Going into the last five minutes at Loughmacrory on Saturday afternoon Ardboe had their noses in front and looked set to complete the grade one minor double, but Errigal Ciaran came with a late surge to take the honours to be crowned league champions, writes Kevin Kelly.
The Rossas couldn’t have wished for a better start to the game as David Mulgrew’s quick free found Michael Cassidy who turned his man and cut in from the left wing before blasting to the net past keeper Terry Traynor with only forty five seconds gone on the clock. Mulgrew then burst past three challenges to fist a point and when centre half forward Michael Lynn hit the target as well the championship winners led 1-2 to 0-0 playing against the wind.
Niall Kelly opened Errigal Ciaran’s account in the 9th minute and sixty seconds later he split the posts as well. Cassidy and Patrick O’Neill then exchanged points before Mark Kavanagh closed the gap with a well taken score. A Cassidy free kept the scoreboard ticking over for Ardboe but that score in the 22nd minute proved to be their last of the opening period as the winners finished with a flourish. First of all midfielder Sean McKenna got on the end of a high delivery in from Kavanagh to punch to the net before O’Neill and Kavanagh added points from frees to leave it 1-8 to 1-4 at the interval.
Within ten minutes of the restart Ardboe had got themselves back on level terms with Cassidy on target from play as well as a free with Lynn getting his second point of the afternoon. A Kavanagh free restored Errigal Ciaran’s lead but it was Ardboe who had the bit between their teeth and after a brilliant score from out on the left wing from Lynn had levelled matters another Cassidy free edged the Loughshore lads in front going into the final quarter.
Both sides then missed chances as we went ten minutes without a score before the towering McKenna got on the end of another Kavanagh delivery into the danger area to fist over the bar. With four minutes left to play it was all square but with extra time looming that’s when Errigal Ciaran found another gear. O’Neill and Kavanagh both pointed frees and as Ardboe struggled to get the ball out of their defence the winners tagged on points from Niall Quinn, Kavanagh and substitute Barry McCrory as they moved five clear with normal time up. To their credit Ardboe kept plugging away with Mulgrew landing a wonderful effort from play which he followed up with a free but it was Errigal Ciaran’s day as they ran out three point winners.