Long before the final whistle went in Ballinderry, a steady stream of cars had begun to make their way out of Shamrock Park.
St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon had come into Wednesday night’s MacRory quarter-final as underdogs.
A nine point defeat to the Derry men in the groups stages had seen the Tyrone school overlooked by neutrals and written off as potential MacRory Cup winners.
They looked anything but underdogs however as they turned the league form on it’s head to emerge as seven point victors.
The foundations for the Dugnannon victory lay in their first half performance.
Playing into a stiff breeze they led 1-5 to 0-4 at the break before holding the Derry students at arms length to advance to a semi-final with St Paul’s Bessbrook.
In defence Dungannon where immense. Well marshalled by centre-half back Stephen Corr and ably assisted by the outstanding Ciaran Barker, the Killymeal Road men hassled and harried Maghera into mistake after mistake.
Maghera’s forward play lacked incision and composure especially in the opening half, when seven first half wides really hurt their chances.
The Dungannon attack was clinical, Fintan McClure and Ryan Coleman offering a physical presence on the edge of the square that Maghera struggled all night to contain.
They were ably assisted by their forward unit with Cormac O’Hagan almost flawless from placed balls.
The Maghera school got off to the best possible start with points coming in the opening three minutes from a Conor Glass free and a Dara McPeake effort from play.
Dungannon responded as Ryan Coleman popped over from play after midfielder Brian Kennedy had claimed Cormac O’Hagan’s 45.
O’Hagan added a point of his own shortly after before a brace of beautiful scores of the boot of Fintan McClure left Dungannon in command.
Playing with the wind, Maghera dominated time in possession in the first half, but Dungannon’s patient defending frustrated Paul Hughes’ charges.
A Conor Glass free brought the sides to within a point of each other, but Dungannon responded in the 19th minute as O’Hagan fired over his second free of the night.
Maghera could well have changed the complexion of the game after an excellent move involving Paddy Quigg and Francis Kearney, saw Quigg draw a great save from Academy shotstopper Caolan Donaghy.
Dungannon excelled where Maghera failed as Daniel Kerr picked out Brian Kennedy near the Derry side’s goal. The big Derrylaughan man did well to control and finish low under the advancing Michael Lynch in the Maghera goal.
This gave the Tyrone school a fantastic boost, though Maghrea did respond, Slaughtneil’s Conor McAllister pushing forward from wing-back to swing an effort between the Academy uprights.
Dungannon emerged in the second half with their confidence bouyed and they didn’t take long to extend their lead.
Just two minutes into the second half Cormac O’Hagan fired over a free kick from distance. A minute later the Coalisland man struck again with another effort from the opposite side of the field, making the gap between the sides six points.
Dungannon appeared shaken a couple of minutes later though as Maghera reeled off three quick points to close the gap to three.
Keelan Feeney got the first effort, a smartly taken point from play.
A minute later Swatragh’s Patrick Kearney sold a brilliant dummy before slotting between the uprights and then Francis Kearney added a third to bring the holders back into contention.
Dungannon mustered the perfect response seconds later as a great team move put Moy man Ryan Coleman through on goal.
The corner forward made no mistake hammering the ball into the Maghera net.
Maghera suffered another blow a minute later as Armagh referee Padraig Hughes produced a black card for Marc McClenaghan, Gearoid McLaughlin entering in his place.
The rain began to fall in Ballinderry, but Dungannon where not about to slip up.
They punished a missed 14 metre free from Maghera with a point at the other end as Cormac O’Hagan continued to be clinical from placed balls.
Both Dara McPeake and Michael Mullan put a good goal chances for Maghera wide before Patrick Kearney kicked a point from play for his side.
The side’s exchanged points from Ryan Coleman and the lively Paddy Quigg before O’Hagan had the final say with another free his sixth point of the night.
It was an excellent performance from the Academy and they’ll need the same again if they’re to get the better of McCormick Cup winners St Paul’s Bessbrook in the last four on Friday night in Armagh.
St Patrick’s Dungannon
Caolan Donaghy, Ciaran Barker, Ciarán Higgins, Conall Lyons, Liam Rafferty ,Stephen Corr
Michael McKernan ,Colin Campbell ,Brian Kennedy 1-0 ,Cormac O’Hagan 0-6 ,Daniel Kerr , Conn Kilpatrick , Ryan Coleman 1-2, Fintan McClure 0-2 ,Mark Donnelly
Subs: Lorcan Mallon for Donnelly, Aidan Gavin for Kerr.
St Patrick’s Maghera
Michael Lynch, Eamon McGill, Patrick Turner, Liam O’Hara, Marc McClenaghan, Paul McNeill, Conor McAllister 0-1, Francis Kearney 0-1
Conor Glass 0-2, Michael Mullan, Dara McPeake 0-1, Patrick Kearney 0-2, Paddy Quigg 0-1, Conal Darragh, Keelan Feeney 0-1
Subs: Conor Mulholland for McGill, Niall McAtamney for Darragh, Brian Cassidy for F Kearney, Feargal Higgins for Quigg.