St. Eunan’s are looking forward to the club’s first U-21A championship final in nine years, following yesterday’s narrow and hard fought victory over St. Michael’s in Davy Brennan Memorial Park, Glenties.
Just a point separated the teams at the finish after St. Michael’s stormed back into the game in the second half having been outplayed for much of the opening 30 minutes.
It took a brilliant double save from the penalty spot from St. Eunan’s goalkeeper, Jordan McBride, to save the Cathedral Town boys’ bacon late on as they clung on against a Michael Cannon powered St. Michael’s.
St. Eunan’s were in front by four points at half-time, 1-5 to 0-4, after team captain Conor Gibbons got the O’Donnell Park men off to a dream start with a goal inside two minutes.
Gibbons, who led from the front in the first half, followed up his goal with a 35 metre free two minutes later to propel his side into a four point lead.
St. Eunan’s dominated the early exchanges but due to over elaboration did not score again until the closing seconds of the first quarter courtesy of Garvan Grant.
In between, Cannon converted for St. Michael’s opener on seven minutes and Raymond McLaughlin on eight minutes got the men from the North West off the mark.
Gibbons and Lee Carr and Cannon and Lee McMonagle traded points before Gibbons. brought down the curtain on the first half two minutes into injury time with his third point of the half.
Two quick fire points from Oisin Langan and Cannon after McBride scrambled the ball off his line were the early signs of the St. Michael’s revival.
Gibbons kicked the winners’ first point of the second half on nine minutes, seconds after St. Michael’s should have scored at the other end.
But with Cannon powering forward at every opportunity and Brendan Devine, Lorcan McDaid, Lee Carr, Oisin Langan rising to the skipper’s promtings, St. Michael’s continued to press.
The margin was back to a point, 1-6 to 0-8, when Cannon converted from 40 metres from close to the sideline with a quarter of an hour remaining.
As the play swung from end to end scores were at a premium as both sides were guilty of shooting bad wides.
With a little over ten minutes remaining Gibbons made it a two point game, 1-7 to 0-8, to ease St. Eunan’s nerves a little.
But the fat was back in the fire when Ryan Walsh waved his arms after a goalmouth scramble and Lorcan McDaid’s first time strike was adjudged to have been blocked by a St. Eunan’s boot.
But with McBride equal to McLaughlin’s well struck penalty low and to the keeper’s right and also saving McLaughlin’s follow up, St. Eunan’s net was kept intact.
A late Cannon three minutes later was St. Michael’s only score in the closing ten minutes St. Eunan’s held on by their finger tips.
St. Eunan’s will now play Naomh Conaill in the final next weekend in a repeat of this year’s senior championship final. The final has been fixed for Sunday, but both sides are believed to be anxious to have it played on Saturday.
St. Eunan’s: Jordan McBride; Colm Flood, Conor Parke, Mark Forde; Ciaran Greaney, Peter Devine, Oisin Carr; Darragh Mulgrew, Conal McGinley; Conor O’Donnell, Conor Gibbons (1-5,3f), Kevin Meehan; Michael Coleman, Garvan Grant (0-1), Lee McMonagle (0-1). Sub: Barry McGeehin for K. Meehan (58).
St. Michael’s: Michael Lennon; Peter Sweeney, Stephen Doak, Ben Kyle; Brendan Devine, Michael Cannon (0-5,4f), James Alcorn; Lorcan McDaid, Chrsitopher McElhinney; Darragh McCarry, Lee Carr (0-1), Caolan McGee; Oisin Langan (0-1), Raymond McLaughlin (0-2,2f), Stephen McPheilmy. Sub: John McFadden for D. McCarry (18).
Man of the Match
St. Eunan’s goal-keeper Jordan McBride saved a well struck Raymond McLaughlin penalty with ten minutes remaining and also saved the follow-up from McLaughlin having earlier in the second half got back to scramble the ball off the line.
These were critical saves and kept St. Eunan’s ahead at times St. Michael’s were threatening. He was also alert on a number of occasions to mop up behind his defence in a true man of the match performance.
He receives the vote just ahead of his own team mate and captain Conor Gibbons and St. Michael’s Michael Cannon who single handily brought his team back into the game in the second half.
With St. Eunan’s 1-7 to 0-8 in front, Jordan McBride’s penalty save from Raymond McLaughlin’s on 52 minutes saved the day for St. Eunan’s and was a big turning point.
Ryan Walsh was far too whistle happy and blew every minor infringement when it would have been better to let the play continue. He was also very quick to flash yellow cards and put himself under pressure late on to avoid showing red on one or two occasions. In all he flashed ten cards, six to St. Michael’s and four to St.Eunan’s.