Naomh Colmcille stand an hour away from Croke Park after a famous win over Dunedin Connollys in Edinburgh in this afternoon’s All-Ireland JFC quarter-final.
Dunedin Connollys 2-5 Naomh Colmcille 1-9
By Chris McNulty in Edinburgh
Ryan McKinley’s team, as has been their wont this year, made life difficulty for themselves but, again, their unwavering character came through as they booked a spot in the last four.
It was far from vintage, but when they stakes are like this the bottom line is the only currency that counts – and Naomh Colmcille again squeezed their way through.
It was a game they had won twice before they had to make sure of it a third time in the closing stages.
The huge crowd who made the voyage to Scotland from Newtowncunningham, Killea, Carrigans and St Johnston were watching through their fingers, the nails of which had been chewed asunder by the time they finally sealed their passage.
A stunning goal from Man of the Match Ryan McErlean early in the second half looked to have paved the way, but a penalty – needlessly conceded – by Sean Malee, almost immediately, got Dunedin Connollys back into it.
And even when Naomh Colmcille reeled off four points in a row, they still weren’t home and hosed as sub Seamus Mulvihill palmed home a second Dunedin Connollys goal.
The natives were even dreaming of victory at that point, but late points by McErlean and Daniel Clarke saw the traveling hoards flock onto the field at Granton Road to toast the triumph.
Naomh Colmcille, who traveled over on Thursday evening, were late arriving to the venue, the team bus delayed due to an accident, and the throw-in was only delayed by 15 minutes. The conditions were hardly ideal either and the rock-hard surface was certainly adding to the difficulty for the participants.
It showed in the early exchanged and the Donegal champions, who in fairness were kicking into the glare of a strong Edinburgh sunlight, posted seven first-half wides, a tally that will have concerned the visitors at the interval, when Dunedin led 0-4 to 0-3,
Two points by veteran forward Frank Molloy edged Dunedin ahead before Willie Gillespie’s free tied things up.
But a pointed free by Sean Malee late in the half gave Dunedin the edge at the short whistle.
Matthew Crossan, Naomh Colmcille’s goal hero in the Ulster final win over Belnaleck, had been well boxed in for the opening half-hour and couldn’t get the necessary accuracy on an effort in added time at the end of the half.
Clarke and skipper Willie Gillespie, with a fine point from distance, turned the tables following an early score from Damien Keane, but a ten-minute barren spell followed before Molloy brought the locals to life.
The missed chances were clocking up for Naomh Colmcille, but the red and white men burst to life in the second half.
Clarke drew them level from a free before McErlean lit the touchpaper. Michael Lynch swept the ball his way and with a magical swing of the boot, McErlean arrowed a wonderful effort soaring beyond Marty Hanna, the Dunedin Connollys goalkeeper. McErlean’s effort flew into the top corner and Naomh Colmcille were in command.
But not for long.
John Roulstone denied Molloy with a strong save but the Naomh Colmcille netminder was subsequently penalised for a foul on Malee, who stepped up to convert the penalty. Malee pointed a free soon after and Dunedin were in front again.
John Fullerton and Gillespie restored the advantage for Naomh Colmcille and experienced wing-back Gerard Curran got forward for a rare point that came at just the right time.
McErlean found his range again to open up a three-point lead, but Dunedin stunned Naomh Colmcille as Mulvihill latched onto a dangerous ball across goal to steer home from close range and even the abacus.
Naomh Colmcille had largely done well to keep the door shut on Dunedin, with Alex Devenney again standing tall at full-back, and William Lynch orchestrating matters, but when the All-Britain champions – who took on Carndonagh native Eanna Newton in the second half – did get in they made hay.
Some might have wilted, but McKinley’s men are built from tough granite.
McErlean plucked a ball from the clouds, spun away and drilled over a point that threw down the gauntlet again. It was a time for calm and Naomh Colmcille, finally, got it with Clarke curling over a free.
They still had time to make their followers sweat, but Malee pointed a free.
Soon, the whistle shrilled and Naomh Colmcille had added yet another chapter to their never-ending story.
Dunedin Connollys: Marty Hanna; Will Stevenson, Dan O’Brien, Brendan Parsons; Tom Fitzgerald, Arran Moore, Conor Horan; Brian McAteer, Vinnie Moriarty; Aldo Matassa, Paul Reen, Ronan McGurk; Sean Malee (1-3, 1pen, 3f), Frank Molloy (0-2), Damien Keane (0-1, 1f). Subs: Eoin O’Neill for Moriarty (33), Éanna Newton for McGurk (33), Daniel Loftus for Keane (47), Seamus Mulvihill (1-0) for Stevenson (54), Fintan Kearney for Reen (54), Adam McKeever for O’Neill (black card, 56).
Naomh Colmcille: John Roulstone; Ricky Hegarty, Alex Devenney, Paul Friel; Gerard Curran (0-1), Ciaran Devine, Kevin Gallagher; Michael Lynch, Daniel Clarke (0-3, 2f); John Fullerton (0-1), Ryan McErlean (1-2), Oran Hilley; Matthew Crossan, Willie Gillespie (0-3,2 f), William Lynch. Subs: Don Hegarty for Gallagher (20), Michael Friel for D.Hegarty (black card, 48), Eddie Gillespie for Curran (60).
Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare)Tags: