Colaiste Cholmcille, Ballyshannon pictured before the semi-final in Garvaghy
Coláiste Cholmcille, Ballyshannon are through to a first ever Markey Cup final following a close encounter with St. Joseph's, Donaghmore in Garvaghy.
Coláiste Cholmcille 1-16
St. Joseph's, Donaghmore 1-12
The four point victory probably flattered the Ballyshannon school, as this was a very closely contested game throughout.
The Donaghmore boys were annoyed with Fermanagh referee, James Lewis, over a disallowed point when there was just two points between the sides and eight minutes left. Big midfielder, Mark Ward, fielded a Ballyshannon kick-out and the referee blew for a 'mark'. However, Ward moved forward and from 45m drove the ball straight over the bar. However, the referee pulled him back and made him take the 'mark'.
It was just one of a number of decisions by the referee, who didn't endear himself to either side. His lack of clarity in awarding frees didn't help, while Coláiste Cholmcille's big full-forward, Oisin Rooney, was continually fouled but couldn't buy a free, similar to Michael Murphy playing for Donegal.
Conditions were poor, with a strong wind and an ice-cold drizzle, which made it very difficult, especially on the fast 4G pitch. Coláiste Cholmcille had the elements in the opening half and when they reached half-time 0-10 to 0-6 ahead, it didn't seem like enough.
Indeed, it was only in the last six minutes that they opened the gap with Dylan Gallagher, Shane McGrath and Dean Carrolol (free), firing over the last three points of the half.
Prior to that the sides shared the opening three points with Oisin Rooney, Dylan Gallagher and Dean Carroll the Ballyshannon scorers.
Dean Carroll put them ahead 0-4 to 0-3 before Shane McGrath turned over the ball and was through on goal, but his power drive was tipped over by Owen Cushnahan. Rooney and Conall Sweeney got the other first half points for the winners.
The Ballyshannon boys were in control within six minutes of the restart when Matthew McClay was in the right place to fire home a goal, which was followed quickly by a Nathan Boyle point. Just before the goal, Shane McGrath saw a goalbound effort go wide off an upright.
Donaghmore hit back with three quick points before Dean Carroll pointed a free. Ryan Cush, son of Adrian Cush, hit a point and Conor Donaghy landed a free, but Dean Carroll hit back for Coláiste Cholmcille with two scores. Cush was lucky to be on the field for the second half after avoiding a second yellow just before the break. Ironically, Coláiste Cholmcille manager, Damien Conlon, marked Adrian Cush when Donegal and Tyrone met in the Ulster Minor Championship in 1988!
The Ballyshannon boys were rocked as they handed Donaghmore a lifeline, 'keeper Sean Taylor dropping a ball and James McCann was in quickly to punish.
Then came the 'mark' incident which had both sides and those looking on baffled, but to their credit, Coláiste Cholmcille finished the game well with great composure and Michael McKenna added an insurance point as the Donaghmore boys lost theirs with Conor Woods receiving a second yellow and Dara McCann being shown a straight red.
The Donaghmore frustration was understandable, but credit must go to Coláiste Cholmcille for finishing both halves well, especially the second half into the elements.
They will now meet the winners of Coláiste na Carraige and St. Patrick's, Keady, who are due to meet in the other semi-final early next week.
The Coláiste Cholmcille big men stood up, especially Shane McGrath, Nathan Boyle, Dean Carroll, Oisin Rooney, Jason Granaghan and Dylan Gallagher.
COLÁISTE CHOLMCILLE, BALLYSHANNON: Sean Taylor; Cian McGloin, Cathal McSherry, Connor Feighney; Conall Sweeney (0-1), Robbie Ryan, Jason Granaghan; Matthew McClay (1-0), Dean Carroll (0-5,3f); Ryan McKenna, Shane McGrath (0-3), Michael McKenna (0-1); Dylan Gallagher (0-2), Oisin Rooney (0-2), Nathan Boyle (0-1). Sub., Cóelán Drummond for McClay.
ST. JOSEPH'S, DONAGHMORE: Owen Cushnahan; Dara McCann, Oran McKee, Sean Quinn; Conor Woods, Conor Doyle, Conor Ward; Tiernan Drayne, Mark Ward (0-1); Ryan Cush (0-2), Branan Molloy (0-1), Patrick McElduff; Owen Kavanagh, Conor Donaghy (0-5,5f), James McCann (1-3). Subs., Dermot McKee, Alan McKee, Aaron Convery, Dermot McAleer.
REFEREE: James Lewis (Fermanagh)