McClean’s late magic sends Gorts to semis

AIB Ulster Club Junior Hurling Championship quarter-final

Gort na Móna (Antrim) 1-14 St Eunan’s (Donegal) 1-13

A point from a Dessie McClean free with the final puc of the game saw Antrim champions Gort na Móna book a place in the semi-final of the Ulster Junior Hurling Club Championship at the expense of Donegal champions St Eunan’s Letterkenny on Sunday afternoon. The Turf Lodge men led by two points (1-9 to 1-7) at the end of a keenly contested first half but any thoughts their fans might have had of them getting on top in the second period were not well founded as the Letterkenny based outfit more than matched the Antrim champions and had moved two points clear in the closing minutes. The Gorts fought back to level entering injury time and when Darren Boyd pointed them in front it seemed that they had done enough to claim the win. However St Eunan’s captain Conor O’Grady stepped up to the mark to hit the equaliser on 62 minutes and extra time looked like the most likely outcome until Dessie McClean stepped up to fire over the winner and send the Gorts fans into raptures.  

Darren Boyd runs at the St Eunan’s defence

Gort na Móna started the brighter of the two sides and points from McClean and Boyd gave them an early edge but things changed when St Eunan’s took advantage of a defensive slip to claim the first goal. With the game nearing the quarter mark Gorts took charge again with a well worked goal involving McKenna and McClean, which was well finished by centre forward Martin Ward but their hosts were giving as good as they got and they were able to peg back the Antrim champions who only held a two point lead at the break.  

During the second half the Donegal men kept up the pressure on the visitors and a Conor O’Grady point, this time from play, closed the gap to the minimum. Martin Ward had a chance for a second goal soon afterwards but his shot was off target and it set a trend as the Antrim men were unable to create a gap between themselves and their hosts. In fact St Eunan’s took the lead in the final quarter and though midfielder Declan Hughes pointed to bring the Gorts back on terms. However the Donegal champions came back with points from Hartnett and O’Grady and with just eight minutes of normal time to play, a real upset seemed on the cards. Veteran substitute Sean Kelly came to the Gorts rescue when he fired over the bar to cut the gap to a single point again and a sweet strike from a free by Dessie McClean tied up the scores in the final minutes.

Gorts midfielder Padraig McCaffrey in action

Padraig McCaffrey appeared to have sealed it when he pointed from play but St Eunan’s hit back with two points from O’Grady to edge in front at the game went into injury time, but once again Dessie McClean found an answer to tie things up yet again. Boyd appeared to have sealed it with his late point but the Gorts fans had more anguish to endure as O’Gardy hit his eight score of the game. The Turf Lodge side must have been getting ready for extra time when not for the first time this season Dessie McClean produced his magic and his wonderful point from distance sealed a dramatic win.     

GORT NA MÓNA: P Fryers; S Doyle, N Henry, C Devlin; G McKenna, P McHugh, M Rea; D Hughes, P McCaffrey 0-3; T McCaffrey, M Ward 1-0, C McCann; B Quinn, D Boyd 0-2, D McClean 0-8 (0-7fs).

Subs: S Kelly 0-1 for Ward (48mins), C McErlaine for Doyle (48mins), N Healy for Quinn (55mins). .

ST EUNAN’S: C Hennessy; B McIntyre, A Gaffey, S Halvey; J Matthews, S Doherty, C O’Donnell 0-1; S McVeigh 0-1, C Finn; M Ahern, R Hilferty, T Hartnett 0-1; J Hartnett 1-0, C O’Grady 0-9 (0-7fs), K Kealy 0-1.

Sub: O McGonigle for Ahern (46mins).

REFEREE: A Ferguson (Fermanagh)

Gorts head to Donegal to face St. Eunan’s

Ulster Junior Hurling Club Championship

St. Eunan’s Letterkenny v Gort na Mona

Letterkenny  12-45pm

Referee: Aidan Ferguson

Gort na Mona make the journey to Letterkenny on Sunday as they begin their Ulster Junior Club championship campaign and it is a game the Antrim champions look capable of winning. The Turf Lodge side have had a great season in Antrim, winning division 3 of the All County league before going on to complete the double with a championship win.

