There will an all-Donegal Danske Bank McLarnon Cup final for the first time since 1996 as St Eunan’s booked their final place against Coláistí Inis Eoghain.
St Eunan’s, Letterkenny 4-10
St Malachy’s, Belfast 0-5
The Letterkenny side produced their best football of the season in the first half to give themselves a firm grip on proceedings at a chilly Garvahey on Wednesday night.
After the break, Neil Gordon’s team, even with the wind, kept the Antrim outfit at arm’s length and now all eyes will turn to the final meeting with their Inishowen neighbours, which is scheduled to take place as the curtain raiser to the MacRory Cup on St Patrick’s Day at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh.
St Eunan’s had sneaked past St Columb’s from Derry in the last eight on a wintery night for football at Celtic Park earlier this month but although relative newcomers to the 4G surface at Tyrone’s Centre of Excellence, they, to coin a phrase, hit the ground running.
Three early points against the wind - two from play by Termon’s Daire McDaid, who would score 2-3 in all, and a typically effective free from Sean Hume gave St Eunan’s a healthy start before St Malachy’s Seamus McGarry showed his abilities from distance with a booming left-footed effort.
However, on nine minutes, St Eunan’s re-established a healthy foothold they would not release. McDaid saw a ball squirm from his hands but David Tyrell planted it past Chris Lorty for the opening goal.
St Eunan’s continued to press forward and Hume’s free-taking abilities were complimented by points from Tyrell and 15-year-old Niall O’Donnell.
St Malachy’s McGarry popped up three more times with first half points from distance, while Ben Rice also made inroads with a score after a direct run right at St Eunan’s defence.
However, St Eunan’s, who last won the competition in 2007 when Michael Murphy was captain, produced a marvellous second goal to give themselves a half-time advantage of 2-8 to 0-5.
Centre-fielder Daniel Clarke was swanning around the middle with intent and played an explorative ball for McDaid to grasp and fire in as crisp a goal as one could imagine.
In the second half, St Eunan’s, who lost that 1996 final against Ballyshannon’s De La Salle, remained comfortable. McDaid, on 43 minutes, scored his second goal when assisted by Conall O’Boyle before substitute Rory Carr scored a fourth goal, following Cormac Callaghan’s pass, on 56 minutes. St Malachy’s failed to trouble the umpires behind Shaun Patton’s goal.
Next up? Colaisti Inis Eoghain, who defeated Patrician Carrickmacross 4-10 to 2-13 in Sunday’s semi-final. Either way, the McLarnon Cup is coming to Donegal.
St Eunan’s College, Letterkenny: Shaun Patton; Conor Morrison, Darragh McWalters, Conall O’Boyle; Daire McMonagle, Conor O’Donnell, Sean McDonagh; Jordan McBride, Daniel Clarke; Cormac Callaghan, David Tyrrell (1-1), Oisin Carr, Niall O’Donnell (0-2), Sean Hume (0-4, 3fs), Daire McDaid (2-3). Subs: Michael Miller for McDonagh (43), Daniel Gillespie for McDaid (49), Rory Carr for Niall O’Donnell (52), Oisin Shiels and Joe Gallagher for Callaghan and Tyrrell (57).
St Malachy’s, Belfast: Chris Lorty; Fionntain Eastwood, Cormac Eastwood, Martin Murphy; Peter McKenna, Peter Healy, Tomás O’Callaghan; Ciaran Loney, Ryan Owens; Seamus McGarry (0-4), Ben Rice (0-1), James McCauley; Odhran Eastwood, Ronna Hanna, Rory Scott. Subs: Ryan Stranney and Kevin Hillen for O’Callaghan and Hanna (half-time), Eoin McNulty for Rice (45), Henry Griffin for McCauley (58) , Patrick Larton for Scott (59).
Referee: Stephen McNamee (Tyrone).