Bank of Ireland Ulster u21 Club Football Tournament
Paddy McLarnon Semi-Final
Sunday February 3
Carryduff 2-12 St Brigid’s, Belfast 2-11
Brendan McTaggart reports from Páirc Chiceam
I know it’s a cliché, but no-one deserved to lose this semi-final. 60 minutes of pure football that no-one in attendance at Páirc Chiceam wanted to end. In the end, it was Carryduff who edged their neighbours with Daniel Guinness landing the decisive score in the last minute of normal time.
It was end to end football played at a frenetic pace and the most beautiful facet of the game was the fact there wasn’t a blanket or sweeper to be seen. Two teams putting faith in their own athleticisim and footballing ability to get the result they wanted. Carryduff and St Brigid’s played football how we all want it to be. For 60 plus minutes it was footballing heaven. Skills and spills, delicious dummies and tantalising points. Telling blows, brilliant goals and last gasp blocks. This one had everything and the large crowd in attendance were treated to a footballing feast.
Dubbed as the ‘BT9 Skinny Latte Derby’ over the PA system, St Brigid’s started brightly over their neighbours with their attacking unit making use of the spaces in the Carryduff defence. The Down men opened the scoring with Ronan Beatty firing over his first of five frees after three minutes but the Antrim champions began to fire. First Peter Webb, a delicious score with Rory Brolly providing the assist. Peter Henvey finished a flowing move to give the Musgrave Park side the lead before Brolly and James Smith opened a three point lead for St Brigid’s after just eight minutes.
St Brigid’s were dominant and Carryduff were left searching for answers. It was going to take something special to get them back into the game even at this early stage and it was midfielder Josh Connery who provided the piece of magic for his side. Collecting the ball 30 yards from goal, Connery evaded the St Brigid’s defence with a sumptuous dummy before drilling to the ball to the bottom corner of John Toner’s net.
The goal proved to be the decisive score of the first half as Carryduff edged the half. Points from John McGeogh (’45), Beatty (three frees) and Connery were answered to by Webb (two) and James Smith as Carryduff took a two point lead into the interval.
The frenetic pace showed little signs of dwindling after the restart and despite Carryduff opening the scoring with Pearse Laverty’s point in the 32nd minute, the Antrim champions were back on terms shortly after. Probing their way through the Carryduff defence, Peter Webb found James Smith who laid the ball into Patrick Finnegan’s path. The St Brigid man went for goal and although his effort was deflected over, referee Martin Conroy awarded them a penalty. Peter Henvey showed huge composure to fire the ball high into the net despite Darren Ross going the right direction, Henvey’s effort nestled into the back of the net.
The Carryduff response was symbolic of the semi-final. Instant, dramatic and another telling blow. Ciaran Sherry collecting the ball wide on the right with the next attack before feeding McGeogh on the burst. The Carryduff half back elected to pass square to Darragh Connolly and he made no mistake by palming the ball to the back of the net.
The perfect response and when Beatty (free) and Owen McCabe split the uprights soon after, Carryduff had a five point lead after just ten minutes of the second half.
St Brigid’s regrouped however and dragged themselves back into the game. First John Blaney and Brolly with his second of the semi-final brought them to within touching distance of their neighbours. Ronan Beatty responded for Carryduff but St Brigid’s were playing with a new found purpose and looked like they were determined to reel in the Carryduff lead.
Finnegan, so influential in a St Brigid’s shirt landed a superb score wide on the left with his right foot and while Beatty’s second point from play restored the four point lead in the 52nd minute, St Brigid’s landed another blow with their second major. Paul Bradley finding Peter King before the St Brigid’s midfielder passed to Smith on the edge of the square with the St Brigid’s midfielder palming to the back of the net.
Just like the St Brigid;s first goal however, Carryduff responded in kind. This time though it didn’t quite go to plan. They had the ball in the back of the less than 60 seconds after the St Brigid’s goal but Eoin Rooney’s effort was deflected in to the net by Laverty who was inside the square. A reprieve for St Brigid’s and they looked to take full advantage.
With three minutes remaining, James Smith collected the ball 40 yards from goal. With one swing of his right leg, Smith had landed a scintillating point that was worthy of the occasion. All thoughts turned to extra time but Carryduff weren’t finished. Daniel Guinness, so influential for the Down champions in the second half collected the ball in midfield and went on another lung busting run. Holding off challenges and riding a heavy tackle, Guinness went for glory from the edge of the ‘D’. the umpires signalled wide. The referee overruled. Carryduff took the lead and Guinness had the games decisive score. St Brigid’s pushed for an equaliser to force extra time but Carryduff defended resolutely. Rory Brolly had half a chance when he shot for goal under huge pressure but the ball skewed wide with what was the last kick of the game.
Carryduff win and progress but this was a game where St Brigid’s can also be called winners. Faith in the big ball well and truly restored after 60 minutes of pure football.T
St Brigids: John Toner; Henry McGuigan, Conor King, Daire McGarvey; John Morgan, Michael Cummings, Daniel Foster; Peter King, Patrick Finnegan (0-1); Peter Webb (0-3), John Blaney (0-1), Rory Brolly (0-2), Michael Cummings; Ethan Carleton, James Smith (1-3, 1f), Peter Henvey (1-1).
Subs: Brian McCarthy for H McGuigan (36); Brogan Austin for D Foster (43); Paul Bradley for D Connolly (49).
Carryduff: Darren Ross; Lorcan Toal, Gareth Henderson, Caolan Cunningham; John McGeogh (0-1, 1’45), Daniel Coogan, Daniel Guinness (0-1); Pearse Laverty (0-1), Josh Connery (1-1); Rory Anderson, Owen McCabe (0-1), Peter Loughran; Darragh Connolly (1-00), Ronan Beatty (0-7, 5 f’s), Ciaran Sherry.
Subs: Michael Lawson for C Sherry (40); Eoin Rooney for D Connolly (53)
Referee: Martin Conroy (Moy, Tyrone)