MacLarnon Cup: St. Columb’s College into first semi-final in three years

The St. Columb's College panel which defeated St. Ciaran's Ballygawley in the MacLarnon Cup Quarter-final in Loup on Friday.
The St. Columb's College panel which defeated St. Ciaran's Ballygawley in the MacLarnon Cup Quarter-final in Loup on Friday.
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St Columb’s College 3-10, St Ciaran’s, Ballygawley 0-08

A devastating three minute scoring blitz of 2-02 at the beginning of the second half earned St. Columb’s College a first MacLarnon Cup semi-final spot in three years against St. Ciaran’s, Ballygawley at Loup on Friday afternoon. A close, tactical first half was contrasted by a high-scoring and passionate second in which the early scoring burst all but sealed the tie for the Derry school.

With St Columb’s failing to progress past the quarter-final stages in the past three years and still carrying the scars of one point defeats in each of those games, St Ciaran’s were rightly installed as favourites having already secured the Rafferty Cup.

However The College started well, keeping Ballygawley scoreless for 30 minutes as the Derry full-back line of Coll, Stevenson and Brown all dominated the St. Ciaran’s full-forward line. The most intriguing battle in those 30 minutes was the exciting exchanges between Brown and Darragh Canavan, son of Tyrone legend, Peter Canavan.

Although Ballygawley dominated the ariel battle at midfield, launching wave after wave of attack in the opening quarter, the Derry boys looked very comfortable in defence, playing with a discipline and intensity that forced Ballygawley to hit 13 first half wides.

When St. Columb’s did get possession, the intelligent O’Connor consistently launched attacks through the powerful running of Moore, McElhinney, White and Mortimer. Whilst scores were hard to come by their efforts won frees, Moore converting two while Feeney scored two from play which kept the board ticking over and Ballygawley frustrated.

Although Feeney was causing the Ballygawley defence trouble in the first half, there didn’t seem to be a huge scoring threat from any of the college marksmen. Indeed, Canavan for once eluded the close attentions of Brown, to register Ballygawley’s first score, with the last kick of the half leaving the sides running into the Loup changing rooms on a scoreline of 0-04 to 0-01.

Any worries the Tyrone side would be coming into the second half with the momentum were put to bed early. The Derry lads went on a scoring blitz in the opening five minutes of the second half, registering an unanswered 2-02. This platform was build on the midfield pairing of McAdam’s and Smyth who were now dominating the aerial battle on the Ballygawley kick-outs.

The first goal came from St. Columb’s securing primary possession from a Ballygawley kick-out. A quality early delivery to Bradley saw the College forward turn his man before finding the back of the net.

Further possession secured from another Ballygawley kick-out saw McElhinney and Feeney register two quick points and with Lynch now cleaning up breaking ball, the all action Mortimer arrived from half-back to score the goal that his performance merited.

It put St Columb’s 2-06 to 0-01 ahead but St. Ciaran’s dug deep, registering five unanswered scores to bring themselves back into the game

But it was always going to be St Columb’s day, with All-Star keeper Dylan Doherty providing so much variety in his kicking that he must be credited with the score of the game. He found Moore on the wing, who in turn reversed his pass inside to Mortimer, his delicious diagonal ball to inside forward Feeney who played a lovely one-two with the marauding White, with Feeney finishing the move with a point.

Feeney inserted the final nail in the coffin, scoring St Columb’s third and final goal to finish with a personal tally of 1-03 on a day that St Columb’s erased the memories of previous quarter final defeats.

St Columb’s scorers: C Feeney 1-3, E McElhinney 0-3, A Moore 0-3, S Bradley 1-0, S Mortimer 1-0, C O’Connor 0-1

St Ciaran’s scorers: D Canavan 0-3, C Shields 0-3, D Blake 0-1, T Hoy 0-1