and movement was causing their opponents all sorts of problems and Stephen Fitsimmons finished to the ‘Mal’s’ net followed an impressive build up’

Last year’s beaten semi-finalists were thankful to their keeper Niall Largey who pulled off a superb save as St. Malachy’s briefly threatened but the eventual losers did follow with a point from Aidan Connor in the 18th minute but it failed to bring about the needed response.

Indeed it would be their only score of the half as Na Piarsaigh continued to call the shots and they finished on the front foot with points from a long range Fionn Grew free, a converted ‘45’ from Liam Deegan and a point from play from Nathan Gorman to book their place in this year’s final.

St. Malachy’s: 1 Sean Turley, 2 Colin Connolly, 3 Stephen Carson, 4 Caoimhin Corr, 5 Daniel Quinn, 6 Mark Connolly, 7 David Casey, 8 Anthony Dobbin, 9 Ciaran Vernon, 10 Jack McGivern, 11 Aidan Connor, 12 Ronan Maneely, 13 Paul Carlisle, 14 Karl McCavana, 15 Fra Brennan

Na Piarsaigh: 1 Niall Largey, 2 Darren O’Neill, 3 Cormac O’Neill, 4 Aidan Bannon, 5 Tom McFarlane, 6 Aodhan McCavanna, 7 Nathan Gorman, 8 Ruairi Bannon, 22 Piaras Donaghy, 10 Phil Murray, 11 Stephen Fitzsimmons, 12 Sean Moreland, 13 Fionn Grew, 14 Liam Deegan, 15 Oisin Grew

Referee: Ray Matthes (Rossa)

O’D’s and Pearses to edge tight semi-finals

Graham Tarmac JFC Semi-Finals (Saturday)

O’Donnell’s v Eire Og (MacRory Park 3-00pm)

O’Donnell’s enjoy home advantage in this one by virtue of finishing top of their group and the Whiterock Road side have been impressive this season, finishing third in division 3 and recording wins over Saturday’s opponents in the group stages at Cherryvale and following those wins with victories over Wolfe Tonnes and Pearses.

Eire Og finished third in the same group behind Pearses but qualified for the semi-final with a good win over Laochra Loch Lao in the quarter-final and will certainly not be there just to make up the numbers.

Only four points separated O’Donnell’s and Eire Og in the group stages but the MacRory Park side look to be the team in form and home advantage should see them through in this one.

Graham Tarmac JFC Semi-Final (Cherryvale 3-00pm) Saturday

St. Malachy’s v Pearses

Padraig Pearses finished second to O’Donnell’s in group 1 and went on to qualify for Saturday’s semi-final with a win over St. Agnes in the quarter-final. Pearses have been knocking on the championship door for some time now and lost out narrowly to Rasharkin at the same stage of the competition last year before being beaten by the same side in the league final.

St. Malachy’s enjoyed a good season and finished top of their group unbeaten and will fancy their chances of progressing to this year’s championship final but last years-experience may give Pearses the edge in what should be a close encounter.

Slow starters Eire Og push on to secure a semi-final place against O’D’s

Graham Tarmac Junior Football Championship

Laochra Loch Lao 0-8 Eire Og 2-14

It took them a while to get going but once they hit their stride there was no stopping Eire Og as the saw off the challenge of Laochra Loch Lao at Colaiste Feirste on Saturday. Seventeen minutes into this game they had just one point on the board to set level with their hosts, but from then on they added scores at regular intervals to end up with an impressive 2-14 and a semi-final spot against O’Donnell’s in two weeks’ time.

Laochra Loch Lao well in the game in the first half, and actually led by 0-6 to 0-5 at half time, but they lost their way badly in the second half as Eire Og, but they had a good season and qualified for the knock out stages for the first time.

Aaron Strain got the first score of the game for the hosts in the second minute, but it was to be 19 minutes before they scored again as Eire Og held the upper hand. Eire Og got going with a point from Kevin Clarke in the third minute, but they too were in no rush to trouble the scoreboard operator and it was a further fifteen minutes before PJ Toal put them ahead from a free on 17 minutes. A minute later Toal cut in along the endline and sent over another from play, and when Clarke swung one over with his left foot, from the right corner, they were 4-1 to the good.

It all seemed to be going so well for the visiotrs at this stage, but Laochra Loch Lao suddenly came to life, and a great spell which brought points from Tarlach Barclaigh, Kevin Devine and Paidi O’Tiarnagh (2) actually had them ahead at half time.

Niall Ward drew Eire Og level early in the second half, but Eanna O’Ceallaigh pointed to put the home side back ahead. That was as good as it got for Laochra however as Eire Og took control of the game. Points from Ward, PJ TOal, Conor McKenna and substitute Shaun McNamee put them in charge of the game. McNamee, who was named at midfield, but did not enter the action to the final quarter, put on a display during his cameo appearance, score three great points with frees off the ground, before wrapping it all up with a volleyed goal that will rival anything seen in the this completion for a very long time.

Fellow substitute Oran McMenamin also got a goal and PJ Toal added a couple points to wrap up a comprehensive win as seal a semi-final spot.

