Fr. Rocks tear Killeavy’s title challenge asunder

Brian Mulligan withstands the pressure from Killeavy's Ciaran O'Hanlon. Photos by Damien Mc Anespie INTT4512-704DCA
Brian Mulligan withstands the pressure from Killeavy's Ciaran O'Hanlon. Photos by Damien Mc Anespie INTT4512-704DCA

Cookstown advanced to the semi finals of the Ulster club championship on Sunday with a well deserved and comprehensive in the Athletic Grounds in Armagh, writes Seamus Donnelly.

The Fr Rock’s took a lead in the first minute and never looked like surrendering it as Killeavy, a team riding high in Division One of the Armagh league, were made to look very ordinary.

The Armagh side’s cause was not helped when corner back Gerard Magennis was sent off for striking shortly before the break, but even at that stage Killeavy were struggling badly.

The rain streamed down just before throw-in making conditions underfoot extremely slippy, but it didn’t seem to deter the Tyrone champions.

The Fr Rocks made a number of late switches in personnel from the team nominated in the programme as John Gilmore and Barry Mulligan, who successfully appealed his county final sending off, came in to the starting line up.

Cookstown began the game extremely well rattling off two points in the opening three minutes with Conor Mullan to the fore in both scores.

Mullan picked up the ball around the 45 metre line for the first score and after a short carrying the ball a short distance fired a arrow like point between the uprights.

A couple of minutes later he was involved again, this time kicking a long ball toward the Killeavy goal mouth.

The Armagh side failed to clear and Fr Rock’s captain Owen Mulligan pointed when a goal looked like a distinct possibility.

Cookstown were very much on top of the opening exchanges with the south Armagh side struggling to get up the field.

The Fr Rock’s controlled the possession and the pace of the game but a number of poor wides thwarted their efforts.

Killeavy could have opened their account 12 minutes in when a effort from Michael Murphy, dropped to Steven McDonnell. McDonnell tried to create the room for a shot on goal but his attempt was blocked down as Brian Kelly and goalkeeper Martin Rea were in close attendance.

Straight from this chance Cookstown broke down the field and Shea McGarrity kicked a fantastic point for his side.

The Fr Rocks seized on this point and turned on the style over the course of the next five minutes, tearing the Armagh champions asunder.

They reeled off three points in a row to gain what was to prove an unassailable lead.

John Gilmore, a goal scorer in the county final replay, fired over an excellent point from play from the right wing, before some patient build up play allowed full back Stephen Monaghan to fire over a brilliant effort from around 40 metres out.

Owen Mulligan wasn’t going to be outdone by his full back on the scoring front as he won a free and converted it himself to leave the score 0-6 to 0-0 after 16 minutes.

Killeavy eventually got their first point of the contest a minute later, when a McDonnell 45 was caught by big midfielder Michael Murphy. He laid the ball off and after some quick hand wing forward Patrick Hannaway pointed from close range.

Having threatened to goal earlier through Shea McGarrity, the Fr Rocks eventually did get a goal when a long ball from McGarrity found it’s way to John Gilmore. The imposing Gilmore made no mistake as he hammered his effort past Stephen McKinley in the Armagh side’s goal.

Gilmore was in the centre of the action again moments later as corner back Gordon Magennis was spotted by an umpire striking the Fr Rocks man.

Shaun McLaughlin decided that what he had heard from his umpires was enough to warrant a sending off and the Killeavy corner back saw red.

What looked a difficult task for the Armagh side was now near impossible.

Killeavy did give themselves some hope as Ciaran O’Hanlon and McDonnell narrowed the gap before half time, McDonnell’s effort coming in injury time with a massive free from 50 metres, to leave six points between the sides at the break.

The second half was a much scrappier affair with Cookstown using their extra man to great effect successfully frustrating the Killeavy attack.

The south Armagh side could have goaled shortly after the restart but Marty Rea produced a top quality save from Hannaway to keep the gap six points.

Shea McGarrity was full of running all day and he got his second point of the game with an effort from around 14 metres out.

Killeavy closed again through a Caolan Trainor point but to get back into the game they were going to need a goal.

Barry Mulligan pointed brilliantly from distance to cancel the Trainor score out.

Ciaran O’Hanlon and Steven McDonnell closed the gap once more but when Rea produced another excellent save from Trainor with 10 minutes to go, the game was all but dead.

The Fr Rocks got a late point from James McGahan to stretch the lead to 6 points again and put Cookstown into the Ulster semi final against 2010 finalists, Doohamlet of Monaghan.