The Gorts began their championship campaign with a quarter-final win over Con Magees, Glenravel. The favourites Gort na Mona progressed to the last four with 12 points to spare over Con Magees in Ahoghill.  Despite a spirited challenge from the Glenravel men, Gort na Mona never really looked troubled over the hour in a comfortable afternoon’s work for the men from Turf Lodge.

A first half goal from Dessie McClean and two in two minutes from substitute Christopher McErlean paved the way for the Gort victory.  McClean top scored for the Gorts with seven points in addition to his first half major but this victory was built around the strength in their half backs and midfield.  Padraig McHugh had a major influence throughout from centre half while Patrick McCaffrey and Declan Hughes went through a mountain of work to help the Gorts maintain a sense of control over this quarter-final.

In the semi-final Gort na Mona faced what looked like a stiff challenge when they were drawn against St. Mary’s Rasharkin under the floodlights at Quinn Park. A devastating scoring spell, which yielded four goals in as many minutes midway through the first half, paved the way for Gort na Mona to seal a place in the Junior Hurling Championship final with St Paul’s.  The Turf Lodge side had 13 points to spare over Rasharkin at the end of the hour, thanks largely to a fantastic display from Dessie McClean.  The former county man helped himself to 3-7, his three goals all coming in that four minute onslaught in the first half.

Patrick McCaffrey and substitute Christopher McErlean added the other goals for the Gorts who put in a hugely impressive and controlled display throughout. 

On the other side of the draw, St. Paul’s, who had finished second to Gort na Mona in the league were turning in some impressive performances of their own and wins over St. Teresa’s in the quarter-final and a great semi-final comeback against Shane O’Neill’s, Glenarm suggested that they would give the Turf Lodge side their fill of it in the Antrim decider.

Junior Hurling Championship final

Gort na Mona 0-20 St. Paul’s 0-14

Dessie McClean scored 0-12 as Gort na Mona proved too good in the end for a battling St. Paul’s side who kept going right until the final whistle. The former county man gave an outstanding exhibition of free taking, landing at least four from beyond 70 meters and punished every foul that the opposition conceded.

McClean got the Turf Lodge men off the mark from a free in the opening minute before Sean O’Carroll equalised with a point from play with two minutes on the clock. O’Carroll fired over when he might have had a goal but it was Gort na Mona who went on to dominate the opening exchanges.

St. Paul’s staged a strong second half comeback but in the end they had no answer to the superior teamwork and scoring power of Gort na Mona who had six points to spare at the final whistle.

They were solid in defence where keeper Padraig Fryer, Niall Henry, Padraig McHugh and Mark Rea excelled. Patrick McCaffery and Declan Hughes dominated at mid-field while Dessie McClean and Thomas McCaffery were superb in a sharp attack.

What of St. Eunan’s ?

Gort na Mona’s opponents on Sunday, St. Eunana’s actually played in the Donegal senior championship and were beat in the final by Setanta.

Setanta defeated the Letterkenny side by 3-13 to 0-13 at O’Donnell Park. The Cathedral Town side opened the scoring through Conor O’Donnell and after 14 minutes led by 0-5 to 0-3.

But Setanta came back into the game and a goal by Mark Devine enabled them to lead by 1-10 to 0-9 at the break. Declan Coulter got a second goal for Setanta and a third goal from Devine put them 3-10 to 0-12 ahead inside the third quarter. The men from the Cross finished strongly and won by nine points.

St. Eunan’s should not be taken lightly. Setanta have been a major force in Donegal hurling for many years and despite that defeat St. Eunan’s acquitted themselves well and with home advantage will fancy their chances against the Antrim champions.