Pearses seal the win, but the Aggies made them work for it

Graham Tarmac Junior Football Championship Quarter-Final

Pearse’s 4-8 St Agnes’ 2-8

Paul McIntyre reports from Páric Éanna.

Pearse’s set up a semi-final meeting with St Malachy’s following a six-point win over St Agnes’ at Páric Éanna on Saturday afternoon.

It was a result that half-way through the second half was all but assured for the North Belfast side, but the Aggies refused to go down without a fight and it took a Liam Campbell goal with the very last kick of the game to confirm their passage to the last four.

Aggies full forward Ronan Carol who scored 2-3 in his team’s quarter final against Pearses.

The win was largely down to having greater fire power up front, which in the first half particularly, the Aggies struggled to contain.

The non-stop running of the Grew’s, Fionn and Oisin, the workrate of Sean Moreland and the energy of midfielder Piaras Donaghy were pivotal in seeing Declan Crummy’s side take control during the opening half.

Donaghy with Ruairi Bannon at his side in the middle of the park dominated the early exchanges and they continually supplied the Pearse’s forward unit of quality ball in the first half.

St Agnes’ over reliance on full forward Ronan Carroll proved to be their achilles heel. Playing with James Grieve was a tactic that didn’t work and when they introduced Peter Laverty nine minutes into the second half in a more advanced position, only then did they start to carve out more scoring opportunities.   

At the end of the first quarter, Pearse’s were full value for their 0-3 to 0-1 lead and maybe could have been further ahead with the possession that they had.

Declan McLarnon then cut the gap to one from a free on 17 minutes, but straight from the re-start Pearse’s claimed their first major of the day.

Oisin Grew linked up with Moreland who put Nathan Gorman in the clear. His initial shot was saved by Colum Carroll in the Aggies goal with the rebound then hitting the post of Gorman’s leg.

Fortunately, the ball fell inviting for the Pearse’s man and at the third attempt the half-back dispatched the ball into the net.

Ronan Carroll almost nicked a goal for the Aggies but a combination of Eamon McKenna and Cormac O’Neill denied the Aggies target man a deserving three-pointer.

A Patrick Mulgrew point kept St Agnes’ in touch but with four minutes to the break Pearse’s further tightened their grip on the contest.

Donaghy won a kick-out at midfield and quickly moved the ball to Moreland who’s first time pass put Oisin Grew through on goal and the corner forward finished high to the net for a six-point lead.

Gorman added a point as the Pearse’s finished the half strongly and at they break they held a healthy seven-point lead, 2-4 to 0-3.

Piaras Donaghy rises to catch a dropping ball during his team’s win over the Aggies at St Enda’s

St Agnes’ needed to start the second half the stronger, and they wasted no time in eating into their arrears with Ronan Carroll converting a free after 45 seconds.

But, with the Aggies pushing more bodies into the attack, Pearse’s were happy to absorb the pressure and hit the opposition on the break.

Points from Donaghy and Oisin Grew pushed their lead out to eight before a third goal looked to have put the game to bed.

A strong run from Donaghy from midfield sucked in the Aggies defence and his off-load found Fitzsimmons who beat Colum Carroll with a smart finish for a nine-point advantage.

St Agnes’ were given a lifeline back into the contest with ten minutes remaining.

Conall Turley’s run was brought abruptly to an end by Tom McFarlane, and from the resulting penalty, Ronan Carroll confidently dispatched the ball to McKenna’s right-hand corner.

Campbell seemed to confirm the result with a point for Pearse’s in the second minute of stoppage time, but a quickly taken free from Paul McClenaghan caused chaos in the Pearse’s goalmouth and Ronan Carroll took full advantage to claim his second goal of the game from close range.

It set up a grandstand finish but as the Aggies threw their lot into attack, Pearse’s hit them on the break again and Campbell took full advantage to dispatch a well-placed shot past Colum Carroll to wrap up a deserving six-point win for the New Lodge men.

Pearses corner forward Oisin Grew celebrates after scoring a goal

Team & Scorers:

Pearse’s: Eamon McKenna, Darren O’Neill, Cormac O’Neill, Ciaran McCavanna, Aidan Bannon, Aodhan McCavanna, Nathan Gorman, (1-1), Ruairi Bannon, Piaras Donaghy (0-1), Phil Murray, Stephen Fitzsimmons (1-1), Sean Moreland, Fionn Grew (0-1f), Liam Campbell (1-2), Oisin Grew (1-2).

Replacements: Tom McFarlane for A Bannon (39), Barry Harper for A McCavanna (46), James Smyth for R Bannon (50), Andrew Goodall for McFarlane (57).

St Agnes’: Colum Carroll, Patrick Carroll, Ryan Reilly, Killian McCormick, Brendan McLarnon, Mark Caldwell, Dylan Cunningham, Kealan McAllister (0-1), Patrick Mulgrew (0-1), Conall Turley (0-1), Declan McLarnon (0-2f), Matthew Corr, James Grieve, Ronan Carroll (2-3, 1-0 pen, 1f), Cormac McBride.

Replacements: Peter Laverty for Grieve (39), Shane Moran for Corr (43), Paul McClenaghan for McBride (47), Conor McLean for McAllister (52), James Halleron for Caldwell (52).

Referee: Mr Darren McKeown (St Galls).