Derry and Antrim Champions Join Tattyreagh and Mullahoran in Ulster Intermediate Semis!!!
Dressed in a fetching dune coloured suit, it was Alan Hansen who mouthed the now infamous line, “You can’t win anything with kids!” in the Match Of The Day studio, on the first day of the 1995/96 English Premiership season.
He’s known about it ever since!
The Manchester United side, who Liverpool talisman Hansen had been so disparaging about on that opening day, finished the season with a league title and an FA Cup, as Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, David Beckham and the Neville brothers announced themselves on the footballing stage.
That group of players, that would form the backbone of the historic 1999 treble winning side, would become known as Fergie’s Fledglings, and would amass 364 England caps between the five of them in what turned into glittering, trophy laden careers, for each.
The Hightown Road might be far-flung from Old Trafford, but in North Belfast, another group of young sportsmen are chasing their own sporting fairy tale in 2018.
The footballers of St. Enda’s, Glengormley, or Frankie’s Fledglings, as Ball-X will now refer to them as, made the short trip across the city to Corrigan Park, to face a Doohmalet side well versed in the workings of the Ulster Intermediate Championship.
The Monaghan side, who made the final of the competition in 2010, also competed in 2011 and 2015, after claiming county championships, and they arrived in Belfast as heavy favourites to overcome a club lining out for the very first time, in provincial competition at any level.
One might have expected Frank Fitzsimmon’s youthful troops to wilt on such a momentous day for all Naomh Éanna Gaels, and there’d have been no disgrace in doing so, against their much fancied opponents. But instead, came a performance of the most measured composure, which defied their short years.
From the moment Eoin Nagle hooked the ball over his left-shoulder to register the game’s opening score in the fifth minute, St. Enda’s grip on proceedings was consummate.
Yes, there were times the more experienced O’Neill’s threatened to disrupt the carnival atmosphere created by the hordes of yellow and black bedecked Naomh Éanna supporters in the crowd. Barry McBennett slotted home from the penalty spot to draw things level half-way through the first half, but devoid of the services of county star Colin Walshe, who was ruled out through injury, the Doohamlet men found hitting the front impossible in the autumn sunshine.
Kristian Healy’s well taken goal gave the Antrim side a five point lead at half-time, and despite Doohmalet substitute Oisin O’Neill netting with what was virtually his first touch at the beginning of the second half, St. Enda’s were able to recompose and assert control again. Odhran Eastwood assured from the placed ball, and Nagle, Ruairi Scott and substitute Ciaran O’Neill tagging on scores from play.
With eight minutes to go, Doohamlet were thrown yet another lifeline. Midfielder Jamie Walshe, who had earlier, remained on the pitch in bizarre circumstances when referee Dan Mullan seemed to think twice about giving the Monaghan man a second yellow card, grabbed a goal to bring his side back within one. But the Glengormley men would pull clear once more in the closing minutes, as points from the Healy brothers and a well worked goal from Scott saw them through to a semi-final meeting with Tyrone champions Tattyreagh on a scoreline of 2-15 to 3-05.
Tattyreagh themselves looked assured in their victory over St Peter’s, Lurgan in Armagh on Saturday evening. That, despite, suffering a late scare.
Stephen McHugh’s men found themselves five points to the good in the blink of an eye in the Athletic Grounds, as early points from Jarlath McDonagh and Joe Cartin sandwiched a a goal from full-forward James Darcy.
St. Peter’s responded with a point from captain Niall McConville before Fergal Moore grabbed himself a goal to haul the Lurgan side right back into things in the thirteenth minute.
The remainder of the first-half saw both sides trade scores in what was a pulsating half-hour of football. But, it was Tattyreagh who would bring a five point lead into the break when McDonagh smashed the ball past Darren Kelly in the Peter’s goal in the final minute of the half to leave the scores 2-07 to 1-05.
The second period saw the St. Patrick’s maintain their cushion despite the best efforts of McConville, who ensured the North Armagh side at least kept touch. What looked to be the game clincher came with eight minutes remaining when Gareth Mimnagh got the telling touch during an all-mighty scramble in the St. Peter’s goalmouth, eventually plaming the ball over the line. That put Tattyreagh six points to the good and looking likely to close out a relatively comfortable victory.
