Heartache for hurlers
There was extra-time heartbreak for Eoghan Rua’s hurlers as they lost by a single point, 3-20 (29) to 5-13 (28), to Antrim side Creggan in a high scoring Ulster Junior Championship semi-final at Owenbeg last Sunday afternoon.
This was a real thriller with both teams going at it hammer and tongs for the whole 90 minutes plus. The first half was tight on the scoreboard, the lead changed hands five times before three late points seen Creggan take a two point lead, 1-7 to 1-5, into the break.
Creggan went on to build a six point lead early in the second half with Eoghan Rua’s chipping away and hanging in before a late Colm McGoldrick gave them a one point lead. In added time Creggan levelled and again built up a healthy lead in extra time, once again though a dogged Eoghan Rua hit back with a late goal to set up a tense finish, a controversial free awarded against the Coleraine men in added time ending their hopes of an Ulster final shot.
Despite the fact that this game was played in an entirely sporting manner throughout, there was hardly one bad foul in the game and no wild pulling of any sort, Eoghan Rua had two players sent off, one crucially five minutes from the end.
A minor piece of pulling and dragging ended with one player, Eoghan Rua’s Ciaran McGioldrick being singled out, and sent off on a straight red, a very harsh decision given the way the game had been played throughout and indeed the actual incident itself that amounted to very little.
Sean Leo McGoldrick’s sending off at the end on a double yellow was also debateable. However, despite those red cards Creggan made the best use of their chances with Oran McCann’s accuracy from frees and open play just the difference between the sides. The Antrim men were probably just a bit stronger physically around the middle third and were able to pick off points with more accuracy than the Coleraine men.
They also handled Eoghan Rua’s full forward Colm McGoldrick better than any team this year cutting down his scoring threat to great effect particularly his penchant for goals. Meanwhile it was probably Eoghan Rua’s reliance on getting goals that in the end undid them, knocking in five in any game should have been plenty but they just did not tack on enough singles when the opportunities presented.
Level twice in the opening five minutes Creggan edged ahead with a 70 meter pointed free from Oran McCann, he went on to score twelve points, nine from placed balls in a man-of-the-match performance. A sensational Sean Leo McGoldrick goal from a tight angle had Eoghan Rua back in front after seven minutes with Ciaran Gaile adding a point for the Coleraine side to lead by three ten minutes in.
It was soon level pegging again as James Dougan goaled for Creggan, the sides then trading points for 1-4 each by the end of the first quarter. The scores then dried up for a period of seven minutes as Eoghan Rua’s period of pressure failed to yield anything on the scoreboard.
Ciaran Gaile briefly had Eoghan Rua ahead but Creggan finished the half strongly with three points in a row, two frees by Oran McCann and one from play through Kevin Rice, for a 1-7 to 1-5 half-time lead. The Creggan men were just edging the middle third battle where their physical strength was proving difficult for the Coleraine side to deal with.
Within four minutes of the resart Creggan had pushed their lead out to six with a scrambled goal through James Carey and a fine long range Aidan McKeown point. It was then Eoghan Rua’s turn to hit back as Conor Carey pointed before Sean Leo McGoldrick fired in his and the Coleraine side’s second goal. Creggan then had a good spell as they outscored Eoghan Rua 0-5 to 0-1 to take a six point lead, 2-13 to 2-7 into the last quarter.
That lead was soon cut down though as Ciaran Gaile pointed a free and then Ciaran McGoldrick smashed to the net after Sean Leo McGoldrick’s run through the middle cut open the Creggan defence. The Antrim side reacted well to those scores as they hit the next two points, both from Oran McCann, to take a four point lead into the last ten minutes of normal time.
Things got worse for Eoghan Rua five minutes from the end when Ciaran McGoldrick was sent off on a straight red card following a brief bit of pulling and dragging between a number of players. It was a harsh decision as there had hardly been a foul stroke all day and there was very little in the incident, stranger still that only one player was singled out. Despite that setback Eoghan Rua battled brilliantly over the closing minutes.
Ciaran Gaile brought the deficit to three before Colm McGoldrick flicked to the net to draw the Coleraine men level with two minutes left. Then, with less than a minute to go, Ciaran Gaile landed a super point from a 60m free to put Eoghan Rua into the lead and seemingly on the way to the Ulster final.
Not so however as with less than 30 seconds of the two minutes of added time left almost inevitably Creggan won a free near the side line some 50m out, up stepped Oran McCann to land the point and send the game into twenty minutes of extra-time.
Eoghan Rua were back to their full fifteen with Pearse Dallas coming in for Ciaran McGoldrick. Within 40 seconds of extra-time Sean Leo McGoldrick had Coleraine ahead but that was short-lived as James Carey fired to the Coleraine net after Michael Kelly cleared the sliothar of the line.
Further points from Oran McCann and James Carey then had Creggan four ahead six minutes into extra time. The first period of extra time ended with Sean Leo McGoldrick pulling a point back as Eoghan Rua trailed by three 3-18 (27) to 4-12 (24).
Not for the first time the sides traded points before Conor McCann extended Creggan’s lead with his 12th point of the game, four between the sides now and three minutes left. This battle was not over as Sean Leo McGoldrick goaled to leave the minimum between the sides.
In added time Coleraine broke up a Creggan attack and with Ciaran Lagan bursting forward down the left side he seemed to be pulled down however the referee gave the free to the Antrim men and that effectively ended Eoghan Rua’s challenge as the final whistle sounded seconds after the free was struck.
Eoghan Rua: Niall Holly; Brian Frizelle, Anton Rafferty, Sean Frizelle; Conor Carey, Liam McGoldrick, Ciaran McGoldrick; Ruari Mooney, Michael Kelly; Ruari Leonard, Ciaran Lagan, Sean Leo McGoldrick; Ciaran Gaile, Colm McGoldrick, Kieran Lagan
Substitutes used: Pearse Dallas (et for Ciaran McGoldrick), Brendan McKillop for Carey (75).
Eoghan Rua scorers: Sean Leo McGoldrick (3-3, 0-1 free), Ciaran Gaile (1-8, 0-6 frees), Colm McGoldrick (1-0), Conor Carey (0-1), Ciaran McGoldrick (0-1).
Cregaan: Brendan Prenter; Brendan Maguire, Aidan Maguire, Domninic Totten; Frank McAuley, Aidan McKeown, martin Johnston; Sam Maguire, Thomas McCann; matthew Nelson, Oran McCann, Kevin Rice; Conleth McGrenaghen, James Dougan, Conor McCann.
Substitutes used: James Carey for M Nelson (28), Declan McCann for J Dougan (71)
Creggan scorers: Oran McCann (0-12, 0-7 frees, 0-2 ‘65’s), James Carey (2-1), Aidan McKeown (0-3), Kevin Rice (0-3), Conor McCann (0-1), James Dougan (0-1).