If Gort na Mona can produce anything like their best form they have nothing to fear however and Dessie McClean, Patrick and Tomas McCaffrey, Martin Ward, Darren Boyd and Conor McCann should have too much firepower and knowhow for the Donegal side.

Gort na Mona could have the edge against improving St. Paul’s

Casement Social Club Junior Hurling Championship final

Gort na Mona v St. Pauls

Saturday: Lamh Dhearg  1-45pm

Tomorrow’s Junior hurling championship final at Lamh Dhearg features West Belfast rivals, Gort na Mona and St. Paul’s and appears to have all the ingredients of a real cracker. The sides finished first and second in division 3 of the league this year with the Turf Lodge side taking the title.

The Gorts defeated their West Belfast neighbours 1-15 to 2-7 at Shaw’s Road in their most recent meeting at the start of August and have had a more consistent league campaign, finishing four points ahead of them to take the league title.

St. Paul’s, while less consistent that Gort na Mona never the less recorded some impressive results in the league and carried that good form into the championship. They began this year’s campaign with a win over St. Teresa’s at Lamh Dhearg.

First-half goals from Colm McLarnon, Stephen Rooney and Sean Lawell saw St Pauls get the better of local rivals St Teresa’s and book a place in the semi-final of the Casement Social Club Junior Hurling Championship after a 3-11-0-13 win.

They controlled the opening half of this game and although a Philly Maguire led St. Teresa’s fared much better after the break they never really looked like reeling in a sweet moving St. Paul’s side. That was on a Friday night and the following day it was the turn of Gort na Mona to make their championship debut and they did so in style with a convincing 3-14 to 1-7 win over Glenravel at Ahoghill.

A first half goal from Desi McClean and two in two minutes from substitute Christopher McErlean paved the way for the Gort victory.  McClean top scored for the Gorts with seven points in addition to his first half major but this victory was built around the strength in their half backs and midfield.  Padraig McHugh had a major influence throughout from centre half while Patrick McCaffrey and Declan Hughes went through a mountain of work to help the Gorts maintain a sense of control over this quarter-final.

Both semi-finals were staged under the lights at Quinn Park, Ballymena and the first of these between St. Paul’s and Shane O’Neill’s Glenarm was a real cracker. A fine exhibition of free taking by Stephen Rooney pointed St. Paul’s through to a place in the Junior Hurling Championship final when they came from behind to pip their North Antrim rivals.

Glenarm had much the better of the first half exchanges and with the excellent Darren Hamill in fine form they led by 0-8 to 0-4 at the break and might have been further ahead though their opponents were guilty of some poor shooting during the opening 30 minutes.

Stephen Rooney got St. Paul’s on their way from a free in the second minute of the second half before Joe Gillen got down well to deny Darren Hamill what looked a certain goal, the St. Paul’s keeper going full stretch to his left to deny Glenarm’s ace marksman.

The West Belfast side had the bit now firmly between their teeth as Stephen Rooney sent over his seventh point of the game in the 28th minute to edge his side ahead for the first time before Conal Finnegan saw his effort come back of a post with keeper Liam Mulvenna stranded.

A great comeback by St. Paul’s led by the accuracy of Stephen Rooney who top scored on the night but he was only one of a handful of stars in a dogged St. Paul’s side. Keeper Joe Gillen pulled off a couple of good saves and Sean Lawell, Fionntan Gamble, Patrick Doyle and James Farrell all impressed.

In the second semi-final Gort na Mona took on St. Mary’s Rasharkin at the same venue. A devastating scoring spell, which yielded four goals in as many minutes midway through the first half, paved the way for Gort na Mona to seal a place in the Junior Hurling Championship final with St Paul’s.  The Turf Lodge side had 13 points to spare over Rasharkin at the end of the hour, thanks largely to a fantastic display from Desi McClean.  The former county man helped himself to 3-7, his three goals all coming in that four minute onslaught in the first half.

Patrick McCaffrey and substitute Christopher McErlean added the other goals for the Gorts who put in a hugely impressive and controlled display throughout.

