Kukri Ulster Minor Club Football Tournament - St Eunan’s 0-16 Slaughtneil 2-7
EUNAN’S SURVIVE LATE SCARE
Michael McMullan reports from Shaw’s Road
Despite controlling this game for long periods St Eunan’s were left hanging on yesterday in this Ulster Quarter Final as Derry champions Slaughtneil hit them with two late goals. It would have been an injustice had they lost the game and the Donegal men were certainly glad to hear the final whistle.
Former Donegal player and St Eunan’s mentor Paul Carr said as much in his assessment. “Slaughtneil had a couple of very strong players in there. Young McGuigan [Shane] and big Burke [Proinsias] were always dangerous and once they got their first goal they got their tails up we were certainly hanging on towards the end.”
Despite Saturday’s GAA fixture calendar virtually being wiped out by torrential rain the St Paul’s pitch was in terrific shape for this time of year. After their two hour journey to Belfast, St Eunan’s had to reshuffle their pack after a rib injury sustained in a rugby game ruled out Kevin Grant, so Carr’s son Rory switched to midfield with Dylan McCrory joining the attack.
Over the hour there was no disputing Niall O’Donnell’s man of the match award. He was exceptional, scoring 0-8 in all and was a constant thorn in the Slaughtneil defence. The Donegal minor player scored three points in the opening quarter to help his side into a 0-6 to 0-1 lead.
Slaughtneil were struggling with their kickouts into the breeze but when they eventually got to grips with the game it was points from Fergal Bradley, Brian Cassidy and Shane McGuigan that spearheaded a revival as St Eunan’s went twelve minutes without scoring.
Then came the scoring burst that effectively won the game for St Eunan’s with five points in as many minutes to open up a seven point gap, three from the highly impressive O’Donnell, with Ciaran Maloney and new Donegal senior player Rory Carr also on target.
“The period before half time gave us that bit of a cushion that we certainly needed in that second half,” added Paul Carr after the game.
After the break Slaughtneil had a goal opportunity from Keelan Feeney but St Eunan’s goalkeeper Gallagher came to the rescue. St Eunan’s kept their grip on the game with points from Dylan McCrory, Rory Carr and the ever accurate O’Donnell keeping the scoreboard ticking over.
Any time Slaughtneil tried to use the direct ball into Shane McGuigan they found the Letterkenny rearguard difficult to penetrate. Odhran McGinley played an important dual role as sweeper and was a very useful defensive outlet for St Eunan’s taking short kickouts from ‘keeper Gallagher. The St Eunan’s keeper played an important part over the hour including another fine save, this time at the feet of Brian Cassidy.
With ten minutes to go Slaughtneil management mixed things up sending the towering Proinsiais Burke in beside Shane McGuigan at full forward giving St Eunan’s some food for thought. A long ball from Ciaran McGuigan wasn’t dealt with and Keelan Feeney’s shot nestled in the corner of the net making the score 0-16 to 1-6.
Slaughtneil were not finished yet. Another long ball this time from James McCloskey was well fielded by Shane McGuigan who was wrestled to the ground and the resultant penalty as cooly dispatched to the net by Burke.
A free from Brian Cassidy two minutes into injury time reduced the gap to three points but St Eunan’s won vital possession from Gallagher’s kickout and when the final whistle sounded Slaughtneil’s brave comeback was cut short.
A relieved Paul Carr was looking ahead to a busy Christmas period in Belfast. “We’ve played in this competition a few times and hold it in quite high esteem. The boys have been working hard all year so we’re certainly going to it give it our all and try and win it.”
St Eunan’s: Matthew Gallagher; Conor Moore, Daragh MacWalters, Sean Halvey; Brian MacIntyre, Darragh Toal, Kevin Kealy (0-1); Oisin Toal, Rory Carr (0-3); Oisin O’Boyle (0-1 free), Niall O’Donnell (0-8, two frees), Ciaran Maloney (0-1); Odhran McGinley, Jake Whelan, Dylan McCrory (0-2).
Subs: Padraig McAleer for Jake Whelan (49mins), Dean Hamilton for Oisin O’Boyle (49mins).
Slaughtneil: James McRory, Ciaran Bradley, Conor McAllister, James McCloskey (0-1), Sean Cassidy, Ruairi McCartney, Keelan Feeney (1-0), Proinsias Burke (1-0 penalty), Ciaran McGuigan, Jerome McGuigan, Brian Cassidy (0-3, two frees), Sean O'Doherty, Liam Cassidy, Shane McGuigan (0-2 , one free), Fergal Bradley (0-1).
Subs: Conor Diamond for James McRory (19mins), Conan Hunter for Jerome McGuigan (47mins), Mark Glass for Fergal Bradley (51mins), Bernard Mellon for Liam Cassidy (53mins), Joe McEldowney for Sean O’Doherty (58mins).
Referee: Gavin Finnegan (Down)