Brackaville are through to the Ulster Junior championship semi final after a hard earned win over Antrim champions Ardoyne at Healy Park in Omagh yesterday afternoon, writes Kevin Kelly.
It was a contest were the Roes weren’t at their best as they acknowledged afterwards that they underestimated their Belfast opponents. The visitors led 1-5 to 0-6 at the break and were full value for that advantage and indeed it could have been more as they missed a further two goal chances to go along with the one that full forward Michael Hawkins took.
The Antrim champions were on top in midfield through the efforts of Gary McKernan and team captain Brendan Mailey but in the second half the Roes began to get into their stride and when teenager Che O’Donnell scored a brilliant individual goal to give them a four point cushion they never looked back.
As was the case throughout their Tyrone campaign they finished the game strongly and now that they have got over the first hurdle they will hope to make a major impact in the remainder of the competition. On the day the winners were best served by Peter O’Hagan, Dara McGuinness, Sean McNally, Sean Corr and Che O’Donnell.
It was the Roes who made the better start with early points from midfielder Cahir McGuinness and Corr before Ardoyne opened their account after a dozen minute with a well taken point from Padraig Lynch. The next kick out was won by Gary McKernan in midfield and he offloaded the ball for Aidan McNeill to strike over the equaliser.
The Tyrone champions responded though with Che O’Donnell converting a close in free before Corr took a pass from Sean McNally to leave it 0-4 to 0-2 at the end of the opening quarter. McNeill and Joe Rafferty exchanged points before the Antrim champions struck for a superb goal after twenty three minutes.
Jim McAuley won a free and he took the resulting kick quickly to full forward Michael Hawkins who finished in style low to the bottom right hand corner of the net past Brackaville keeper Damien O’Neill. Corr then levelled matters from thirty metres out before Cormac Mullan brought a great save out of keeper O’Neill at the expense of a point. The same player was then put through by Hawkins but he blasted over before Ardoyne keeper Tiernan Hughes came to his side’s rescue with a great save to deny Martin Gervin as the visitors led 1-5 to 0-6 at the break.
The second half was only two minutes old when Brackaville substitute Ciaran Gervin was denied a goal by another fabulous save from keeper Hughes. O’Donnell then got a fine score and moments later Brackaville were level when Joe Rafferty split the posts. The superb Mullan edged the visitors back in front but the end to end nature of the contest continued with Corr landing another equaliser.
Rafferty then edged Brackaville in front before the crucial score of the contest arrived. Jim McAuley lost possession to his opposite number O’Donnell who ran through from thirty metres out before finishing in style to the net past keeper Hughes.
It gave Brackaville a four point cushion and in a game like this that was crucial. Mullan had a goal chance for Ardoyne but he blasted over when a major at that stage would have been vital. Midfielder Gary McKernan was unlucky to see a punched effort come back off the post before Rian McHugh and Ciaran Gervin both scored to leave Brackaville well in control.
To their credit Ardoyne kept battling away and Michael Magill was unlucky to see a shot cleared off the line by Cahir McGuinness. The Tyrone champions made good their escape and points from Rafferty, Corr and O’Donnell gave them a deserved win in the end.