MacLarnon Cup final goes to a replay

March 19, 2018

Danske Bank Dr MacLarnon Cup final
Holy Trinity Cookstown 1-9 St Eunan’s Letterkenny 2-6
Injury time in the Danske Bank MacLarnon Cup final yesterday in Armagh was a tale of three Conors. In the third of the scheduled four extra minutes, St Eunan’s gave away possession from a free on their 40 metre line and Holy Trinity fed the ball across for substitute Conor Quinn to pop over an equalising point from 25 metres.
In the 64th minute however St Eunan’s drove up the field and Shane O’Donnell’s pass over the top to the right of the Cookstown goal found his namesake Conor inside the cover with a clear run on goal. He shot from 10 metres, but Holy Trinity goalie Conor Loane was out sharply to block with his knees – a 45 that O’Donnell dropped short for Barry Cassidy to draw a close on an excellent final.
Cookstown’s manager Aidan O’Hagan was delighted with the outcome.
“Conor (Loane) wasn’t even a keeper at the start of the competition, but we made one out of him and he is a damn good one too,” he enthused in the tunnel afterwards.
“Look, we had to show tremendous character out there. We were dominated in the first half, conceded a second goal early in the second half, but came back from five down by dominating midfield. Those boys have serious character.”
Meanwhile across the way, joint manager and former Donegal ace Colm McFadden was refusing to blame his corner-forward for going for goal rather than lift the ball over the bar for a point.
“No, Conor (O’Donnell) is a good forward and went for his shot. We are facing into a replay because we didn’t push on after the second goal. Indeed we dominated the first half and only went in leading by two points. So we had some poor shot selection at different times.”
“The good thing is that we have a replay. It looks like Celtic Park in Derry on Friday evening and we will try to fix a few things before that.”
St Eunan’s dominated the opening half but only led 1-4 to 1-2 at the break – and they probably had themselves to blame – an abundance of possession, but six wides and a few balls dropped into the goalie’s hands.
The Donegal side got a great start with Shane O’Donnell’s point effort skidding off the cross bar into the waiting arms of Brian Diver who side-footed to the goalie’s.
Holy Trinity however responded with a goal of their own. Again a shot for a point from Tiarnan Quinn dropped short and Tiernan Mackle fist went highest to connect and send to net.
St Eunan’s however continued to dominate and Shane O’Donnell took an off-the-shoulder pass to point. With Shane McDevitt eventually getting the range from frees (he missed his first two) and then taking a great catch for Connor O’Donnell to point, the Donegal side went into a fully deserved 1-4 to 1-0 lead.
The platform for that dominance came from the placement of Peter McEniff as sweeper. However when Mark McKearney and Pauric Lagan began to run at the defence in the last couple of minutes of the half, Holy Trinity pulled back two points from Tiarnan Quinn and Oran Mulgrew.
After Conor O’Donnell and Tiarnan Quinn had swopped points, O’Donnell took a good pass from Shane McDaid to crash home St Eunan’s second goal and a 2-5 to 1-3 lead after 35 minutes.
Amazingly this seemed to rouse Cookstown and they dominated the middle third for the next 15 minutes, reeling in the lead in the process with points from both midfielders, Mark Devlin, Mark McKearney and Tiarnan Mackle, all from open play.
Both O’Donnell and Tiernan Quinn missed frees from around 35 metres, before O’Donnell edged his side ahead again with a free on the 20 metre line after 53 minutes.
That was the last scoring action before the drama of added time as both defences stood up brilliantly with the excitement at fever pitch. A draw is always a fair result, leaving a replay to properly sort out the difference between two good footballing sides.
St Eunan’s: E O’Boyle capt, C O’Kane, A Gallagher, S McDaid, P McEniff, B Diver 1-0, J Kelly, P McGettigan, S Doherty, S O’Donnell 0-1, PJ McBrearty, S McDevitt 0-2 frees, C O’Donnell 1-3, 0-1 free, O Purdy, C Finn 0-1.
Subs: A Grant for S McDevitt (42), R Hillferty for C O’Kane (52), O Cassidy for C Finn (56), B Alcorn for O Purdy (56)
Holy Trinity Cookstown: C Loane, D Canavan, Tarlach Quinn, T McNamee, O Mulgrew 0-1, C Donnelly, M McKearney 0-1, E Gallagher 0-1, P Lagan 0-1, K Robinson, Thomas Mackle, S Murphy capt., Tiernan Quinn 0-2, 0-1 free, Tiernan Mackle 1-1, M Devlin 0-1.
Subs: E Devlin for Thomas Mackle (HT), A Moore for K Robinson (39), C Quinn 0-1 for Tiarnan Mackle (56).

Referee : Barry Cassidy (Bellaghy)