College show true grit
Tuesday, 25 February 2014
St Colman's Newry 1-12. Omagh CBS 1-12.
ST COLMAN'S College looked on a beaten docket as, with 20 minutes left of this thrilling MacRory Cup quarter-final, they trailed an ebullient Omagh CBS by a massive eight points.
But in that last 20 minutes on Saturday at Clones the Violet Hill boys displayed true grit to pull the match from the fire, knock over eight points to level and earn another bite at the cherry.
College coach Cathal Murray was full of praise for his lads as he said: "I'm proud of them all. They all worked very hard. We're not out of the competition - we're still there and we live to fight another day."
Speaking of that eight-point deficit, Murray said: "When you go that far behind there's only two things you can do - you can throw the towel in or you can roll the sleeves up, battle on and get on with it. Omagh have some top class footballers, Tyrone Minors. They didn't go through automatically by being a bad side. We knew we were up against it.
"Like the Ballygawley game, there were the same characteristics. The boys dug in, were gritty and were hungry for the ball. In fact there was a 20-minute spell where we owned the game," said Murray.
Barney Doyle grabbed the opening score of the match on three minutes when he cut in from the right to fire over the bar. But Omagh responded with three points of their own, these coming from Conor McElduff (2) and Joe Colton.
The College star man (and Hogan Cup winner) Jack Haughey, who was tightly marked throughout the game, managed to escape from the clutches of Omagh skipper Cillian McCann on seven minutes to make it 0-3 to 0-2.
But for the next 20 minutes the Tyrone boys ruled the roost and piled up the scores, indeed hitting five unanswered points - from the excellent Padraig McGirr (2), Ronan McHugh, Sean McGale and Aidan McSorley. And in truth in the first half the Omagh boys missed several easy points and two goal opportunities.
On 24 minutes St Colman's substitute Conor Magee reduced the margin but almost immediately McGirr pointed at the other end.
However, with four minutes left to halftime, the Newry side got a break when Joe Morgan was fouled going through - with the tall midfielder Oisin O'Neill (a son of Armagh legend Gareth O'Neill) stroking the resulting penalty kick into the bottom corner of the Omagh net.
Three points separated the sides at this stage and two minutes later the teams could have been all square but Conal Gordon saw his goal-bound shot cleared off the line (many would say illegally) by a CBS defender.
Still starting the second half just three points down and playing with a strong breeze in their backs, the smart money was on the Newry side to do the business. Yet Omagh had other ideas and a mere 25 seconds after the restart referee Barry Cassidy awarded them a penalty kick after McGirr was apparently fouled in the square. Ronan McHugh beat the College keeper Jack Heaney with a well-placed shot into the bottom corner. The College were now facing an uphill battle and things got worse as Omagh pointed three more times in the next 10 minutes, via McHugh, James D'Arcy and McGirr, with only Conor Gilmore able to grab a score at the other end.
It looked all over for the Newry boys at that stage but as Cathal Murray said, his boys dug in, were gritty and indeed owned the rest of the game.
And they began to dominate and build up the scores. The superb Jack Haughey got his side going with two points in quick succession and the belief started to flood into the College boys. Along with Haughey, the likes of Frank Aiken, Oisin O'Neill, Pearse og McCrickard, Joe Morgan and Liam McGreevy took centre stage in driving along the College roller-coaster. And it was no surprise when Conor Gilmore pointed with a free with Haughey adding another.
Omagh were starting to feel the heat and when McCrickard, Gilmore (again) and McGreevy hit the target, there were still five minutes left. It seemed the College were on a roll with victory in sight. On 57 minutes substitute James Kearns punched the air in delight after he pointed from way out on the right. A College winner was on the cards but Omagh did a bit of time-wasting while St Colman's missed a couple of opportunities to win the match.
Still perhaps overall a draw was about right and as Cathal Murray said: "With eight points down I would have taken a draw.
“We were very flat in the first half. Though in the end we had chances to win it - but maybe a draw is fair enough."
The replay is today (Tuesday) at noon in Emyvale.
St Colman's: Jack Heaney, Conal Brown, Aidan McKiernan, Conal Gordon, Patrick O'Hagan, Rory McQuaid Liam McGreevy (0-1), Frank Aiken, Oisin O'Neill (1-0), Pearse óg McCrickard (0-1), Jack Haughey (0-4), Joe Morgan, Conor Gilmore (0-3), Pauric Keating and Barney Doyle (0-1) with subs: Conor Magee (0-1), Owen Donnelly, James Kearns (0-1)
Omagh CBS : P O'Neill, C McQuaid, C McCann, D Mullan, R Samir, T McNamee, S McGale, J D'Arcy, B McDonnell, A McSorley, J Colton, R McHugh, P McGirr, C McElduff and G Slane with subs: M Corless and A Fullerton.
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