GAA: St.Patrick’s Academy boys caught napping in McRory quarter-final

Abbey's Donagh McAleenan and St Patrick's Ryan Byrne collide shoulder to shoulder. INTT0814-704DCA
Abbey's Donagh McAleenan and St Patrick's Ryan Byrne collide shoulder to shoulder. INTT0814-704DCA


St.Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon’s MacRory Cup hopes are still very much alive – although they are going to have to win a replay to reach the semi-finals after a thrilling encounter with Abbey CBS at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh on Thursday night.

The Dungannon lads will, however, feel that it was an opportunity lost to win the game at the first time of asking as they led by four points with two of the allotted three extra minutes at the end of the game played.

They switched off, alas, and allowed their opponents to score a goal before Abbey CBS full forward Conor Doyle levelled matters with the last kick of the game from a dubious free, one of a number of questionable decisions by Fermanagh whistler Martin Higgins on the night.

Having said all that, there is no doubt that they would have taken a draw at half-time after being outplayed for most of the opening period.

After Conor McCabe had fired in the first goal, Abbey CBS assumed control as they rattled off 1-5 without replay to enable them to lead by five points at the short whistle.

Dungannon appeared to be in big trouble, but within three minutes of the restart, they had managed to turn things around in dramatic fashion to get back on level terms.

For the remainder of the game they were the better side, and really should have closed the game out in those final moments.

They can still take a lot of positives from this game and no doubt they can’t play as bad as they did in the first half again.

The extra game will hopefully stand to them as they attempt to win their first MacRory Cup title since 2009.

On the night, the Academy were best served by Michael McKernan, Conor McCabe and Sean Doran in defence, Ruairi McGlone at midfield and Tiarnan Donnelly up front, with Fintan McClure and Stephen McGrath making crucial scoring contributions when introduced from the bench.

Abbey CBS looked lively early on and by the fifth minute, they had established a two point lead thanks to a free from Ryan Treanor and a fine effort from play from Doyle.

Donnelly opened the Academy’s account with a superb effort, but their opponents replied from a Doyle free.

As play swung from end to end, Dungannon got back on level terms with McGlone surging through to score, before Che O’Donnell levelled matters.

Doyle was causing problems in the Dungannon defence and a fine individual score had his side back in front again.

In the 16th minute, the first goal arrived when defender McCabe first timed the ball to the net from close range after Abbey keeper Aidan Morgan had did well to stop a rasping shot from Conn Kilpatrick.

Within 20 seconds, the Newry lads had the ball in the net at the other end of the field courtesy of midfielder Niall Rafferty, and that was the signal for them to take control of the rest of the half.

Treanor fired over a brilliant point from out on the left wing, and that was followed by efforts from Eoin McParland and Conor McCoy.

At this stage, Abbey were well on top and they should have been further in front with Doyle inexplicably hitting the post from a 13 metre free, while Donagh McAleenan elected to lift the ball when a first time shot may have led to a goal.

A Treanor free made it 1-5 on the spin and, while O’Donnell ended a quarter of an hour’s barren spell with the last kick of the half, the Academy had it all to do as they trailed 1-9 to 1-4.

The second period was only 12 seconds old when Donnelly turned sharply to split the posts – and, when the same player converted a long range free, the comeback was well and truly on.

McGlone then surged through to blast to the net to level matters before his Aghaloo club mate Donnelly put his side in front after six minutes.

Abbey were stunned, but they responded positively with points from McAleenan and Treanor to get their noses in front again.

Dungannon were playing with renewed vigour and four points in as many minutes from Colm Byrne, Donnelly, McClure and Doran left them three clear.

They were then dealt a blow when Ryan Coleman was harshly black-carded, but his replacement McGrath hit a superb point from an acute angle with his first touch since coming on.

Treanor and McClure traded points but as the game entered injury time the real drama was yet to come.

A 45 from Treanor went into the danger area and, when it broke, McCoy reacted first to send low to the net.

Everybody was expecting the final whistle from the kick-out, but referee Higgins played another 60 seconds and awarded McAleenan a close in free which Doyle knocked over as it ended all square.

It was a sickening end for the Academy boys, but they can be consoled by the knowledge that it’s still all to play for.