Lámh Dhearg 0-15-0-13 St John’s
By Kevin Herron at Chapel Hill
Lámh Dhearg bridged a 25-year gap and put their name on the Padraig MacNamee trophy for the fourth time with a 0-15-0-13 win over St John’s in an epic final at Chapel Hill on Sunday afternoon.
Many of the critics couldn’t separate the sides in the build up and their hesitancy was justified as the two West Belfast sides were level on no less than eight occasions before Lámh Dhearg kicked the final two scores in a frenzied last ten action packed minutes of injury-time which saw referee Eamonn McAuley produce three red-cards.
Lámh Dhearg made one change from their semi-final win over Creggan with Paddy Mervyn replacing Chris Nolan, while St John’s were without midfield duo Simon McDonagh and Ronan McCafferty after red-cards during the titanic clashes with Cargin, manager Paddy Nugent opted to field Jack Hannigan and Ryan McNulty in the engine room.
Lámh Dhearg had experienced five final defeats in the last fourteen years and despite their vast experience in the big occasions, they started nervously as Paddy Cunningham failed to convert an early free which dropped short.
Five minutes into the game the opening score arrived courtesy of Simon McDonagh’s replacement Jack Hannigan who split the posts from a shot off his right boot.
The Johnnies doubled their lead though a Paddy McBride point from a free a minute later, but Lámh Dhearg finally found their composure with Fermanagh ace Ciaran Flaherty driving the ball over the bar to half the deficit.
Paddy Cunningham squared the game up on 12 minutes after a fine score from the experienced corner-forward.
Despite Ryan McNulty converting a free to restore St John’s lead, Lámh Dhearg responded with Paddy Cunningham converting a free to level the game for the second time at 0-03 apiece.
The first goal chance fell to Lámh Dhearg after Flaherty did well to turn the ball over twenty metres from goal, however the Fermanagh native was denied by the crossbar as his chipped effort that had Padraig Nugent beaten crashed off the post and too safety, much to the frustration of Flaherty.
St John’s opened up a two-point lead once more with a quick fire double from Jack Hannigan and McBride, their lead lasted little more than two minutes however as Ryan Murray hit his first score of the afternoon and Cunningham converted his second free of the afternoon to level the scores for the third time at 0-05-0-05.
The Red hands hit the front for the first time through attacking wing-half back Brendan McComb who hit a fine point after his darting run down the right channel and a third converted free from Cunningham gave his side a 0-07-0-05 lead with five minutes of the half remaining.
The sides then traded scores with Patrick McBride hitting a marvellous score that sailed over in the wind, only for Paddy Mervyn to hit back at the other end.
Matthew Fitzpatrick ensured that the Lámhs would lead by just the minimum at the break with a superb score from play to make the score 0-08-0-07 at the end of thirty absorbing minutes at Glenavy.
St John’s levelled the game for the fourth time less than sixty seconds after the restart through a coolly fashioned Jack Hannigan point, but they only level for four minutes as Paddy Cunningham landed his second point from play of the afternoon to edge his side a point ahead once more.
The pendulum would swing back into the Corrigan Park men’s favour however as the three consecutive scores gave St John’s a two-point lead for the third time in the game.
Ryan McNulty kicked his side level with a minute of Cunningham restoring Lámh Dhearg’s lead and superbly worked scores from Conor Johnston and McBride gave the Whiterock Road men a 0-11-0-09 lead with almost ten minutes gone in the half.
Lámh Dhearg needed the next score and Paddy Cunningham was the man to deliver, the corner forward renowned for his coolness when tasked with a placed ball, landed two in a row to draw the sides level for the sixth time at 0-11 apiece.
With little over ten minutes remaining Kevin Quinn edged his side ahead with a lovely score from the right, but St John’s hit back through a wonderfully crafted Hannigan point, the midfielders third of the afternoon to make it 0-12-0-12.
Lámh Dhearg also suffered a blow of having substitute Ben Rice black carded for grappling with Stephen Tierney off the ball; however Conor Murray came up with the goods to give his side a 0-13-0-12 lead with just a minute to go.
St John’s needed a quick score and they showed their immense character as Marc McGarry gave away a scoreable free which Patrick McBride converted to level the score for the eighth and final time in a breathtaking contest at Chapel Hill.
Referee Eamonn McAuley signalled for four minutes of added time as both sides attempted to land the decisive blow.
Paddy Cunningham had the opportunity to give his side the lead two minutes into the four added on, however just like the start of the game Cunningham dropped his free short, the ball was eventually recycled out to the corner-forward who wasn’t about to miss at the second time of asking and Cunningham conjured up his eighth point of the afternoon to make it 0-14-0-13.
In the aftermath of Cunningham’s point the play was delayed as a number of off the ball incidents left referee Eamonn McAuley with some consultation with his officials.
After taking his time to consider all advice McAuley issued Adrian Oliver and Lámh Dhearg substitute Terry McCrudden with red-cards and then gave Ryan Murray a black.
St John’s desperately pushed for the equalising score, but they were exposed and caught out after committing too many players forward and after black card substitute Eoghan McKeown turned the ball over, Declan Lynch fisted the ball over the bar to put two-points between the sides.
Play was then interrupted as Domhnall Nugent kicked the ball away as brother Padraig was about to take the subsequent kick out, frustration got the better of Padraig who hit out and received a red-card with brother Domhnall picking up a yellow for his time wasting strategy.
After almost ten frenzied and exciting additional minutes at Chapel Hill, McAuley blew his full-time whistle and the Lámh Dhearg contingent joined their heroes on the field to celebrate their first senior championship success since 1992 and first on the field since 1971.
Lámh Dhearg captain John Finucane hoisted the Padraig MacNamee trophy high into the Glenavy sky as the Hannahstown men headed back to their clubrooms to celebrate their success and leave St John’s dejected after a gallant effort which saw the Whiterock men tumble double championship winners Cargin and push them all the way in the bid for the Eddie Fitzsimons memorial trophy.
The Lámhs will now tackle Cavan Gaels in the Quarter-final of the Ulster Club Championship in two weeks time as they hope to extend with season into the winter months.
Lámh Dhearg: J Finucane, P Mervyn (0-01), A McAufield, M McGarry, D Lynch (0-01), M Herron, B McComb (0-01), P Fitzsimons, D Nugent, E McKeown, C Flaherty (0-01), C Murray (0-01), P Cunningham (0-08,0-05f), R Murray (0-01), K Quinn (0-01). Subs: B Rice for E McKeown (49 mins), G Slane for B Rice (57 mins), T McCrudden for B McComb (57 mins), C Nolan for M McGarry (60 mins), P Larkin for P Mervyn (62 mins), E McKeown for R Murray (66 mins).
St John’s: P Nugent, A Douglas, A Oliver, M Dudley, C Garland, M Bradley, P Donnelly, J Hannigan (0-04), R McNulty (0-02,0-01f), P McBride (0-05,0-02f), Conor Johnston (0-01), M Fitzpatrick (0-01), Ciaran Johnston, P McCallin, L Pedan. Subs: C McEvoy for L Pedan (31 mins), S Tierney for Ciaran Johnston (50 mins), R Hannigan for P Donnelly (55 mins), C McGlade for P McCallin (59 mins), A Press for J Hannigan (62 mins).
Referee: Eamonn McAuley (Erin’s Own)