BUNCRANA WON A first ever penalty shootout in the history of the Ulster Club Championship to seal a place in the final of the Junior Football Championship after an epic against Rock St Patrick’s, writes Alan Foley
Buncrana 1-14 Rock St Patrick’s 2-11
(after extra-time. Buncrana won 4-3 on penalties)
A goal 10 minutes into second half injury time looked to have denied Buncrana a place in the final as St Patrick’s brought the semi-final at Celtic Park in Derry to extra-time.
Buncrana had established a three-point lead through John Campbell, Darach O’Connor and Caolan McGonagle and with six minutes of injury time signaled, looked to have done enough.
However, a brawl at the end brought a delay and although St Patrick’s Cormac O’Neill was sent off, Buncrana lost both goalkeeper Harry Doherty to a red card and wing-back William McLaughlin, black-carded.
When the action finally got underway, Shea Litter scrambled home that late goal to level it at 1-11 to 1-11 and then it was the side managed by Martin Hackett who looked like they would come through. Conor McGarrity’s goal in extra-time put Rock 1-14 to 1-11 ahead.
In the second period, two Campbell points – either side of one from Ryan Bradley – brought for the novel conclusion. There, Darach O’Connor, Caolan McGonagle and Odhran Doherty all scored their penalties and Oisin Doherty was off target.
However, stand-in Buncrana goalkeeper Sean Parker saw Conor McGarrity and Diarmaid Carroll miss the target, so it was left to Campbell – who scored 1-7 in the match itself – to slam home the winning penalty.
The Tyrone team carried considerable pedigree, having had won three Ulster JFC titles – including a provincial title victory over Urris in 2014 – and were beaten in two All-Ireland finals in 2008 and 2017.
No Donegal side had won the competition ever, until 2017, when Naomh Colmcille took the trophy over the border to Newtowncunningham and then last year the trick was repeated by Red Hugh’s.
A first minute free from Darach O’Connor put the Inishowen team in front, only for the next four points to come from St Patrick’s. Two of them came from the considerable boot of Shane Murphy, a free from 55 metres and a long-range point, while captain Aidan McGarrity also posted a couple of frees.
By the 18thminute, Buncrana – 17 minutes after their only score – managed to stack up a goal and a point in less than a minute. Firstly, Campbell punched a goal past Niall Mullan in the St Patrick’s goal as a rebound fell his way from a sizzling shot from McGonagle that was blocked after a fine run.
Then, seconds later, O’Connor scored a point and suddenly, from their slow start, Buncrana were motoring and 1-2 to 0-4 in front on the 20thminute.
The contest had come to life. St Patrick’s were up for the challenge. Points in the latter stages of the first half Enda Mallon, McGarrity and then corner-back Cormac O’Neill made for a tit-for-tat period. Odhran Doherty and Campbell, though, had kept the umpires busy at the other end.
Harry Doherty in the Buncrana goal had to be alert on the stroke of half-time to touch what looked like a miskicked effort at a point that might flew into the goal, around the post. The shot had come from the other St Patrick’s corner-back, Mark McAleer. Murphy put the 45 over, which meant Buncrana were down at the break, 0-8 to 1-4.
That said, Malachy McCann wouldn’t have been overly irritated, with his team having only played in fits and starts but still very much in the thick of things.
Ciaran Gourley, now 40, lined up at full-back, having played in the 2003 All-Ireland final win for Tyrone and been a panelist in both 2005 and 2008.
Buncrana had defeated Letterkenny Gaels to win Donegal and then got the better of Collegeland 1-13 to 0-9 at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh in the Ulster quarter-final.
Both Campbell and O’Connor missed frees to level it in the early stages of the second half as Buncrana attacked the Brandywell side of Celtic Park. Odhran Doherty took responsibility then with a placed ball and levelled it up at 1-5 to 0-8.
Points were traded by Enda McWilliams for St Patrick’s and Campbell of Buncrana before the clock it 40. Buncrana missed a huge goal chance on 42 minutes when Noel McLaughlin steered wide from the ground no more than five metres out as Campbell batted down a skied effort into the air from Ryan McElhinney. That meant it was still level, 1-6 to 0-9.
Conor McGarrity then edged St Patrick’s back in front by the minimum. Thing could’ve been worse, though.
Padraig Ward got on the end of a pass by Cathal McWilliams and from a chance that had goal written all over it, Harry Doherty made an unbelievable one-handed save from an absolute rasper of a shot to keep his team in the game.
Campbell’s free brought Buncrana back on terms with 10 to play, only for Enda Mallon to put St Patrick’s in front again, 0-11 to 1-7.
Again, Campbell, levelled it with a free that brought his personal total for the evening to 1-4 and then pointed with three to play and now it was Buncrana who were ahead, 1-9 to 0-11.
And O’Connor doubled the lead before Cormac O’Neill, who had been riding his luck, was given a straight black card by referee Sean Laverty for his part in an altercation in injury time. Buncrana goalkeeper Harry Doherty was sent off and William McLaughlin was black-carded.
McGonagle nailed a fine free deep into injury time and it looked like Buncrana had won it, only for a goal to come from St Patrick’s in the 10thminute of injury time – six had been signaled – when bundled home a centre from Aidan McGarrity was touched home by Litter. At full-time it was 1-11 apiece.
Buncrana missed three decent chances in the first period of extra-time Conor McGarrity’s goal. Ryan Bradley did fire a point over for Buncrana three minutes before the end as they battled gamely to take the contest to penalties and Campbell’s free meant it was down to the minimum. Oisin Doherty took a potshot to level but his effort went wide.
However, just when all appeared dead, Campbell punched over a point to level it and it went to penalties.
Blackhill from Monaghan await in the final.
Buncrana: Harry Doherty; Matthew Mulholland, Aeden Stokes, Conor Grant; William McLaughlin, Bruce Waldron, Jack O’Loughlin; Peter McLaughlin, Coalan McGonagle (0-1, 1f); Oisin O’Flaherty, Darach O’Connor (0-3, 1f), Odhran Doherty (0-2, 1f); Oisin Hegarty, John Campbell (1-7, 4f), Adrian Doherty. Subs: Ryan McElhinney for O’Loughlin (23, black card), Stephen Doherty for Stokes (30), Noel McLaughlin for P McLaughlin (35), Cathal McNutt for Odhran Doherty (44), Ryan Bradley (0-1) for N McLaughlin (45), Oisin Doherty for Oisin O’Flaherty (50), Sean Parker for W McLaughlin (60+4, black card). Noel McLaughlin was reintroduced for extra-time; Cathal McNutt for Grant (67), Oisin O’Flaherty for A Doherty (76)
Rock, St Patrick’s:Niall Mullan; Mark McAleer, Ciaran Gourley, Cormac O’Neill (0-1); Peter Girvan, Cathal McWilliams, Conor Ward; Shane Murphy (0-3, 1f, 45), Enda McWilliams (0-1); Thomas Bloomer, Aidan McGarrity (0-3, 1f), Enda Mallon (0-2), Padraig Ward, Conor McGarrity (1-1), Niall McWilliams. Subs: Aidan Girvan for N McWilliams (38), Peter Ward for P Girvan (57), Diarmaid Carroll for P Ward (58), Shea Litter (1-0) for Bloomer (60+4). Bloomer was reintroduced for extra-time. Karl Kolbohm for E Mallon (77).
Referee:Sean Laverty (Antrim).