Conor Doherty is the toast of Colaiste Na Carraige this week, as the famous Carrick nursery looks forward to an Ulster U-16 Arthurs Cup final following Friday’s dramatic semi-final win over St. Colm’s of Draperstown, Derry.
Colaiste Na Carraige 1-10
St. Colm’s 1-9
Doherty, who kicked six points in total, in a man of the match performance, showed maturity beyond his years as he held his nerve in the closing seconds to split the posts in Marius McHugh Park, Castlederg, for the winning point.
It was a truly remarkable end to a high quality encounter that looked very much at one stage had gone from the Donegal champions’ grasp, as they trailed by six points, 1-7 to 0-4, six minutes into the second half.
But in an amazing turnaround Colaiste Na Carraige stormed back into the game thanks in no small way to two Doherty frees and a Pauric O’Neill goal followed by a point from O’Neill.
O’Neill’s goal on 46 minutes with the winners still four adrift, 1-7 to 0-6, was most definitely a game turner. It followed a good period of Colaiste Na Carraige play and a good move involving Pauric Cunningham and Doherty who released O’Neill with a defence opening fisted pass.
In fairness though to O’Neill, he still had a good bit of work to do when winning possession about 30 metres out from the posts before letting fly from ten metres only to see his initial strike parried by Pearse Grant,in the St. Colm’s goal.
Luckily for Colaiste Na Carraige, O’Neill following up and with Brian O’Donnell in close pursuit, scrambled the rebound to the net from inside the small rectangle. And when in a near carbon copy move, only further out on this occasion, three minutes later, O’Neill drove over Grant’s crossbar the sides were all square 1-7 each.
With both sides struggling for supremacy, St. Colm’s were back in the groove again and two points in front with just under five minutes of normal time remaining, thanks to Conor McGovern and Barry Grant. Grant was St. Colm’s best player and top scorer with five points.
But the Carrick boys refused to accept it was gone. Christopher Byrne, up in attack, drew a good save from Grant when he pulled first time on a Conor Doherty deflection before Pauric Cunningham landed a massive point from a tight angle to reduce the margin to one.
And the sides were all square again, on 59 minutes, when Jamie McGinley, who was unable to start due to a knee injury but introduced in the second half as a last throw of the dice by Paddy Boyle, sent Doherty free.
With the teams locked on 1-9 each, and the tie into the one minute of additional time indicated by the referee, Colaiste Na Carraige, drove forward in one final bid to avoid extra-time.
And they were rewarded when Doherty was fouled 36/37 metres from the St. Colm’s post and slightly to the right of the target. Despite being told by the official that it was the last kick of the game Doherty made no mistake as his perfect strike sailed between the posts for one of the most dramatic points he is ever likely to kick.
Even first half
The first half was pretty even though Colaiste Na Carraige were a little lucky to be only one point behind, 0-5 to 0-4, at half-time, as Oran Kelly - St. Colm’s corner-forward - fluffed a glorious opportunity for a goal when clean through on goal five minutes before the half-time break.
Barry Grant got the Derry boys off to a flying start with two points inside three minutes. But they were cancelled out almost immediately by two Doherty specials, one a delightful strike of his left, and under pressure.
Eoghan McCloskey and Pauric O’Neill traded points before McCloskey and Grant split the posts to edge St. Colm’s two ahead.
Paul Doherty popped over a crucial point for Carrick just before half-time to leave just one in it at the break.
St. Colm’s started the second half in whirlwind fashion, too, with a goal and two points in the opening six minutes. Grant converted from close range inside two minutes before he was hauled down three minutes later in the large rectangle and Ronan Murphy duly drove the spot kick past stand-in keeper Padraig Byrne.
That was on 35 minutes and when Conor McGovern pointed shortly afterwards, St. Colm’s were six in front and looking good.
But the Donegal boys had other ideas.
Colaiste Na Carriage: Michael Cunningham; Conor Carr, Christopher Byrne, Philip Doherty; Daniel Lyons, Jason McGill, Stephen Callaghan; Pauric Cunningham (0-1), Padraig Byrne; Paul Doherty (0-1), Conor Doherty (0-6,4f), Dominic Gallagher; Philip McNern, Brian O’Donnell, Pauric O’Neill (1-2). Sub: Jamie McGinley for S. Callaghan (47).
St. Colm’s: Pearse Grant; Conor Doyle, Donal O’Hagan, Jason Wilkinson; Cahir McEldowney, Stephen Glass, Michael Burke; Barry Grant (0-3,2f), Ronan Murphy (1-0, penalty); Conor McGovern (0-2), Michael Doyle, Frances Doherty; Oran Kelly, Eoghan McCloskey (0-2), Reece McSorley. Subs: Ronan Devlin for C. Doyle (38); Mark Glass for J. Wilkinson (54).
Referee: Stephen McNamee (Tyrone).
Man of the Match
Conor Doherty was Colaiste Na Carraige’s top scorers with six points, four of them from frees. But the frees apart, despite being double marked throughout, his incisive running and control in possession, he played a huge part in the victory.
In a game of quite a few twists and turns Pauric O’Neil’s goal in the middle of the second half was a real lifeline for the winners. They were four points down at the time and with just a little over a quarter of an hour remaining.
Stephen McNamee seemed a little sore on Colaiste Na Carraige in the first half but Colaiste Na Carraige had no complaints in the second half when they seemed to get any of the calls that were going.