Robbie wins it for Cullyhanna
Tuesday, 8 October 2013
CULLYHANNA 1-14 BALLYMACNAB 2-10.
A LAST ditch Robbie Tasker point from a 35-yard free kick earned St Patrick's, Cullyhanna the right to take on Crossmaglen Rangers in the Armagh Senior Football Championship on October 20.
And amazingly on Saturday night at Armagh's Athletic Grounds it was the only time Cullyhanna would lead in a blistering, nerve-jangling semi-final.
Indeed with 25 minutes gone Ballymacnab were eight points in front - and deservingly so. But in the second half St Pat's dug deep, and with county man Ciaran McKeever driving his side on, clawed their way back into contention. And despite still trailing by five points with eight minutes left, they grabbed a goal and three points to edge this intriguing contest.
Manager Jody Gormley was delighted with his team's majestic fight-back as he told the Democrat that in spite of being so far behind, he always believed they would win. "We always finish strongly," he said. "We came back from seven points down against Cross to draw. These boys are always able to step up to the mark. There's great fight in men from Cullyhanna - it's bred into them."
Jack Grugan, who had a superb first half for the Round Towers side, grabbed the opening point in the first minute with Tasker levelling a minute later. However county man Rory Grugan put The Nab in front on three minutes and thereafter they would stay ahead until deep into injury time. Ryan Kennedy, another who had a great match in the maroon and white shirt, and Jack Grugan pointed at one end with Tasker and Sean Connell replying at the other.
However, after 15 minutes The Nab struck a killer blow when Jack Grugan drilled past Conor O'Neill and into the back of the St Pats' net. Cullyhanna at this stage were miles off the pace and the Round Towers side added further points via Jack Grugan, Rory Grugan and Gary McKee while Barry McConville, Tasker and Paudie McCreesh kept St Pat's in the hunt.
Yet it seemed as though Ballymacnab were right on track for the final as on 25 minutes Jack Grugan once more showed his excellent marksmanship with another clinical net-bound finish. And as an encore he fired over his fourth point of the half to give his side an eight-point advantage. Malachy Mackin reduced that gap to seven seconds before the break.
On the resumption it seemed Jody Gormley's halftime talk had worked wonders as in the first couple of minutes Cullyhanna chopped two points from their deficit, the superb Tasker, who scored a brilliant total of 1-07 on the night, grabbing both. Tony McKee however, scored at the other end - and it seemed Cullyhanna were right out of luck when after Malachy Mackin cut in from the right to unleash a rocket drive, the Ballymacnab keeper Sean Hughes made a brilliant save to deny the county man. Both sides pointed twice as the game moved into the final quarter, Tasker and Eugene Casey scoring for St Pat's with Rory Grugan and Kevin Beagan doing likewise for the Round Towers side.
Yet with eight minutes left Tasker hit a stunning strike that rocketed high into the Nab net and the chase was well and truly on. Pearse Casey reduced the gap to a single point on 55 minutes and the impossible suddenly became the probable. And there was a massive cheer when substitute Eugene Casey levelled and an even bigger one when Robbie Tasker confidently drilled over a 35-yard free to win the match and set up that Final date with neighbours Crossmaglen - and a chance to win their first ever Armagh Senior Championship title in 125 years of trying.
St Pat's, Cullyhanna: C O'Neill, K McCooey, S Reel, M Murray, P Casey, S Connell, P McCreesh, C McKeever, B McConville, L O'Hare, R Tasker, G Mackin, G McCooey, M Mackin and A Nugent with subs: C Hoey, E Casey and T Donnelly
Ballymacnab: S Hughes, C Loughran, R Gribben, K Beagan, J Gray, M Beagan, D McParland, R Kennedy, T McKee, D McGeown, J Grugan, P Gribben, R Grugan, G McKe and J Gribben with subs: S McArdle and D McParland.
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