Both sides had their admirers in the lead up to this semi-final but it was Foreglen who will return to Ballinascreen for the final on Sunday after this storming win over a Slaughtmanus side that was unable to produce their best form.
Now, they’re in their first final since 2007 and Slaughtmanus were left to rue yet another semi final crumble, a 10th last four defeat in 24 years.
In the end, it was impressively comfortable for the black shirts who never once surrendered their lead after the fantastic Niall McFeely edged them ahead in the 19th minute. Foreglen’s attack is frighteningly fast and the Slaughtmanus decision to go man for man at the back was exposed as the razor sharp O’Brien’s forwards took their markers on an unrelenting tour of Dean McGlinchey Park with telling effect.
St. Mary’s too though had that trump card of lightning forwards and it was they who looked to have control in the opening quarter as Kevin King carried ball, Gavin McShane weaved in and out and Barry Lyons split the posts from downtown.
Mark McCormick lorded it in the middle and swung the pendulum emphatically in his side’s favour as Foreglen went on to amass 1-05 without reply in the 12 minutes before half time.
It was McCormick’s fetch and high ball in which deceived everyone but Niall McFeely who darted in behind and finished with aplomb soccer-style with a composed dink into the bottom corner.
The midfield dominated and direct balls were sent straight to Kevin O’Connor who won everything under the posts and rewarded the foraging runs of his half forward line.
Ciaran McFeely kicked a beauty from the left wing. Niall McFeely then found O’Connor for his only point from play before the lively Nigel Bradley got in on the action.
With seven in it coming out for the second period, Slaughtmanus left themselves with an awful lot to do but playing with the wind and controlling large chunks of the game, they panicked. They went for goal repeatedly.
If Gavin McShane wasn’t sending over one of his terrific free kicks, the score board was unaffected for the third quarter of the match as Slaughtmanus abandoned the running game which has served them so well.
Oisin Duffy moving to full back was a masterstroke. Downey and McLaughlin ran the risk of taking away from the centre back’s game but the Foreglen captain offered no change to Doherty and he was at the heart of all the necessary defensive duties. When he needed help, Mark McCormick was back in an instant plucking balls from beneath the posts. The management had their homework done.
It was the sort of game Foreglen might have thrown away in the past but, this time, they dug in their heels and refused to wilt. When it was needed, Nigel Bradley’s thunderbolt finish to the top left corner maintained their buffer.
Foreglen: Ronan Tracey; Pauric Sheerin, Oisin Duffy, Conrad Sheerin; Cathal O’Hara (0-1), John Duffy, Kevin O’Neill; Darren O’Kane, Mark McCormick; Nigel Bradley (1-2, 0-1f), Niall McFeely (1-0), Ciaran McFeely (0-2, 0-1f); Eoghan Duffy, Kevin O’Connor (0-3, 0-2f), Eunan McFeely. Subs: Marty Farrell for Ciaran McFeely (54), Sean Morahan for Conrad Sheerin (54), Paul Kealey for Bradley (60)
Slaughtmanus: Ronan Cooke; Barry Cooke, Ronan Devine, Ryan Cooke; Ryan Barr, Cahir Cooke, Kieran McGlinchey; Barry Lyons (0-1), John Robertson; Shane Connor, Kevin King (0-2), Chris Deery; Brian Duddy, Ian Doherty (0-1), Gavin McShane (0-5f). Subs: David Quigg for Duddy (25), Adrian O’Kane for Deery (40), Fergal Hargan for Barry Cooke (43), Cailean Creane for Connor (47), Darren McShane for King (60)
Referee: Tommy Quigley (Lissan)