St Patrick’s Maghera 0-10 St Colman’s Newry 0-8
St Patrick’s and St Colman’s battled it out for a live TV slot and a place in the MacRory Cup final on 19th March, to be hosted at the new Athletic Grounds complex.
If there was frustration at the wait to return to the MacRory Cup final for the first time since 2003 then the Maghera boys vented those frustrations on their opponents in the opening twenty minutes of the game. St Patrick’s fairly tore in to the challenge of St Colman’s and even in the early stages the reigning champions were reeling as Maghera made all the early running. A very strong, well organised defence well lead by team captain, Conor McAtamney, Conor Carville and Cormac O’Doherty were easily keeping St Colman’s at bay while the hard work of Ryan Dougan at midfield ensured a steady supply of ball going towards the Colman’s goal. Unfortunately for St Patrick’s their dominance of the play was not being matched on the scoreboard. Murphy and O’Hara frees had the challengers in the lead before Patrick O’Hagan replied for the champions.
Maghera though continued to dictate the pace of the game and stretched three in front before scoring an excellent point which summed up their first half display. Patient but high intensity tackling forced a turnover of the ball deep in the Maghera half and the Derry boys moved the ball quickly through their hands and over the ground to place O’Hara for the fifth point of their total.
Referee Higgins brought the half to a close with St Patrick’s in front by three points but many in the crowd wondering if perhaps they shouldn’t have been much further ahead.
Niall Hollywood fired an early second half Colman’s point but Murphy replied with a difficult free as Maghera began to reassert their authority on the game.
Good pressure on the Colman’s defence forced a mistake in possession and Neil McNicholl was tumbled to the ground as he attacked for goal and Maghera had a penalty to finally extend their lead. O’Hara’s kick rose over the bar though for a point and within five minutes the game looked like it might punish Maghera for their wastefulness. Michael O’Hare and Conor Convery had swapped points before Maghera captain Conor McAtamney was dismissed for a second yellow card offence.
Needing stability and organisation St Patrick’s now slumped in to their worst spell of play in the game. O’Hare again and Morgan cut the Maghera lead to only two points as St Patrick’s struggled for a time to get to grips with being down to fourteen men.
Fortunately for St Patrick’s corner back, Oisin Hegarty, found himself in an advanced role and he kicked an excellent long range point to steady the nerves and within minutes the hard running of Dougan was rewarded when he got on the end of a long ball to snatch back the four point lead for his team. Stephen O’Hara then took a ball through soccer style to wrap up the game but found Colman’s keeper, Cunningham, up to the task as he blocked excellently to ensure the game would remain close to the end.
What that end would actually be was almost impossible to predict as the impact of being down a man began to force St Patrick’s deeper in to their own half as Colman’s fought to retain their titles. Morgan lifted over another free to bring it back to a three point game and as the thirty minutes ticked through Colman’s carved out what looked like a certain goal as Hollywood appeared on the end of a slick, fast paced attack through the heart of the Maghera defence.
Before the centre forward could steady himself to try and equalise he was smothered by a combination of keeper Sean McNicholl and the now defensively stationed Neil McNicholl. That was perhaps the Newry schools only goal chance on the night and although their desperate attempts to save the game would see Dara Noonan fire narrowly over the bar to cut the lead to two points the Maghera defence ensured that Colman’s would not get the goal they so badly needed.
That defensive effort had also ensured that St Patrick’s Maghera would progress to the MacRory Cup final for the first time since 2003 where they will face St Michael’s Enniskillen at the Athletic Grounds on Monday 19th March.
St Patrick’s Maghera - S McNicholl, C O’Doherty, M McCloskey, O Hegarty [0-1], C Carville, C McAtamney, B Rogers, R Dougan [0-1], J Kearney [0-1], S O’Hara [0-3], N McNicholl [0-1], C Convery [0-1], P Gunning, C Gallagher, C Murphy [0-2].
Subs – G Bradley for Gunning, D McFaul for Convery, M Molloy for Murphy, P Cassidy for O’Hara, N Gorman for McCloskey