Title favourites Cookstown are through to the Power NI Intermediate championship semi finals thanks to a convincing eight point victory over Loughmacrory at Healy Park on Friday night, writes Kevin Kelly.
Despite fielding without county attacker Owen Mulligan it was a game that the Father Rocks were always in control of and you sensed that it was well on its way to an inevitable conclusion when county minor James McGahan converted a late first half penalty to help his side lead 1-5 to 0-2 at the break. The winners tagged on the opening four scores of the second half as well and while Loughmacrory responded with two goals to cut the deficit to four points, a Shea McGarrity major ended the game as a contest.
It was a stop start contest that produced a flurry of cards from Brocagh whistler Donal Dorman, twelve all told, with Loughmacrory corner forward Ciaran Ward picking up a second caution two minutes from time - though by that stage the issue was already beyond any doubt.
The powers that be will no doubt we studying the DVD from the game after a mass brawl erupted at halftime as both sides attempted to make their way down the tunnel at the same time and there could well be repercussions.
Cookstown centre half back Martin Murray opened the scoring in the third minute with na splendid effort with the outside of the boot from out on the left wing but Loughmacrory levelled matters with a well struck free from distance from Ronan Ward. That was as good as it got for the St.Theresas though as they managed just one more first half point. McGahan surged past four challenges but blasted over the bar when a goal looked to be on the cards before a long range effort from Jason Quinn edged his side two in front.
Loughmacrory were struggling but while McGahan scored from a free as well as from play they still weren’t looking impressive themselves. Two minutes before the interval a crucial moment in the game arrived when Loughmacrory keeper Pius McElhatton was penalised for over carrying the ball inside the small box and McGahan clinically dispatched the resulting penalty. Ward had the final say of the half from a free that went over via the post but it was Cookstown who led 1-5 to 0-2.
Before the second half began referee Dorman called together the two captains who in turn called together their respective sides no doubt warning them as to their conduct for the second period following the incident at halftime. Conor Mullan, Shea McGarrity and John Gilmore all tagged on points on the restart with the latter blasting over with a good goal chance. Loughmacrory now had a mountain to climb but they were thrown a lifeline in the eighth minute when Ward expertly tucked away a penalty after substitute Brendan Donaghy had been fouled.
McGahan and Kevin Collins traded points before Loughmacrory were back in contention with a dozen minutes left on the clock when Donaghy again was involved as he offloaded the ball to Ward who thumped the ball to the roof of the Cookstown net to put the game back in the melting pot. Cookstown though refused to panic and they responded almost immediately when McGarrity showed blistering pace to get away from the St.Theresas defence before finishing in style to the bottom right hand corner.
That ended the game as a contest with Quinn and half back Ryan Pickering adding points before Loughmacrory were reduced to fourteen men when Ciaran Ward was dismissed. Ronan Ward knocked over a late free which meant that he had scored all but one of his side’s tally but his efforts on the night weren’t enough as Cookstown booked their semi final ticket.