With Kilrea and Eoghan Rua both making impressive starts to the season each winning their first three games something had to give last Sunday when these sides met at the Kilrea venue.
After an exciting encounter it was Eoghan Rua who maintained their 100% winning start with a narrow 1-11 to 1-9 victory. On a heavy sod with a stiffish wind blowing in a wave of showers both teams managed to deliver an entertaining encounter with some fine scores throughout. Kilrea started without James Kielt who picked up an injury playing for Derry in a challenge game against Cork just 24 hours earlier while Eoghan Rua’s county man Barry McGoldrick was still side-lined due to injury.
Kilrea virtually camped in the Coleraine half for the first five minutes or so despite playing against the wind. They failed to raise a flag however despite setting up several chances, they shot three bad wides while twice the ball was dropped into the arms of goalkeeper Ryan McGeough from good positions. In contrast Eoghan Rua hit four points from their first five attacks. From their first real foray beyond the half way line Conor Carey finished off a good move with a neat point.
Declan Mullan added the next, before Colm McGoldrick sent wide, Ciaran McGodrick and then Conor Carey again had Coleraine four points to the good by the 12th minute. It was all looking good for the visitors at this stage but the home side then began to get a foothold around the middle third and gradually worked their way into the game. So much so that they all but owned the ball for the next 15 minutes or so. In contrast to the opening five minutes when they couldn’t buy a score during their period of dominance Kilrea hit five points in a row from six attempts to take the lead in the 20th minute.
Their first point arrived in the 12th minute with Dermot McWilliams scoring, Enda McAleese then popped over a close-in free before lee Kennedy made it three. The sides then exchanged wides before McAleese again levelled matters and then Brendan Mckay burst forward to put Kilrea ahead in the 20th minute. Kilrea should have been further ahead a minute later but Lee Kennedy missed a good chance from a close in free. Eoghan Rua then regrouped over the closing minutes of the half to hit the next three points in a row.
Ciaran McGoldrick, who was in superb form throughout from frees and in open play, tapped over from a 20m free following foul on his brother Sean Leo. Eoghan Rua went back in front again after a short free routine almost came unstuck, Anton rafferty bringing some order to the proceedings as he swept the ball over the bar from just outside the ‘D’. Wing back Ciaran Lagan then found Ciaran McGoldrick with a fine long range pass, the full forward won the ball out front as he had done for the entire game turned inside and fired over the bar. Eoghan Rua then moved three clear after Liam McGoldrick pointed following a good direct run. Kilrea hit back in added time, following a series of passes Denver Johnson eventually took on the shot to leave his side two back at the break 0-8 to 0-6 down.
Despite now playing against the wind Eoghan Rua opened the second half on top and within five minutes of the restart had increased their lead to four with two further points from Ciaran McGoldrick, one from a free. It could and probably should have been even better for Eoghan Rua a couple of minutes later. Sean Leo McGoldrick’s quickly taken free found Colm McGoldrick in behind the last line of defenders one on one with goalkeeper Paul Morgan but his low shot went the wrong side of the post. It could have proved very costly as from their next attack Kilrea closed the gap to one with a goal of their own as big midfielder James Donaghy burst on to a fist pass through the middle to storm forward and blast to the net from just inside the penalty area. Kilrea were soon level as Enda McAleese, who was causing real problems for the Eoghan Rua defence, fired over.
It was McAleese again who bust down the left side to fire his side ahead midway through the half and at this stage the home side were looking good to go on and end Eoghan Rua’s winning start. However Eoghan Rua showed real battling qualities and came back to level matters as Anton Rafferty, who was always looking to drive forward from wing back, to square matters going into the last ten minutes. Then five minutes from the end of normal time Eoghan Rua got the crucial score of the game. Again it was Rafferty who had moved forward to send in a high ball to the edge of the Kilrea ‘square’, Colm McGoldrick won the aerial contest to knock down to Stephen Coyles who calmly drilled low to the corner of the net.
Shortly after that goal there was a short lived fracas involving a number of players with Eoghan Rua’s Richard Carey and Kilrea’s Stephen Johnson seeing straight red cards. In a frenetic last three minutes Kilrea got a point back through Lee Kennedy but the Eoghan Rua defence stood firm as goalkeeper Ryan McGeough did well to gather a high dangerous ball in what turned out to be the last action of an exciting encounter.
Eoghan Rua team: Ryan McGeough; Eamon Conneely, Mark McTaggart, Sean McWilliams; Ciaran Lagan, Sean Leo McGodrick, Anton Rafferty; Declan Mullan, Richard Carey; Ciaran Lenehan, Colm McGoldrick, Liam McGoldrick; Stephen Coyles, Ciaran McGoldrick, Conor Carey. Substitutes used: Barry McTaggart for D Mullan (40), Leo Sweeney for C Carey (52).
Eoghan Rua scorers: Ciaran McGoldrick (0-5, 0-3 frees), Stephen Coyles (1-0), Conor Carey (0-2), Anton Rafferty (0-2), Liam McGoldrick (0-1), Declan Mullan (0-1).
Kilrea: Paul Morgan; Aidan Rainey, Liam Morrow, Dermot Morrow; Brendan McKay, Charlie Kielt, Conor McWilliams; Denver Johnson, James Donaghy; Stephen Johnson, Joe Morgan, Eamon Darragh; Dermot McWilliams, Lee Kennedy, Enda McAleese. Substitutes used; Niall Gorman for Conor McWilliams (45),
Kilrea scorers: Enda McAleese (0-4), James Donaghy (1-0), Lee Kennedy (0-2), Dermot McWilliams (0-1), Brendan McKay (0-1), Denver Johnson (0-1)