But late drama saw a spirited fightback from the Lilywhites. Points from Shea Geraghty and Emmet Haughian cut the deficit to four as the Tattyreagh goal came under siege from the miracle seeking Orchard County outfit.
Inter-county star Aaron Findon had come within inches of grabbing a goal before joint captain Ciaran McCavigan was sent off as the game ticked towards full-time. St. Peter’s did manage to eventually to beat Ryan Pritchard, however, as Geraghty dispatched from the penalty spot deep into injury time, with what proved to be the last kick of the game. Too little, too late for St. Peter’s, who lose out on a scoreline of 3-11 to 2-13.
The Tyrone side advance to the semi-finals and will most likely go into the game with St. Enda’s as warm favourites, having enjoyed a wonderful eighteen months which has seen them lift the county Junior Championship in 2017, the Intermediate crown this year, as well as two successive league promotions.
On the other side of the bracket, it will be Banagher who will go toe-to-toe with Mullahoran of Cavan for a place in the mid-tier finale on December 2nd.
Enda Muldoon’s side assumed complete control of their quarter-final meeting with Glenfin in Ballybofey on Sunday afternoon, eventually progressing by eleven points.
They lost Paul Cartin to black card in the second minute, before goalkeeper Darrel McDermott followed his captain to the bench sixteen minutes later, for cynically hauling down a goal bound Conor Ward after losing possession to the corner-forward.
The Sperrin side did manage to take a four point lead into half-time however, and forged further clear after the break, as goals from Shane Murphy and last week’s interviewee Gavin O’Neill put them en route to what was an easy victory.
They will expect a tougher test when they meet Mullahoran later this month. The Cavan side were involved in, arguably, the game of the weekend in Cootehill on Saturday, as they were the last men left standing after a titanic battle with Down champions Bredagh.
Mullahoran came flying out of the blocks and found themselves a goal and point to the good after three minutes, Enda O’Reilly dispatching from a free and the penalty spot. But Bredagh responded with five unanswered points through Donal Hughes (3), Declan O’Hara and Connor Francis, before Philip Brady drew the Cavan side level just shy the half-time whistle.
Bredagh opened up an early lead in the second half with two Sean Blaney points, but were reeled in again by O’Reilly and half-back Matthew Hynes, leaving the game all-square going into the final fifteen minutes.
Cavan star Killian Brady and Brendy Gallen exchanged points, before Paul Brady nudged Mullahoran back in front with five minutes of normal time remaining. Cormac O’Reilly extended that lead to two just before five minutes of injury time was announced – the first of which, saw another O’Reilly, this time Colm, put a goal between the sides.
But the action had only just begun!
With 64 minutes on the clock, Donal Hughes got his fist to a long, searching ball, beating Sean Briody in the Mullahoran gaol, and sending the game to extra-time.
The momentum was with the South Belfast side at this stage, and O’Hara put them in front with a point in the opening seconds of overtime. The full-forward then pounced for a goal five minutes later, beating Briody, who had pulled off a wonderful save in the intervening minutes.
That put four between the sides but Mullahoran roared back – Enda O’Reilly stabbing home the rebound a minute later after his penalty had initiailly been stopped by Bredagh goalie Odhran Devlin. The same man swung over a free to level things up, and exchanged points with Conal Toland before the end of the half to leave things at 2-10 a piece, going into the second period of extra tens.
Eventually, the experience of the Cavan side won out. Having wrestled control of the tie after points from Fionnan O’Reilly and Gavin Brady, they secured the win when sub Patrick Brady fired home with a minute left to play.
O’Reilly put the seal on what was an epic victory for the South Cavan side with a point before the end.
A classic finished 3-13 to 2-11 in favour of the Dreadnoughts.
Both semi finals are provisionally scheduled for November 18th, with the likely scenario being that they will be act as curtain-raisers to the Senior Championship semi-finals penned in for the same day. As of yet, venues and times for the games, have yet to be decided.