A second half strike from St Eunan’s striker Sam Murphy ended Scoil Mhuire’s dream of retaining their Ulster title in Friday’s final in Rathmullan
St Eunan’s College 1
Scoil Mhuire 0
In a game that could have gone either way, Eunan’s had shaded possession in the first half and while Scoil Mhuire bossed long periods of the second, they couldn’t find the goal their pressure deserved to force the game to extra time.
A Mark Coyle hat trick in an Inishowen derby against Carndonagh CS secured Scoil Mhuire’s place in the final and the captain was again the standout player for William O’Connor’s side.
Although there was little in the way of clearcut chances where two well organised defences were on top, this was still an absorbing tie which was decided on the bounce of a ball.
The holders were slow to settle in the first half as Eunan’s pushed up and looked the likelier to open the scoring.
The Letterkenny college’s best chance of the half came after only 5 minutes when left winger Luke Nelis was given space to break on the left side of the box and his shot across the face of Mark McElhinney’s goal flashed past the right post.
Inishowen slowly began to get themselves up the park as Illies man Liam Doherty got a foothold in midfield and they finally created an opening on 25 minutes.
Ryan McLaughlin got in behind the left back with a strong run before Liam Blaney cleared for a corner on the right and from the resultant Coyle corner Liam Doherty shot wide at the near post.
On 32 minutes, Scoil Mhuire were grateful for the aerial prowess of Mark McElhinney in goal as Murphy broke purposefully down the right side and sent in a deep cross which the ‘keeper did well to claim under pressure.
The Buncrana boys’ best move of the half came moments later as McLaughlin on the right picked out Mark Coyle in the ‘number 10’ position and his well weighted throughball sent lone striker Christopher McKinley away but a good recovery tackle by Darragh McWaters cleared the danger.
The play finally opened up after that move as both sides began to come closer to the opening goal before the break as McLaughlin shot wide with a long range effort before Paddy Diver forced a neat save from McElhinney when he headed a Paul O’Brien free goalward.
Like the opening 40 minutes, St Eunan’s started the second half brightly and on 48 minutes they got the all important breakthrough goal when Luke Nelis’ corner from the right was turned home at the near post by Murphy.
Scoil Mhuire’s only clearcut chance of the game came on 59 minutes, when Coyle, who was coming more into the game in the second half, made a break down the left side before sending a low cross in that made its way to Jack McDaid at the back post but he skied his shot with the goal at his mercy.
McDaid almost made amends for that miss five minutes later when he made a bursting run down the left side before cutting inside from where his well struck 25 yard shot was neatly saved by Carr in the Eunans’ goal.
Scoil Mhuire continued to dominate possession but penetration was proving difficult as a Christopher McKinley volley fizzed past the right post before a brilliant effort by Mark Coyle from 25 yards was clawed out from the top left corner by Carr.
The Inishowen boys committed more players forward in the last 5 minutes as centrehalf Paul McDermott played in substitute Lee Sean Doherty whose shot was deflected wide but Eunan’s well organised rearguard held out against the onslaught to claim the title.
SCOIL MHUIRE: Mark McElhinney, Michael Noone, Paul Doherty, Paul McDermott, Kealan Dillon, Calvin Gallagher, Ryan McLaughlin, Liam Doherty, Christopher McKinley, Mark Coyle, Jack McDaid SUBS: Lee Sean Doherty, Adam Callaghan, Shane Dillon
ST EUNAN”S: Rory Carr, Nathan McElwaine, Darragh Harper, Liam Blaney, Darragh McWaters, Ciaran Maloney, Paul O’Brien, Oisin Hassett, Sam Murphy, Paddy Diver, Luke Nelis SUBS: Dylan McCreary, James McSharin