Based on those two semi-final performances and on their respective league campaigns, Gort na Mona will start tomorrow’s final as favourites but they will have to maintain that form if they are to beat a St. Paul’s side who look to be peaking just at the right time.

Much could depend on how the opposing defences deal with Dessie McClean and Stephen Rooney and I expect there to be little between them at the end but I give a tentative not to the Turf Lodge side to go on and complete a memorable league and championship double.

First half goal-rush eases Gorts through to decider

Casement Social Club

Junior Hurling Championship Semi-Final

Rasharkin 3-8 Gort na Mona 5-15

Wednesday September 18

Brendan McTaggart reports from Slemish Park, Ballymena

A devastating scoring spell, which yielded four goals in as many minutes midway through the first half, paved the way for Gort na Mona to seal a place in the Junior Hurling Championship final with St Paul’s.  The Turf Lodge side had 13 points to spare over Rasharkin at the end of the hour, thanks largely to a fantastic display from Desi McClean.  The former county man helped himself to 3-7, his three goals all coming in that four minute onslaught in the first half.

Patrick McCaffrey and substitute Christopher McErlean added the other goals for the Gorts who put in a hugely impressive and controlled display throughout.  Rasharkin started brightly and led by three points when Conor McFerran scored their second goal in the eighth minute, Brendan ‘Bimbo’ McMullan with their first major but Gort were sensational in the first half.  They held an 11 point lead by the short whistle and kept Rasharkin at arm’s length in the second half.  The men from Dreen competed much better after the restart and kept a much tighter eye on McClean but the Gort defence were imperious led superbly by Padraig McHugh.  Rasharkin had substitute Paul McMullan sent off with two minutes of the hour remaining but it had no effect on the score. 

Under the floodlights at Slemish Park, there wasn’t an air on a perfect night for hurling.  Gort showed their intent when McClean fired over their opening score from a free in the first minute but the Rasharkin response was perfect.  A Declan McKay sideline wasn’t dealt with in the Gort full back line and ‘Bimbo’ took full advantage, sweeping the sliotar to the back of the net for the games first goal in the second minute.

The Turf Lodge men answered with three points in quick succession, Darren Boyd, Martin Ward and McClean (free) as they began to get used to the conditions.  Both sides were struggling with the floodlights although McClean was already a handful for the Rasharkin defence.  Three clean catches in the opening five minutes with direct ball played into his path gave the Gorts an edge in attack that Rasharkin struggled with.  Donagh Quigg split the posts in the seventh minute to tie the sides once again before Rasharkin scored their second goal.  James Scally sending the sliotar into the heart of the Gort defence where Conor McFerran applied the finish.

Rasharkin were causing the Gort na Mona full back line plenty of problems but the Turf Lodge side went on to produce five minutes that put them in control of the semi-final.  Patrick McCaffrey split the uprights before McClean hammered a 21 yard free high into the back of the Rasharkin net, despite five men on the line.  A thunderous drive and while Tiarnan O’Boyle responded with a fine point with the next attack, the Gorts were celebrating a further three goals with the next three attacks, Patrick McCaffrey and two for McClean.  The Gorts fourth and McClean’s third was a piece of individual brilliance, collecting the sliotar and charging on goal, McClean spotted Brian Og O’Neill coming off his line and he lobbed the sliotar over the Rasharkin ‘keeper to the back of the net to open a nine point lead.

Rasharkin rejigged and dropped McKay in as sweeper but the damage was done at that stage.  Points from Eamon McNeill, Shane Hasson (free), Tiarnan O’Boyle and James Scally were in response to white flags from Martin Ward, Thomas McCaffrey, Connor McCann and three from McClean (two frees and one ’65) to take his first half tally to 3-5.

Half time: Gort na Mona 4-11 Rasharkin 2-6

After the first half fireworks, the second half had a sedate feel for the opening exchanges after the restart.  Rasharkin tighten up in defence and while they began to get to grips with the Gort attacking unit, they got no change from a well organised and strong Gort na Mona defence.

