Coláistí Inis Eoghain turned in a gutsy performance to defeat tournament favourites Castleblayney in Sunday’s Mac Larnon Cup quarter final.
Coláistí Inis Eoghain . . . . . . . . . 2-8
Our Lady’s Castleblayney . . . 1-10
They showed great heart to recover from a poor start and the loss of a couple of key players to black cards. But once they got to grips with their opponents and the artificial surface, they played with great skill and composure and fully deserved their victory after a tremendous second half display.
Inis Eoghain endured a terrible start against the Monaghan side, falling 1-4 to 0-0 behind by the 20th minute, Tiernan Duffy having found the net for Castleblayney after a flowing move.
They also lost defender Luke Mullins and full forward Daniel Houghton to black cards in that opening half, but Blayney too fell foul of the referee and had Jason Irwin sent off when he was black carded having previously been shown yellow.
Driven on by Conor O’Donnell, Inis Eoghain finally settled down and played their way into the match.
The big Carn man’s strong running saw him draw a series of frees from the Blayney defence, and he pointed four in the final ten minutes to keep Inis Eoghain in touch – 1-5 to 0-4 at half time.
Oisin McGonagle opened the second half scoring with a point right from the throw in before two Josh Conlon goals knocked the stuffing out of 14 man Castleblayney and put Inis Eoghain in the driving seat.
His first goal came five minutes into the second half when he pounced on a loose ball to drive to the net and draw the sides level.
Blayney were stunned and almost hit back right away – Robbie Hanratty sent a goal bound effort trickling towards the bottom corner, but Inis Eoghain goalkeeper Daniel McCallion dived to his left and scooped the ball out for a 45.
It was an important save at a crucial moment, and its worth became apparent moments later when Conlon hit the net for a second time.
Conor O’Donnell soloed in along the endline from the right and fisted the ball into the square for Conlon to palm to the net and put Inis Eoghain 2-5 to 1-5 ahead.
Castleblayney threw all they had at Inis Eoghain but got little change out of a defence that was well organised and led by Donal Doherty and team captain Ciaran Doherty.
Time and again the Inis Eoghain defence would harass and harry their opponent without conceding a free and eventually force a turnover, but they weren’t able to convert their counterattacks into scores and they didn’t kill off the challenge of Castleblayney, beaten finalists in this competition last year.
And with the Monaghan school pressing up on McCallion’s kickouts, forcing him to go long and then mopping up possession in the middle third of the field, the pressure finally told with three unanswered points from Markey, Duffy and Hanratty drawing them level by the 53rd minute.
O’Donnell and Hanratty exchanged pointed frees as the game headed towards injury time.
Inis Eoghain worked at 45 short and Matthew Mullholland popped up to point and edge them ahead in the 59th minute.
They won the resulting kickout and Oisin Hession zipped through to score and extend Inis Eoghain’s lead to two points as the stopwatch ticked past the 60 minute mark.
Inis Eoghain defended with great discipline in the six minutes of injury time that the referee somehow found, and although Mark Mooney did fire over a point to leave the minimum between the teams, Blayney were confined to hit and hope shots from long range and had Tiernan Duffy black carded before the end.
Inis Eoghain will play St Eunan’s College in the Mac Larnon semi final, with the game scheduled for Saturday.
Eunan’s won by a point when the sides met in a group game in November, and also got the better of Inis Eoghain in the final of this tournament in 2014.