Rock’s greater championship experience certainly came to the fore as overcame Gortin by three points at Killyclogher.
Played in breezy conditions, both teams were nip and tuck most of the way until Diarmaid Carroll popped an important goal in the latter stages of the second half to see the Rock through. They advance to the qlast eight, where local rivals Cookstown wait.
Gortin started brighter, with the McGarveys, Brian and Eoghan, giving them an early three point lead. Rock talismanic forward Conor McCreesh opened Rock’s account with two routine frees before Kevin Mc Cullagh responded with a free of his own for Gortin. Diarmuid McNulty and Shane Clarke were very busy for the men in blue, involved in most of their play, and they combines for Clarke to strike for the games first goal.
McCreesh was on hand to land another successful free after twenty minutes, but Gortin were on top, with their wing forwards especially getting onto plenty of ball and putting pressure on Rock around the midfield.
Rock kicked into gear finally just before halftime as they rattled off four points from play in as many minutes, with Aidan Girvan, Aidan McGarrity, Enda Mallon and McCreesh all on target.
Veteran Ciaran Gourley was then denied a goal by Gortin stopper Cathal McCullagh right on the cusp of the halftime whistle, as the sides went in at the break level.
The second half began in a similar fashion, McNulty spurning a goal chance before McCreesh moved Rock ahead with two exemplary frees. Gortin introduced Sean McKenna, and he made no mistake with his first touch, landing a big point from the left wing.
Still Rock kept their noses in front, through Emaon Ward and two more placed balls from McCreesh.
The Rock full forward had switched to kicking from the ground against the strong breeze, and it was proving effective.
Gortin captain Ruairi Keenan’s departure at halftime left a gap at midfield, and Gourley was using all of his guile and experience to great effect, popping up time and again around the field.
Then came the crucial Rock goal that settled the game. Ward collected a pass that outfoxed the Gortin keeper, and although his shot was blocked on the line, Diarmaid Carroll was on hand to palm in the rebound.
Michael Mossey tagged on three late frees for Gortin, but it was never going to be enough as Rock saw out the game as three point winners.