Shane Hasson’s second free of the night opened the scoring four minutes after the break but that was Rasharkin’s last score for 16 minutes.  A brace of points from McClean (one free) preceded their fifth goal of the night in the 44th minute.  The impressive Patrick McCaffrey sending a high ball into the heart of the Rasharkin defence where substitute Christopher McErlean met the sliotar first time, pulling to the back of the net with his first touch of the match.  A superb goal that effectively ended the match as a contest.  Gort na Mona began to unload their bench while maintaining control.

Martin Ward’s third white flag of the match opened a 16 point lead for the Gort’s before Rasharkin scored their third major.  Collecting a ball in from Scally, substitute Eoin Kennedy kicked the sliotar beyond Padraig Fryers in the Gort goals.

Rasharkin were reduced to 14 men when substitute Paul McMullan saw red for dangerous use of his hurl in the 58th minute but it had no bearing on the final score.  Scally (free) and Patrick McCaffrey rounded off the scoring as Gort na Mona saw out the remaining time with little alarm.

A solid performance from the Turf Lodge side who will go into the decider against St Pauls on Saturday week as favourites.

TEAMS

Rasharkin: Brian Og O’Neill; Conor Doherty, Daniel Doherty, Liam Tunney; James Scally, Aiden McKeever, Conor Hasson; Emmet McFerran, Tiarnan O’Boyle; Shane Hasson, Declan McKay, Donagh Quigg; Eamon McNeill, Brendan McMullan, Conor McFerran.

Subs: Daniel Hasson for T O’Boyle (39); Eoin Kennedy for E McNeill (45); Paul McMullan for L Tunney (45); Shane Doherty for B McMullan (57).

Scorers: Brendan McMullan 1-00; Conor McFerran 1-00; Eoin Kennedy 1-00; Tiarnan O’Boyle 0-2; Shane Hasson 0-2 (2 f’s); James Scally 0-2 (1 f); Donagh Quigg 0-1; Eamon McNeill 0-1.

Gort na Mona: Padraig Fryers; James Connolly, Neil Henry, Christopher Devlin; Gavin McKenna, Padraig McHugh, Mark Rea; Declan Hughes, Patrick McCaffrey; Thomas McCaffrey, Martin Ward, Connor McCann; Brendan Quinn, Darren Boyd, Desi McClean.

Subs: Christopher McErlean for N Henry (42); Patrick Cournane for B Quinn (44); Sean Doyle for M Rea (49); Conor Healy for M Ward (55).

Scorers: Desi McClean 3-7 (1-4 f’s, 1 ’65); Patrick McCaffrey 1-2; Martin Ward 0-3; Christopher McErlean 1-00; Connor McCann 0-1; Darren Boyd 0-1; Thomas McCaffrey 0-1

Referee: Malachy Leech (Oisins)

Rooney points St. Paul’s to Junior final

Casements Social Club Junior Hurling Championship semi-final

St. Paul’s 0-12 Glenarm 0-11

A fine exhibition of free taking by Stephen Rooney pointed St. Paul’s through to a place in the Junior Hurling Championship final when they came from behind to pip Shane O’Neill’s, Glenarm at Quinn Park, Ballymena tonight.

The North Antrim side had much the better of the first half exchanges and led by the excellent Darren Hamill they led by 0-8 to 0-4 at the break and might have been further ahead though their opponents were guilty of some poor shooting during the opening 30 minutes.

It was Glenarm’s Darren Hamill who led the first half charge and after being denied a goal by Joe Gillen in the second minute he fired over three points to move his side into a 0-3 to 0-0 lead by the 7th minute.

St. Paul’s wasted a couple of opportunities to open their account and when Darren Hamill raised the Feystown side’s fourth white flag in the 15th minute they appeared to be coasting. St. Paul’s cause certainly wasn’t being helped by some wayward shooting and it took 16 minutes before Stephen Rooney opened their account from a free.

