Naomh Colmcille are looking forward to a second successive Intermediate Championship semi-final following Sunday’s nine point quarter-final second leg victory over Naomh Columba in Newtowncunningham.
Naomh Colmcille 2-11
Naomh Columba 0-8
After drawing the first leg game 0-9 each seven days earlier in Pairc na nGael, Joe Higgins’s charges completed the job in some style in Sunday’s encounter. And in the process they also avenged last summer’s semi-final replay defeat by Naomh Columba.
While Naomh Colmcille were impressive and worth their every one of their nine point winning margin, for Naomh Columba it is very much a case of how the mighty have fallen.
From competing and playing in the senior championship and in county finals just a few short years ago, except for an early spurt and two quickfire points, they did not raise a challenge in Sunday’s encounter.
The men in the famous green and gold jerseys were just a pale shadow of teams of the past and were distinctly lacking in that great championship fighting quality which for many years was the club’s great trademark.
But this should in no way take away from Naomh Colmcille, and their performance which was at times as polished as one would hope to expect in the Intermediate championship.
Playing into a stiff breeze, the locals were under the cosh in the opening ten minutes and were 0-3 to 0-1 down after Oisin McGinley, Kevin ‘Beag’ Gillespie – up in attack from centre half-back - and Dermot McGuire all split the posts.
But the locals settled, Ryan McErlean,had hit their opener on six minutes and with county man Thomas McKinley pulling the strings around the middle of the park they were on level terms by the 19 minute mark.
McKinley, who missed the first game with a quad injury, was named as Anthony Grant’s place at wing back, but played as a spare man around the middle with his brother Ryan taking up duty at left half-back.
This tactic seemed to unhinge Naomh Columba as McKinley set-up Joe Donaghey and McErlean for two quickfire points to tie up the game at 0-3 each.
And while McKinley was forced out of the game shortly afterwards and Oisin McGinley restored the visitors lead, it was shortlived. Naomh Colmcille’s dander was up and Donaghey levelled for the second time before Ciaran Devine pounced for the game’s opening goal.
A high ball deflected on to his own crossbar by Padraig O’Donnell came back into the path of the lurking Devine who palmed over the advancing O’Donnell to the net.
That was on 25 minutes and with Oisin McGinley and Mark Dowds raising flags at both ends Naomh Colmcille went in 1-5 to 0-5 up at half-time.
And it was game over four minutes into the new half when Willie Gillespie got on the end of a Ryan McErlean centre to beat Padraig O’Donnell to the flick for goal number two.
With the locals rampant Gillespie got in for a third goal two minutes later but was denied by a brilliant point blank save from O’Donnell.
However, Naomh Colmcille did get something out of the attack when the ball from O’Donnell’s rebound was worked back out to McErlean who lobbed over from 13 metres for a 2-6 to 0-5 lead.
Martin Cunningham and Oisin McGinley converted two frees but not even the introduction of veteran Noel McGinley could revive the Naomh Columba challenge.
And as the game fizzled out as a contest in the final quarter, Donaghey, Liam Grant, Gerard Curran and Mark Dowds (2) all tagged on points to a solitary Cunningham free.
Naomh Colmcille: Marty Callaghan; Paul Friel, Alex Devenney, Eddie Gillespie; Gerard Curran (0-1), Shane McAteer, Thomas McKinley; Liam Grant (0-1), Ciaran Devine (1-0); Ryan McErlean (0-3), Andrew Clarke, Mark Dowds (0-3,1f); Joe Donaghy (0-3, 2f), Ryan McKinley, Willie Gillespie. Subs. Anthony Grant for T. McKinley (20); Thomas McKinley for A. Clarke (47).
Naomh Columba: Padraig O’Donnell; Barry Carr, Kevin Cunningham, Kieran McBrearty; Kevin McNern, Kevin ‘Beag’ Gillespie (0-1), Martin Cunningham (0-2, 2f); Dermot McGuire (0-1), Andrew O’Gara; Declan McGuire, Ryan McNern, David O’Donnell; Liam Boyle, Oisin McGinley (0-3,2f), Francis J. McGinley (0-1).
Sub: Noel McGinley for L. Boyle (37).
Referee: Ian Molloy (Naomh Conaill).
Man of the Match
Ryan McErlean kicked three points and supplied the centre for Gillespie’s goal in an all round man of the match performance.
However, it was a close shave between himself and Ryan McKinley, who assumed the free role with great effect around midfield once his brother Thomas was replaced after 20 minutes.
With the teams level on 0-4 each, Ciaran Devine’s goal on 25 minutes saw the locals (who were playing into a stiff breeze) take the lead for the first time in the game, a lead they never surrendered and saw them in the ideal position, 1-5 to 0-5 in front at half-time.
Ian Molloy may have been guilty of giving a few handy frees, but they were evenly distributed. The only blemish on an otherwise good performance was to start the second half without his whistle and having to halt and restart the game after retrieving the whistle from the dressing room.