Naomh Colmcille booked their place in the Ulster Junior Championship Final when they recorded a dramatic win over Tattyreagh in Saturday evening’s semi-final at Celtic Park in Derry.
Naomh Comcille . . . 2-7
Tattyreagh . . . 1-9
Daniel Clarke was the match-winner for the Donegal champions, converted a brilliant free deep into injury-time at the end of a pulsating contest.
It gave Naomh Colmcille a one-point victory and ensured they advance to the final where they will play Fermanagh champions Bellinaleck in the provincial final next weekend.
This was a wonderful game of football which kept the big Celtic Park crowd on the edge of their seats right to the finish.
Tattyreagh trailed by five points at one stage in the second half. However, they showed their worth by getting back on level terms and if anything, looked the team most likely to go on and win as they finished the game strong.
But in injury time, Clarke kept his nerve to score the all-important winning free to give the Donegal side the win.
Naomh Colmcille were unchanged from the side that started in their quarter-final win over Ballymachugh. That was certainly surprising news for their supporters who made the short trip to Celtic Park as midfielder Michael Lynch hadn’t been expected to start after breaking a bone in his wrist in the quarter-final.
But despite being in a cast in the days leading up to this game, Lynch indeed played from the start and was named at midfield in a Naomh Colmcille side that started well.
They led by 0-3 to 0-1 after 13 minutes with Ryan McErlean’s point on 11 minutes the highlight of the opening period - the No. 11 sending the ball over the bar from way out on the right for a wonderful score.
But Tattyreagh soon settled and they hit three points without reply through Gareth Mimnagh and James Darcy with two. Indeed two of those scores came after Tattyreagh created goal chances which really should have been converted. Mimnagh’s score came after he found himself through on goal with only John Roulstone to beat but he shot wastefully over.
Tattyreagh looked in control at this stage of the contest, but out of nothing, Naomh Colmcille struck for the game’s opening goal on 19 minutes. A loose pass saw the Newtowncunningham side win possession on half-way and when the ball was quickly fed up to Willie Gillespie, he showed pace and power to hold off his man before hammering the ball into the top corner.
McErlean kicked another long range point to put Naomh Colmcille 1-4 to 0-4 to the good on 20.
Darcy and Gillespie exchanged scores before Darcy kicked the final score of an entertaining first half to leave two between them at the break, 1-5 to 0-6.
Both sides kicked long range frees in the early stages of the second half through Darcy (Tattyreagh) and Michael Lynch (Naomh Colmcille).
But then came another big moment in the game. Naomh Colmcille were perhaps fortunate to win a free close to their own goal and within seconds after the free was taken, Michael Lynch pumped a ball up towards McErlean. The forward got out ahead of his man, took possession and bore down on goal before firing past Keyes for another brilliant goal.
That put Naomh Colmcille seven points to the good, 2-6 to 0-7, with 40 minutes gone. Substitute Robert Porter converted a point for Tattyreagh and then the Tyrone champions hit a well-worked goal of their own. Darcy’s perfectly timed pass found half-back Brendan Armstrong in front of goal and he squeezed his shot into the net past Roulstone.
It left just a point between them again, 2-6 to 1-8, with 12 minutes to play.
Tattyreagh lost substitute Sean Gormley to a black card but they still managed to draw level soon after when Armstrong converted a point as he fell to the ground.
Tattyreagh finished the game looking the more likely to find a winner but two minutes into injury time at the death, Daniel Clarke kicked the winning score when he sent over a brilliant free from 35 metres to kill off the Tyrone challenge.
NAOMH COLMCILLE: John Roulstone; Gerard Curran, Alex Devenney, Paul Friel; Ricky Hegarty, Ciaran Devine, Kevin Gallagher; Michael Lynch (0-1, f), Daniel Clarke (0-2, 1f); John Fullerton, Ryan McErlean (1-2), Oran Hilley; Matthew Crossan, Willie Gillespie (1-2, 2f), William Lynch.
Subs: Michael Friel for G Curran (41), Conor Grant for Crossan (52)
TATTYREAGH: Niall Keyes; Declan Gallagher, John Gilmurray, Damien Mullen; Brendan Armstrong (1-1), Eoghan Murray, Peadar Mullen; Chris McCarroll, Colin Harkin; Kevin Gallagher, Johnny Harkin (0-2, 1f), Eoin McGinn; Jarleth McDonagh, James Darcy (0-4, 3f), Gareth Mimnagh (0-1).
Subs: Dan McGloin for D Mullen (36), Sean Gormley for McCarroll (36), Robert Porter (0-1) for McDonagh (41); Joe Cartin for E McGinn (41), Mickey Mullen for S Gormley (b/card 49)
REFEREE: Paul McKeever (Antrim)