An Gairmscoil Chú Uladh had three points to spare in an entertaining Ward Cup quarter-final against St Mary’s College, Clady on Friday.
Gairmscoil Chú Uladh 2-13
St Mary’s College 2-10
The result means that the team from Ballinamore now find themselves in the semi-final of the competition, which is of the standard of Senior B in Ulster.
They did so with a flowing performance at Owenbeg against the Derry side, who had former inter-county forward Paddy Bradley manning the touchline.
Both teams were expressive with little in the way of blankets or sweepers, although Bradley’s hand was weakened with the unavailability of the U-16 contingent who were on Arthurs Cup duty the day beforehand.
Ultan Doherty of Naomh Conaill, who scored 2-6, was the driving force for the team who lost out in the Donegal showpiece 1-12 to 0-9 against Coláiste Ailigh from Letterkenny.
In fact, the duo might meet again with Magherafelt awaiting Gairmscoil Chú Uladh in the last four and Coláiste Ailigh meeting Ballybay Community School.
Gairmscoil Chú Uladh were by far the most economical of the two competitors in the first half - a statistic crystallised by the fact they didn’t kick a single wide in the first half hour, while their opponents misplaced nine separate efforts at half.
Manager Enda Mannion, overseeing operations with the Donegal team, would’ve been content with a 1-9 to 1-3 interval advantage. That cushion was primarily established de to a strong conclusion to the opening period.
The stand-out moment of the first half was an exceptionally well manufactured and taken goal by Gairmscoil Chú Uladh.
With a slender lead, 0-7 to 1-3, wing-back Karl McGlynn made a darting run forward and following a lightening fast give-and-go with Kyle Doherty, then laid onto Ultan Doherty to tuck home.
That was three minutes from the end of the half, one in which Doherty grabbed a fine individual score of 1-4, including a couple of fine long-rangers.
Ciaran Gibbons also showed his proficiency from distance with a crisp 45.
Although cast a little adrift on the scoreboard, St Mary’s knew if they could up their chance conversion rate then they might still have a shout in the competition.
They too had scored a first half goal, which arrived through a impish dink from Dan O’Neill when faced with Liam O’Meara.
Mannion would’ve stressed solidity at the break but within seven minutes of part two St Mary’s College were back to just three down, at 1-9 to 1-6.
Jack Straw, Eunan McIlvar and Sean McAleese all found their range. However, at the other end, Gairmscoil Chú Uladh replied when Aaron McGlynn showed a clean set of heels and then McHugh pointed.
Gairmscoil Chú Uladh stayed in front when goalkeeper O’Meara saved from McIlvar after a McAleese pop at a point came back down off the upright.
O’Meara then made an exceptional save from McAleese with his team 1-12 to 1-8 in front.
However, when O’Neill scored a second goal for St Mary’s with just two minutes left it was anyone’s game.
Ultan Doherty, though, rifled home a penalty in the last minute after the ball was touched on the ground inside the square to create a three-point cushion, 2-13 to 2-10.
St Mary’s College pushed on for parity and with a free from just outside the 20-metre line, McAleese went for goal.
His stinging drive struck the Gairmscoil Chú Uladh on its way over the crossbar. It was the last play of the game.
Gairmscoil Chú Uladh: Liam O’Meara: Sean O’Donnell, Paddy McGrath, Colm Quinn; Karl McHugh (0-1), Gerard Doherty, Caolan McMonagle; Ciaran Gibbons (0-1, 45), Kyle Doherty (0-1); Paraic Doherty, Jason Morrow (0-3, 2f), Aaron McGlynn (0-1); Matthew McGinley, Ultan Doherty (2-6, 1-0 pen, 2f), Evan Gibbons. Subs: Donnchadh Quinn for McMonagle (21), Matthew Doherty for Gibbons (46), Kaylin Murphy for Morrow (black card, 57)
St Mary’s College: Paudi Smith; Anthony Webb, Ruairí McCamphill, Conor McAleese; Stephen Kelly, Ronan Delargy (0-1), Seoirse Harkin; Ben O’Kane, Dylan McGlinchey; Jack Shaw (0-1), Caolan Tierney, Ryan Deehan (0-1); Dan O’Neill (2-1), Sean McAleese (0-3, 1f), Jack McIlvar (0-2, 1f). Subs: Eunan McIlvar (0-1) for Shaw (half-time), Oisin McCann for O’Kane (black card 43), Jarleth Burke for Kelly (55).
Referee: Ciaran Brolly (Derry).