Slaughtmanus 2-09, Drumsurn 0-09
Slaughtmanus joined Steelstown and Castledawson in the Small & Hyland Derry Intermediate Football Championship semi-finals but it was anything but plain sailing against pre-match underdogs, Drumsurn.
Billed as outsiders before throw-in, St Matthew’s were left to rue a costly first half goalkeeping mistake and a series of missed chances - including a second half penalty - as Slaughtmanus’ superior fitness eventually carried them through.
But St. Mary’s manager Paddy Campbell is unlikely to be fooled by a St Mary’s performance which lacked energy at times and too often invited pressure.
The game ended with some unsavoury scenes in injury time as players and officials from both sides got caught up in a needless fracas which resulted in red cards for Slaughtmanus pair, John Robertson and Cathal Deery, the latter on a second yellow card. It meant little to the result but the potential loss of Robertson for the semi-final is a blow Campbell could have done without, especially considering the game was all but over.
The first half was a tight, cagey affair. Slaughtmanus shaded the opening exchanges but prompted by Ciaran Mullan, Drumsurn were finding some joy against the massed St. Mary’s defence.
Both sides adopted zonal systems when not in possession, flooding their own 45s with defenders and trying to launch fast counter-attacks but as the second half wore on, Drumsurn’s fitness meant they struggled to get forward in enough numbers to support their ball carriers. With the modern possession dominated game, establishing a lead is crucial and Slaughtmanus managed it after an unfortunate error from Drumsurn No. 1 Steven Harbinson.
The sides were level at 0-2 a-piece after 13 minutes which included an excellent opener from Ciaran Mullan off the outside of his boot.
Mullan’s opposite number in the playmaker’s role was Gavin McShane who is used to the sort of one-on-one attention his talent merits at this level but he still found space to set up that crucial opening goal for Conor McGee.
McGee was excellent throughout and looked a threat every time he got decent possession but he couldn’t believe his luck when McShane’s long range effort, which was dropping into Harbinson’s hands, was pushed out by the Drumsurn keeper. Harbinson tried to recover but McGee, like all good forwards do, had already gambled on it breaking and was perfectly placed to accept the gift and touch home for a three point lead.
The sides continued to trade scores, Aidy O’Kane and David Quigg impressing for Slaughtmanus but Drumsurn had chances themselves and will have been disappointed to trail 1-06 to 0-06 at the interval.
Slaughtmanus won the game with a 1-01 burst early in the second half but it only arrived after almost nine minutes in which both sides struggled to fashion even a shot on goal. But just like buses, once one score arrived, another was close behind and it was the second that killed the contest.
McShane finally got the second half scoreboard moving with a lovely point but better was to follow as Drumsurn, for the first time in the game, lost their shape and Quigg took advantage quite brilliantly. Attacking down the right, the corner forward spotted the gap in defence, accelerated into it and with defenders struggling to keep pace, slotted a superb low finish past the keeper’s out-stretched left hand for 2-07 to 0-6.
It was a big swing and enough of a cushion for Slaughtmanus to comfortably see the game out, even if they never quite managed to put it to bed.
Too many lateral passes and slow build up play was asking for trouble and it almost cost them on 52 minutes when Ryan Mullan produced a fantastic high catch under a dropping ball inside the Slaughtmanus square only to be barged over by two St Mary’s backs.
Referee Benny Quinn pointed to the spot and Ciaran Mullan stepped forward only to see Kevin Duddy save his penalty with his feet as the keeper dived to his left. A goal would have left it a one score game and with Barry Lyons almost alongside Mullan as he hit it, there were calls for a retake but Slaughtmanus escaped to claim a scrappy win.
Drumsurn did enough to suggest with the correct application next season they could become a force but it was Slaughtmanus who progress, even if it was not the type of performance they would have hoped for.
Championship football is all about results though and qualifying for a semi-final without playing as well as you can is never a bad sign.
Slaughtmanus: Kevin Duddy; Conor Lynch, Cathal Deery, Adrian Deery; Cahir Cooke, Kyle Gallagher, Fergal Hargan; John Robertson, Ian Doherty; Ryan Barr, Barry Lyons (0-1), Aidy O’Kane (0-3, 1f); Conor McGee (1-3, 3f), Gavin McShane (0-1), David Quigg (1-1). (Subs) Eddie Devine for R Barr, 30mins; Chris Deery for G McShane, 52mins; Jack McConomy for D Quigg, 53mins; Kevin King for A O’Kane, 57mins; Caolan Watson for C McGee, 60mins.
Drumsurn: Steven Harbinson; Dane Mullan, Eoin Ferris, Oran Rafferty; Christopher Harbinson (0-1), Paul Butcher (0-1), Anthony McLaughlin; Cahir Mullan, Ryan Mullan; Sean Butcher, Martin Mullan, Aaron Butcher; Harry Foster , Pearse McNickle (0-1), Ciaran Mullan (0-6, 4f). (Subs) Michael Coll for R Mullan, 35mins (blood sub - reversed 42mins; Thomas O’Kane for A McLaughlin, 42mins; Michael Coll for M Mullan, 43mins; Colm Feeney for C Harbinson, 47mins; Mark McLaughlin for H Foster, 50mins;
Referee: Benny Quinn