Last kick heartbreak for St Paulís
Tuesday, 7 March 2017
ST PAUL'S High School Bessbrook gave everything but suffered injury-time agony against an impressive St Mary's Magherafelt in Wednesday night's MacRory Cup semi-final replay.
In the fifth minute of additional time Shea Loye looked to have secured extra time with his converted free, but it wasn't to be as there was still time for Magherafelt's Kevin Small to grab the winning score with the last kick of the game.
It was a crushing way to lose in what was a thrilling semi-final replay. Played in Armagh's Athletic Grounds the two teams gave everything but St Mary's possessed that little more craft when they needed to and got the crucial goal.
The Bessbrook side displayed all the guts and determination they are renowned for and during the first quarter they kicked several beautiful scores. But in the second half they withstood enormous pressure with courageous and intelligent tackling before eventually being breached by a brilliant Magherafelt.
Magherafelt's Kevin Small gave the Derry side an early lead by squeezing a tight angled shot between the posts, which gave an indication of the class that was to follow.
St Paul's response was rapid and impressive as they rattled over the next four points, including three long-range crackers from Carrickcruppen's Richard Keenan and super strike from inside the sideline from An Riocht's Conor Clarke.
With 11 minutes gone the Bessbrook side led by three and even though Daniel Bradley converted a close range free, Burren's Liam Kerr replied with a beautifully struck point.
St Paul's were playing with confidence and they switched styles between quick and long passing and slow and patient build-up. Bradley replied with another free but then Kerr struck back another class point. Keeper Ryan Daly picked out Niall Magennis with an accurate 40-metre pass and the midfielder ran towards goal, where he sucked out two defenders before switching play to Kerr and without breaking his stride the Burren lad drilled over with his left foot.
St Paul's were 0-06 to 0-3 ahead and looking good after the first quarter. But they had a little wobble and kicked three wides in a row and this gave Magherafelt some breathing space and Bradley's third converted free narrowed the gap.
Kerr and Simon McEleaan exchanged scores before Loye's attempted point dropped short but there was no mistake at the other end when Cormac Murphy powered through and fired between the posts.
The south Armagh lads led by only a point at the break but Loye's converted free at the restart edged them further in front.
It was end-to-end as Magherafelt's Conall Devlin ran 40-metres before lofting his effort between the posts but again Loye (free) and Dean Hanrahan chipped in with scores and when Keenan bagged his fourth point on 42 minutes the south Armagh men were four points to the good.
The Derry management made a number of changes and substitute Tiernan McAteer gave St Mary's a better hold in midfield. And Dromintee's Daly had to be alert to pull off a brilliant save to deny Declan Cassidy a certain goal.
But two minutes later Magherafelt made the breakthrough as Liam Quinn finished neatly inside the near post of the St Paul's net.
Still, St Paul's held firm with some courageous and tactically astute tackling especially from Declan Loye and Eamon McCabe. But St Mary's attacked in waves and had St Paul's pinned back so much that they had no outlet when they won possession, so the pressure was ever mounting.
Daniel Bradley looked to have grabbed another goal for Magherafelt but Bradley's effort was disallowed due to a throw-ball.
Murphy's 53rd minute point levelled the score and Bradley's converted free gave Magherafelt the lead but two minutes from normal time Loye grabbed an equaliser with a converted free.
It was tense and frantic football with excitement replacing despair with each passage of play. Four minutes additional time was signalled by the fourth official as both sides kicked wides.
But St Mary's substitute McAteer steadied to steer over what seemed the winner. But with the minimum of four minutes up, St Paul's were awarded a close-range range and Loye tapped over to level the score for the fourth time and to what many expected would be extra-time.
Yet there was another twist and St Paul's gave away a costly free, which Small coolly converted from 40-metres and as the ball sailed over the bar, referee Niall McKenna blew the final whistle.
It was bitter way to lose for St Paul's yet they can be proud of their achievements this year.
Ryan Daly is cool and collected goalkeeper and should have a bright future between the sticks. Shane O'Neill's McCabe is steady and intelligent defender while An Riocht's Conor Clarke is another talented footballer. Ziggy Burnickas and Ronan McGuinness ruled the roost in midfield for much of the game and they worked tirelessly.
Carrickcruppen's Richard Keenan was arguably St Paul's best player on the night and each of his four points were impressive. There is more to come from Dromintee's speedy Ryan Hughes while Shea Loye and Liam Kerr have been key to St Paul's successful run.
Their team ethos has been exceptional and they have grown over the MacRory campaign. They may not have been littered with perceived stars as recent St Paul's teams but this team will be remembered for the journey they have taken and all players can go back to their clubs as better footballers.
The teachers and coaches deserve a lot of credit too, as they have given many players the opportunity to play at the top table. And while it is a bitter disappointment that there won't be an all Newry and Mourne MacRory Cup Final, St Colman's will carry local interest and they will be hard to stop on St Patrick's Day.
ST MARY'S MAGHERAFELT: Odhran Lynch, Conall Devlin (0-1), Sean Kelly, Matthew Loughran, Declan Cassidy, Conor McCluskey, Eamon Kelly, Kealan McCann, Tiarnach Donaghy, Adam Connolly, Liam Quinn (1-0), Simon McErleaan, Daniel Bradley (0-5, 4f), Kevin Small (0-2, 1f), Cormac Murphy (0-2).
Subs: Tiernan McAteer for E Kelly (37'), Matthew Rodgers for McCann (45').
Yellow cards: K Small (30').
ST PAUL'S BESSBROOK: Ryan Daly, James Bennett, Declan Loye, Conor Magennis, Dean Hanrahan (0-1), Eamon McCabe, Conor Clarke (0-1), Zygimantas Burnickas, Ronan McGuinness, Richard Keenan (0-4), Liam Kerr (0-4, 2f), Aidan Finnegan, Niall Magennis, Shea Loye (0-3, all frees), Ryan Hughes.
Subs: Aidan Davidson for C Magennis (black card, 60+2).
Yellow cards: Z Burnickass (49).
Referee: Niall McKenna (Monaghan).
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