Thirty seconds later Glenarm were four ahead again as Darren Hamill raced clear for a point but the Shaw’s Road side had an opportunity to get right back into the game when James Farrell broke clear at the other end but his well struck shot sailed over when a goal looked on.

Things were certainly livening up as Joe Gillen made an excellent save to deny Dylan McLaughlin from close range in the 20th minute but the same player sent over a 22nd minute free to extend his side’s advantage to four again.

McLaughlin was then the recipient of a bad tackle from Chris Murray which earned the St. Paul’s man a yellow with the crowd howling for red before Gerard Carberry replied for the hoops with a point in the 27th minute to leave just three in it once more.

Glenarm finished strongly with scores from McLaughlin and Hamill in response to a converted free from Stephen Rooney, deep in injury time to lead by four at the break and they were good value for that lead though they had lost mid-fielder Conal Ward to injury.

At half time both sides would probably have reflected on the number of opportunities that they had wasted but it was a much more focused and determined St. Paul’s side who came out of the starting blocks in the second half.

Stephen Rooney got them on their way from a free in the second minute before Joe Gillen got down well to deny Darren Hamill what looked a certain goal, the St. Paul’s keeper going full stretch to his left to deny Glenarm’s ace marksman.

Dylan McLaughlin extended the Glenarm lead to four once more as he sent over a good point in the 5th minute but the momentum was beginning to swing very much the way of the Belfast side as Rooney pointed another free and Gerard Carberry followed from play to close the gap to two with 11 minutes gone.

Stephen Rooney had certainly adjusted his sites and he struck another wonderful effort off the ground to close the gap to one before Darren Hamill replied with only Glenarm’s second point of the half in the 16th minute.

The hits were going in hard and fast but the momentum was now very much with the Shaw’s Road side as the Shane O’Neill’s attack struggled to make any impact against a St. Paul’s defence who had tightened considerably from the opening half.

Stephen Rooney was in inspirational form as he closed the gap to one once more before firing over a ‘65’ from near the sideline to tie the contest as the St. Paul’s support began to find their voice.

Dylan McLaughlin edged the Feystown men ahead once more from only their third point of the half, a superb effort that failed to lift his colleagues as St. Paul’s came back once again through Ciaran Hetherington.

The West Belfast side had the bit now firmly between their teeth as Stephen Rooney sent over his seventh point of the game in the 28th minute to edge his side ahead for the first time before Conal Finnegan saw his effort come back of a post with keeper Liam Mulvenna stranded.

A great comeback by St. Paul’s led by the accuracy of Stephen Rooney who top scored on the night but he was only one of a handful of stars in a dogged St. Paul’s side. Keeper Joe Gillen pulled off a couple of good saves and Sean Lawell, Fionntan Gamble, Patrick Doyle and James Farrell all impressed.

Spare a thought for Glenarm. They have come close to Junior Championship glory over the last number of years and must have felt at half time that this was going to be their year. Darren Hamill was immense during the opening half and might have had two goals while Jake Hamilton, Ben O’Boyle, Daniel Black and Dylan McLaughlin gave it everything on the night.

St. Paul’s: Joe Gillen, Daire Stevenson, Christopher Murray, Ciaran O’Carroll, Andrew McMorrow, Carbara O’Callaghan, Sean Lawell, Fionntan Gamble, Declan  Chapman,, Sean O’Carroll, Ciaran Rea, Patrick Doyle, Stephen Rooney, James Farrell. Subs: Conal Finnegan, Gerard Carberry, Kirk Murray, Fra Sewell.

Glenarm: Liam Mulvenna, Paul Magill, Barry Hamill, Aidan O’Neill, Declan McDermott, Jake Hamilton, Ben O’Boyle, Conal Ward, Daniel Black, Ryan McLaughlin, Dylan McLaughlin, Patrick McAuley, Kevin O’Boyle, Darren Hamill, Sean are. Subs: Rory Mulvenna for Conal Ward

Referee: Vincent Boyle (Dunloy)