MAGHERAFELT’S Emmett McGuckin put in an outstanding display at a sun-drenched Rossa Park on Sunday to give Magherafelt victory that maintained Steelstown’s perilous position in the lower reaches of the Division One table.
Cathal Harkin reports
McGuckin’s haul of 1-08, which all came from play, was a mixture of the sublime to the outrageous as Steelstown failed to contain the senior county player who, on this evidence, looks a certain starter for Derry against Donegal little over a fortnight. His movement and power caused endless problems for the Steelstown full back line in an effortless display of score-taking. He gained possession, looked up and shot over the bar. Simple!
Steelstown came in as huge underdogs but as the game unfolded however, there was little to separate the sides. The visitors welcomed back Stephen Cleary and although appearing a little rusty his passing was incisive. Mark Foley was also back from his studies in England and his tally of 2-03 was a major factor in helping Steelstown stay with Magherafelt. The city side were still without Mickey McKinney, Conor McGoran, Daniel Jackson and Stephen McCauley who arrived late due to university commitments although Magherafelt had their fair share of players missing too.
The imperious McGuckin opened the scoring off the outside of his boot from 45m out and this was quickly followed by a huge effort from Chrissy Spiers from a free after he was fouled by Neil Forrester. Forrester would go on to have a great game at centre-half back alongside Aidan Cleary and Paul O’Hea who formed a strong half-back line which formed the platform for countless Steelstown attacks.
Steelstown replied with a goal after a half-blocked shot from James Jackson fell to Foley and the returning full-forward drove the ball under Barry Gillis to put Steelstown a point to the good and silence the home supporters. Foley added to his tally shortly after with free before a speculative high ball into Steelstown defence was watched by everyone bar Shane Heavron who collected the ball, turned and drove the ball high into the net past Marty Dunne.
Stephen Cleary levelled up matters from a free but the open nature of the game was in evidence again with long range efforts from John Young and the majestic McGuckin. Both teams had been renowned for their defensive set-ups, however although these were in operation on Sunday both sides managed to break them down. Magherafelt simply drove the ball long and hard into McGuckin and no matter if it was low, high or whatever the county player made use of it; while Steelstown who are well known for their short-passing game, moved the ball with their feet more often which was of benefit to their forward line.
Steelstown had a chance of a second goal after a storming run from Niall Murray ripped apart the Magherafelt rearguard and he crossed it to James Jackson but, with the goal at his mercy, he somehow managed to palm over the bar from five metres out.
Magherafelt finished off the half with a fisted point from Young and an outstanding effort from McGuckin but a Foley ‘45 ensured only the minimu m between the teams at the break as Magherafelt led 1-07 to 1-06 Steelstown.
A fortuitious opening score which bounced over Dunne’s crossbar opened the second half scoring before Stephen Cleary got his only point from play when he attacked the Magherafelt defence at speed to narrow the gap to two. Scores were coming thick and fast and McGuckin added two more before Steelstown, yet agai,n came back with a Cleary free, cancelled out by one from McGuckin.
Foley replied again from the narrowest of angles while the next four scores were shared between the teams to leave it 1-13 to 1-11 9in favour of the home team with eight minutes to go.
Steelstown were sensing a sizeable scalp but that hope evaporated when McCabe landed another effort after a great pass from McGuckin and the latter scored his best of the point of the game a minute later. McGuckin then got into the goal-scoring mood when he fisted on a long pass into the net past Dunne. It was just reward for a simply outstanding display from McGuckin.
Foley scored a late consolation goal but both sides, goiing in very different directions can take credit for a great game of football. However, if Steelstown can maintain their recent improvement then the points on the league table will come.
Magherafelt: Barry Gillis; Darren O’Neill, Paul Purvis, Joe Keenan; Connor Kearns (0-01), Ryan Ferris, Daniel Heavron; Conan O’Brien, Phillip McCabe (0-02); Shane Heavron (1-01), Chrissy Spears (0-01f), John Young (0-02); Anthony McElhone, Phillip McCusker, Emmett McGuckin (1-08). Subs: 40 mins: Ciaran McGlone for Phillip McCusker, Stephen McGuckin for Anthony McElhone 58 mins: Darren McGuckin for Ryan Ferris
Steelstown: Martin Dunne; Christy Beales, Kevin Lyndsay, Micheal Moore (0-01); Pol O’Hea, Neil Forrester, Aidan Cleary; Darren McDaid (0-01), Ryan Devine (0-01); Stephen Cleary (0-04, 3f), Gary Cunningham (0-01), Niall Murray; Mark Foley (2-03, 1f, 1 45), Liam Heffernan, James Jackson. Subs: 43 mins: Stephen McCauley for Niall Murray