Rian leads College to MacRory semi
Tuesday, 14 February 2017
RIAN O'Neill proved his outstanding talent as he led his St Colman's side into the semi-final of the MacRory Cup.
St Colman's, Newry 1-16
St Patrick's Armagh 1-07
Last Wednesday evening at QUB Arena (The Dub), the tall Crossmaglen lad, arguably the best player in his year's competition, shone like the proverbial beacon as his Violet Hill team knocked out St Patrick's, Armagh with a huge nine-point margin.
Obviously though Rian didn't do it all on his own. It was an excellent team performance with Sean McCarthy, Conor O'Neill, Eoghan McDonnell, Peter Fegan and Finn McElroy especially outstanding. Incidentally the last named is the grandson of the famous All Ireland winner PJ McElroy.
Overall St Colman's were classy winners but early in the match it was St Pat's who looked the more likely team to progress. Indeed the College manager Cathal Murray who bosses the side with his four-strong coaching team of Declan Mussen, Cormac Sweeney, Eamon McEvoy and Mickey Doyle, wasn't pleased with his side's first half display, saying: "We made too many mistakes. We allowed them to play too much, gave them the impetus and kicked away possession too much."
Nonetheless Cathal was pleased with the overall performance as he told the Democrat: "But we finished strongly and the boys responded well to going behind. "We have done a lot of work and these bunch of boys are so easy to work with. They're so willing to learn."
St Pat's grabbed an early advantage but Aaron Gribben squared matters. However, midway through the half St Pat's surged in front, with points from Matthew McGleenan and Eoin Toal. And things were looking bad for the Violet Hill boys when Odhran Rafferty netted to put the Armagh team 3-1 to 0-1 in front.
Still when the chips were down Rian O'Neill stepped up to the mark and pointed four times without reply. Then just before the break Gribben knocked over the bar to level the game at 1-03 to 0-6. Though St Pat's went in at half-time a point to the good after Dillon Horsefield scored.
Immediately after the interval Gribben equalised with Rian O'Neill then putting his St Colman's side in front for the first time. Yet the match was once more in the balance when McGleenan pointed.
However, on 43 minutes came the decisive score. Rian O'Neill's guile and quick-thinking played in Eoghan McDonnell who ran 20-yards before firing into the St Pat's net.
After that major score St Colman's confidence grew while St Pat's visibly wilted. And at the final whistle St Colman's were worthy winners, points from Cian McConville (2), Conor McCartan, Eoghan Byrne (2) and Rian O'Neill doing the damage.
When asked about the enormously talented Rian O'Neill, Cathal Murray responded by saying: "Rian's a big-game player although he has plenty of support in this team. He's is a typical Crossmaglen lad with a great attitude. He a great free-taker, a ball winner and can shoot. He's a special player."
When asked if St Colman's can win the MacRory this year Cathal said: "We're not getting carried away. There are still quality sides in the competition and we have been hit hard with injuries. We have lost Ross Carr and Thomas Travers and our goal-keeper. And we're not sure if any of them will be available for the semi-final."
ST COLMAN'S NEWRY: Mark Magill, Lyndon Brown, Sean McCarthy, Chris Killen, Finn McElroy, Mark Branniff, Peter Fegan, Conor O'Neill, Ryan Garvey, Rian O'Neill, Eoghan McDonnell, Jack McCartan, Matthew McCreesh, Cian McConville, Aaron Gribben. Subs: Eoghan Byrne and Conor McCartan.
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