St. Eunan’s minors advanced to the semi-final of the annual Ulster Minor Football Tournament at St. Paul’s in Belfast on Saturday after a hard fought extra-time win over 2015 Spirit of Paul McGirr (U16) winners Clann Eireann from Armagh.
St Eunan’s 0-13 Clann Eireann 0-11
The lead changed hands several times throughout this gripping contest that was a great advertisement for Minor club football. The Armagh champions started brightly, going up by two points to no score in the opening 12 minutes before St. Eunan’s found their footing to draw level through points from Éoin McGeehin and Niall Hannigan.
Clann Eireann regained their two point cushion at the interval after two late points saw them lead by 0-04 to 0-02 at the break.
The Letterkenny men faced the same half-time deficit against Down champions Burren two weeks ago in the preliminary round so they knew what was needed in the second period if they were to move beyond the quarter-final stage.
They got a good start to the second half and reeled off 4 points in the opening ten minutes to move into a 2 point lead courtesy of Éoin McGeehin, Niall Hannigan (2) and Oisín Purdy.
But a good five minute spell for the Armagh team saw them level the scores once more as the game headed towards the final ten minutes of regulation time.
Once again the Cathedral town lads edged two points in front thanks to Conor O’Donnell and Hannigan (free).
O’Donnell was a surprise inclusion in the St. Eunan’s squad after getting cleared by a Dublin specialist to resume action on Thursday and while not fully fit, he had a huge impact on the proceedings.
Michael McGroary too was able to take his place on the Eunan’s bench and he was called into the fray for the final 10 minutes of then game and also had a big bearing on the outcome. But as the final ten minutes ticked away, the Armagh team once again found a way to draw level at 8 points apiece.
As the game ticked into the final minute of normal time the Armagh champions appeared to have won it when a high ball in was gathered well and fired over the bar.
With 3 minutes added time signalled by the referee time was not on the Donegal champions side.
They broke forward as time ebbed away and Éoin McGeehin was fouled 35m out and to the right of the Clann Eireann goalposts. Up stepped Conor O’Donnell to fire over a tremendous equalising score and as the kickout was taken the ref blew the final whistle which meant extra-time would be played in the soft underfoot conditions.
The score stood at 0-09 to 0-09.
In a nervy opening period of extra-time Clann Eireann once again hit the front thanks to 2 points in a minute in the final minute of the half to lead by 0-11 to 0-09.
The never-say-die attitude of this St. Eunan’s team was evident once again as they tagged on four points through Hannigan (2), Oisín Purdy and Michael McGroary in the second period of extra-time while keeping the Clann Eireann team scoreless in that period to emerge victors by two points.
They are off to Belfast again next Saturday (23rd) for a meeting with Enniskillen Gaels who were impressive winners over Cavan champions Ramor United, also on Saturday.
St. Eunan’s: Ronan McGeehin; Jerome Angel-Atuahene, Ciaran McCloskey, Anthony Gallagher; Ryan Hilferty, James Kelly, Peter McEniff; Patrick McColgan, Aaron Deeney; Louis Hasson, Niall Hannigan (0-6, 4f), Eoin McGeehin (0-2, 1f); Cormac Finn, Matthew McGovern, Oisín Purdy (0-2). Subs: Conor O’Donnell (0-2, 2f) for Finn (41), Sean Breen for McGovern (47), Sean Ryan for Hilferty (50), Michael McGroary for Hasson (52), Louis Hasson for Éoin McGeehin (74).Tags: