Is this finally to be St Michael’s year? That was the question on the lips of many as they headed out the gates of O’Donnell Park yesterday afternoon.
Beaten finalists in 2011 and knocked out at the semi-final stage last year, St Michael’s have put themselves well and truly in the frame after this emphatic win.
In Andrew Kelly, the winners had the star forward. He ended the hour with a personal tally of 2-3 and was involved in most things creative.
Malin, who promised so much before throw-in, having defeated Gaoth Dobhair in their final group game to secure a place in the last eight, were most disappointing. They went a full half hour without raising flag and their only goal came from Paul McLaughlin three minutes from the long whistle.
St Michael’s were superior in all sectors and took full advantage of the gaping gaps left down the centre by Malin.
Brendan McLaughlin, a lively threat throughout, did his best to unlock the St Michael’s rearguard who stood firm for the most part. That he had to do most of the spade work on his own didn’t exactly help the Malin cause, however.
St Michael’s wasted little time in getting down to business and by the first quarter the tie was as good as over. Goals from Ciaran Gallagher and Andrew Kelly had the men from The Bridge 2-3 to 0-2 in front and already looking forward to the draw for the last four.
After and rough and tumble opening and an exchange of points, Andrew Kelly raised the first green flag of the afternoon at the town end on eight minutes.
Colm McFadden set Martin McElhinney on his way and after a neat give and take with Michael Langan, McEhinney set up Andrew Kelly who tucked the ball home from close range when cutting in from the right. Eight minutes later after an exchange of points, St Michael’s bagged their second goal when Ciaran Gallagher was allowed oceans of space when driving through the middle and he finished when aplomb when he saw the white of Dara McLaughlin between the Malin posts.
St Michael’s followed up with five unanswered points before the break as they assumed full control of proceedings and went in at the break 2-8 to 0-2.
They consolidated their lead after the change of ends with three points in the opening ten minutes, with Malin’s first score of the second period coming on 47 minutes.
On 55 minutes, Andrew Kelly netted his second goal when cracking home a penalty awarded by Seamus McGonagle. Three minutes from the end, Malin got one past Mark Anthony McGinley when Paul McLaughlin drilled low to the net through a cluster of players.
St Michael’s have a well drilled team with the perfect blend of youth and experience.
And with the new voice of Declan Bonner now calling some of the shots with Eddie Harkin, 2015 could well be the year Dr Maguire is finally rested at The Bridge.
St Michael’s: Mark Anthony McGinley (0-1, 1f); Peter Witherow, Stephen Doak, Michael Gallagher; Liam Paul Ferry (0-1), Michael McGinley, Daniel McLaughlin; Martin McElhinney (0-1), Ciaran Gallagher (1-0); Michael Langan (0-2), Michael Cannon (0-1), Lee Carr (0-1); Colm McFadden (0-3, 1f), Christy Toye, Andrew Kelly (2-3, 1-0 pen). Subs: Antoin McFadden for Langan (40), Brian McLaughlin (0-1) for C.McFadden (44), Ryan Langan for Carr (47), Chris McElhinney (0-1) for Cannon (50), Brendan Rodden for M.Gallagher (54).
Malin: Daragh McLaughlin; Michael McLaughlin, Damian Harkin, Gary Farren; Stephen McLaughlin, Declan Walsh, Charlie Byrne; Seamus Houton, Christopher McLaughlin (0-1); Seamus Doherty (0-1), Dan McDaid, Brendan McLaughlin (0-2, 2f); Matthew Byrne (0-1, 1f), Paul McLaughlin (1-0), Darren Mullarkey. Subs: John G McLaughlin for M.McLaughlin (15), Anthony Kelly for Mullarkey (22), Terence Doherty for Byrne (35, black card).
Referee: Seamus McGonagle (Aodh Ruadh).