‘Goals win games’ is the well worn cliché and once again that phrase rang very true as Eoghan Rua Coleraine banged in three to help them reach the quarter-final of the Derry senior football championship as they beat Bellaghy 3-8 to 0-10 at Glenullin last Sunday afternoon.
The reigning county champions had never beaten Bellaghy prior to Sunday’s tie but the Coleraine men put in a tremendously hard working performance to outscore the south Derry side. The winning margin of seven points gives a slightly skewed look about it as this was a very tight game throughout with Eoghan Rua’s third goal coming in added time. Certainly that was the view of Eoghan Rua manger Sean McGoldrick immediately after the game.
“It was just as tough as we expected from a side of Bellaghy’s championship tradition; it was tight all the way but in the end I suppose the goals really did make the difference. We did miss a few chances in the first half, probably going for goals when we should possibly have taken the points that were on. To be fair their goalkeeper did very well and they defended brilliantly when our lads thought they were in for those goal chances,” said Sean.
When it was suggested that Eoghan Rua’s goal just before the break was crucial the Coleraine manager was happy to agree. “Yea I suppose that would be right, the goal we got early on really settled us but the second goal just before half-time was a real boost as Bellaghy were finishing the half strongly and were just a point behind at that stage, going into the break four up gave us a wee bit of breathing space.”
The Eoghan Rua manager was full of praise for the effort his side put in over the hour plus. “The thing about our lads is that they all work very hard across the pitch, they support each other and we try to put pressure on as much as we can in all areas. I think it was our work rate that helped us to get over the line in this one.
“The goal late on probably put a bit of gloss on the scoreline and did’nt fully reflect how close the game was throughout and how tough Bellaghy made it for us. Obviously we’re very pleased to get to the quarter-final but Bellaghy are a good side and they’re not out yet, I think they’ll still have something to say in this championship,” concluded McGoldrick.
There was no doubt about the intensity brought to the game by the winners exemplified by defender Paul Daly who had to retire injured ten minutes into the second half. Despite clearly struggling he put in a couple more big tackles before Eoghan Rua could get their replacement onto the field.
Indeed the Coleraine defence was solid throughout, Sean McWilliams and Denis Frizelle making a number of telling interceptions while Ciaran Mullan was always looking to burst forward. Nominally forwards Gregory Bradley and Sean Leo McGoldrick did most of their work around the half back line working like demons with Barry McGoldrick controlling matters. Up front Ciaran McGoldrick and Declan Mullan were always causing trouble, their pace often simply too hot to handle.
Despite the hard work of Niall Holly and Hugh Casey big Joe Diver and to a lesser extent Conan Brown edged the midfield battle but the uncompromising Coleraine defence did well to contain the strong running pair from midfield. Gavin Diamond and Eoghan Brown had their moments in attack for Bellaghy but the collective defending by the Coleraine men went a long way to win the day for the current champions.
Bellaghy started and indeed finished without their talisman midfielder Fergal Doherty but Eoghan Rua fielded without six players who fielded in last year’s county final although two, Sean Paul Henry and Anton Rafferty came into the fray on Sunday. The game started at a hectic pace as Joe Diver collected a high ball in midfield and burst through to hit the opening point for Bellaghy, Diver then won the kick out but some resolute defending blocked his path.
In the third minute Eoghan Rua opened their account with a well taken goal, Ciaran McGoldrick latched onto a Hugh Casey pass to burst through and fire to the Bellaghy net. The sides then exchanged points before Sean Leo McGoldrick was denied a goal as Bellaghy ‘keeper Brian Scullion saved at close range. Scullion would come to Bellaghy’s rescue twice more in the first half to deny Eoghan Rua goal chances.
Midway through the half Bellaghy was just a point adrift at 1-2 to 0-4 with points from Eoghan Brown and Gavin Diamond. Going into the second quarter points from Mark McTaggart and Ciaran McGoldrick, from a free, had Coleraine three ahead. Once again Bellaghy hit two in a row as they edged the midfield battle now just a point adrift.
Scullion saved well from Ciaran McGoldrick but as the fiirst half move into added time the Bellaghy stopper was beaten for the second time. Ciaran McGoldrick did well down the left side before Gregory Bradley and Barry McGoldrick combined for the latter to slide home low to the near post.
That goal could not have come at a better time for the eventual winners as they were coming under a bit of pressure but they went in four to the good at the break . Inside the opening five minutes of the second half Bellaghy had reduced the gap to two yet again but some superb defending from the Coleraine men denied Bellaghy sight of a major score.
Indeed such was the work rate and tackling of the Coleraine men in every sector of the field they held bellaghy scoreless for a full twenty minute period up to the 55th minute. In the meantime they fired over four unanswered points to move six clear. Bellaghy were not done just yet as Coleraine tried to close out the game with even more resolute defending in numbers, two points from frees through Eoghan Brown reduced the gap to four as the game moved into added time.
A goal for Bellaghy at that stage certainly would have set up a nervy finish but in a breakaway attack it was Eoghan Rua that got the goal to settle the issue. Gregory Bradley latched onto to a loose ball to drill a ground shot to the roof of the Bellaghy net, Messi would have been proud of such a sweet strike!