DERRY GAA: Four goal Claudy advance as Steelstown miss chance again!

Steelstown's Ryan Devine and Claudy's Shane McGahon battle during the first meeting between the sides on Friday night before the Mitchels eventually won through in the replay.
Steelstown's Ryan Devine and Claudy's Shane McGahon battle during the first meeting between the sides on Friday night before the Mitchels eventually won through in the replay.

McFeely Group Intermediate Football Championship Semi-Final

John Mitchel's Claudy 4-09, Steelstown Brian Ogs 0-19

The double dream lives on for Claudy after they edged a thrilling second instalment of a titanic encounter against a Steelstown side who left victory behind them for a second time.

And if Friday night was frustrating for Brian Ogs when they should have capped a remarkable second half comeback with victory, this will be an even more bitter pill to swallow following a game they controlled for long periods.

Yet, after two remarkable ties in which the sides scored 9-45 between them (Yes, you read that right!), only two points separated them but it was the Division 1B champions who hauled themselves through to a quarter-final tie against Lissan and it would take a brave man to back against them!

This second epic hinged on 90 crucial second half seconds.

Claudy changed ends one point up but Steelstown's second half pressure was threatening to take the game away from the Mitchel's as the city side turned that one point deficit into a 0-13 to 1-06 lead as the clock ticked past 41 minutes.

Four points up, a superb run from Diarmuid Baker took him clear of the Claudy cover and the goal was on. Eoghan Bradley took up position unmarked at the far post, Ben McCarron charged through in support but they over elaborated the move and despite McCarron salvaging a fisted point, the goal was lost.

It felt decisive at that stage and seconds later it proved exactly that.

The excellent Paddy Hargan, who was superb throughout, charged at the heart of the Steelstown defence and looked set to point until a diving block spun the ball skywards. Most hesitated but Aaron Kerrigan was already moving and nipped in ahead of Eoghan Heraghty to fist a glancing finish into the net. Steelstown still led but a Claudy challenge which was waning was suddenly rejuvenated.

An inspired tactical decision dropped Marty Donaghy back into a pivotal play-making role and Claudy had a third goal four minutes later when Hargan again did superbly to feed the ball right to Blaine Carlin whose driven finish across the face of goal and into the far corner was brilliant.

It was an eight point swing and it won Claudy the game. Scores galvanised teams and big scores change games or in this case, keep double dreams alive.

The game wasn't won but the Mitchel's had the momentum back and Steelstown were playing catch-up again in a race they always needed a goal to win. It never came with the Claudy celebrations illustrating how big a win it was between two sides, either which could have won this championship.

Claudy's killer fourth goal with five minutes remaining came after miscommunication in the Steelstown defence forced keeper, Heraghty to rush his clearance which was then sent back past him and into the net by Mitchel's substitute Calum McElhinney from fully 30 yards.

Even then, Steelstown came but the damage was done. You don't concede four goals and win many championship matches.

Brian Ogs manager Eamon Gibson had made three changes from the side held in the first game with Mickey McKinney restored to the starting 15 after his impressive cameo and coming in alongside Shane O'Connor and Cormac Mooney. They replaced Cahir O'Doherty, Cathal Roarty and Eoghan Concannon, the latter an especially huge loss due to injury.

Claudy were without Conor Johnston and Oran Armstrong, both red carded in Friday night's game, with Shane McGahon and Jamie Brown the men coming in to replace them.

After the fireworks of the first instalment, it was a relatively low key opening with Claudy employing the twin threats of Donaghy and Kerrigan inside but pulling every one else back when the Brain Ogs were in possession.

Steelstown countered by stationing Neil Forester as a sweeper with Mark Foley and Bradley the two man full forward line backed up by McCarron, McKinney and Gareth Logue coming from deeper.

It was cat and mouse at times in the opening half, Steelstown constantly probing but Claudy ready to spring the counter if they could turn ball over and utilise the space in front of Donaghey and Kerrigan.

McKinney quickly justified his inclusion with the game's opening point inside 25 seconds with Steelstown keen to avoid a repeat of the whirlwind Claudy start last time out.

Two Aaron Kerrigan frees swung the tie Claudy's way by the seventh minute before McCarron levelled with another placed ball. The Derry under 20 star was coming in for some close attention from Conall White, who was determined to curtail his influence and it developed into a fascinating battle.

Mark Foley and Cormac Mooney had Steelstown 0-4 to 0-2 up when the half's only goal arrived courtesy of a touch of class from former county player Donaghy who cut in from the right before unleashing a fierce left footed finish high into the Steelstown net at Heraghty's near post.

It put Claudy one point up and it was a lead they maintained until the break as the sides went tit-for-tat with the scores to arrive at the short whistle with Claudy 1-06 to 0-08 up.

Steelstown started the second period superbly with a McCarron (free), two lovely Shane O'Connor points and another from Mooney looking to have given them the platform to push for victory.

Then the 41st minute arrived.

Had they hit the net it would most likely be the Ballyarnett men lining up against Lissan in two weeks but they had already let the league champions off the hook once last Friday. They weren't going to get away with it again.

Claudy progress and playing their part in two classic is unlikely to be any consolation for Steelstown.

Steelstown scorers: Ben McCarron (0-8, 5f), Mickey McKinney (0-1), Mark Foley (0-3, 1 forty-five), Cormac Mooney (0-2), Eoghan Bradley (0-2), Shane O'Connor (0-2), Emmet Deane (0-1),

Claudy scorers: Aaron Kerrigan (1-4, 3f), Blaine Carlin (1-0), Marty Donaghy (1-2, 1f), Callum McElhinney (1-0), Shea Kerrigan (0-1), Jamie Donaghy (0-1), Shane McGahon (0-1),

Steelstown Brian Ogs: Eoghan Heraghty; CJ Martin, Kevin Lindsay, Shane O'Connor; Cormac Mooney, Neil Forester, Diarmuid Baker; Darren McDaid, Ryan Devine; Emmett Deane, Ben McCarron, Gareth Logue; Mark Foley, Eoghan Bradley, Mickey McKinney.

(Subs) Rory Maguire for S O'Connor, 46mins; Stephen McCauley for M Foley, 58mins,

Yellow Cards: G Logue, 29mins;

Claudy: Kieran Reilly, Jamie Brown, Corey Armstrong, Fionian Smyth; Blaine Carlin, Conall White, Aaron Donaghy; Shane McGahon, Eoin McGahon; Jamie Donaghy, Shea Kerrigan, Daryl Devine, Paddy Hargan, Marty Donaghy, Aaron Kerrigan.

(Subs) Callum McElhinney for J Browne (inj), 31mins; Conor Gormley for S Kerrigan, 56mins

Yellow Cards: C White, 44mins

Referee: John Joe Cleary (B'screen)