St Eunan’s won an Ulster Club Championship fixture on home turf for the first time in their history when they waltzed past the challenge of Rosela Shamrocks yesterday.
St Eunan’s 1-9
Roslea Shamrocks 0-6
A six-point winning margin, on reflection, doesn’t portray the comfort of the victory as the Fermanagh champions tagged on a handful of scores late in the match after St Eunan’s had effectively booked their semi-final tickets before half-time.
Maxi Curran’s team laid the solid foundation stones for victory with an excellent defensive performance – particularly in that first period. It was on that was reminiscent of their triumph in the Donegal SFC final, 0-9 to 0-6, over Glenswilly seven days beforehand.
In that domestic showpiece they kept Michael Murphy’s Glenswilly to a single score from play and Roslea only managed one more than that and both those came when their supporters were already trundling through the O’Donnell Park gates for home.
Twenty-seven minutes were played before Sean Quigley, the Roslea corner-forward who had recovered from a serious knee injury to play, had their first shot on goal. It fell wide of Shaun Patton’s goal.
The teenage goalkeeper – on the books of Finn Harps last season - was making his first ever senior appearance for the club having been chosen ahead of Sean Daffan.
Since the inception of the Ulster club championship, St Eunan’s had been participants in 1969, 1972, 1983, 1999, 2001, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012.
Only once, in 1972 when they drew 0-10 to 0-10 with then All-Ireland champions Wolfe Tone’s Bellaghy, had they even contested a fixture in the county.
St Eunan’s lost the replay in Maghreafelt 3-13 to 1-10.
With reigning provincial champions Ballinderry Shamrocks failing to retain the Derry championship, Crossmaglen Rangers’ loss last week against St Enda’s sent shockwaves through Ulster.
The Omagh outfit will now be St Eunan’s opponents at Celtic Park in Derry on Sunday.
As has become a feature of late, St Eunan’s maintained possession for long spells, plotting with the patience of a chess player, without panicking. Kevin Rafferty, who last week against Glenswilly was forced to retire with a serious eye injury before 10 minutes had been played, was back to link up with Rory Kavanagh at centre-field.
Together, the duo controlled the pace of the game.
Conall Dunne provided St Eunan’s with a cutting edge, scoring all but a point of their interval total as ends were changed with the hosts 1-5 to 0-0 in front.
His goal came from a 29th minute penalty after Niall Cassidy was penalised for pulling the shirt of John Haran. Dunne was joined on the scoreboard by Rafferty.
Their second half was more functional than impressive; stuck between the two stools of pushing on for a bigger winning margin or sitting on what they had. Roslea continued with their perpetual aerial assault towards Sean and Seamus Quigley.
St Eunan’s used Michéal Martin and Sean Hensey respectively for those physical challenges and then their youngsters at the back were bright when picking up loose balls.
After 41 minutes, Roslea finally registered their first point when Seamus Quigley knocked over the first of his four points, three of which came from placed balls.
Six minutes from time, Dermot Reilly scored the first point from play for the visitors. In between, Sean Quigley also slotted over a free.
Playing in bursts when the notion took them, St Eunan’s posted points here and there, through Conor Parke, Rory Carr, Conor Gibbons and Rafferty.
Cillian Morrison, the Cork City FC striker, made a late cameo for his hometown club St Eunan’s in his first appearance since 2010. He was denied a chance on goal by a brave block from substitute Ruairí McGuinness but by then it wasn’t a matter of how; just how many.
St Eunan’s: Shaun Patton; Micheál Martin, Sean Hensey, Caolán Ward; Conor Parke (0-1), Eamonn Doherty, Conor Morrison; Kevin Rafferty (0-2), Rory Kavanagh; Darragh Mulgrew, Conall Dunne (1-4, 1-0pen, 2f), Sean McVeigh; Conor Gibbons (0-1), John Haran, Rory Carr (0-1). Subs: Mark McGowan for Morrison (39), Cillian Morrison for Carr (49), Kieran Sharkey for Haran (56), Connall O’Boyle for Martin (57), Paddy McGowan for Gibbons (60).
Roslea Shamrocks: Sean Boyle; Conor Quigley, Niall Cassidy, Martin Beagan; Conor Mulligan, Peter Sherry, Martin Renfrew; James Sherry, Kevin Cosgrove; James McMahon, Peter Lynch, Niall Consgrove; Shane Lynch, Seamus Quigley (0-4, 3f), Sean Quigley (0-1, 1f). Subs: Dermot Reilly (0-1) for Renfrew (30), Shane McMahon for Cassidy (33, black card), Danny Mohan for Cosgrove (47), Ryan McCormack for Lynch (47), Ruairi McGuinness for Beagan (54).
Referee: Ronan Barry (Down).