Greenlough 1-09, Steelstown 1-08
It’s harsh to say but Steelstown can blame no-one but themselves for ending the season without the Intermediate Championship title.
Gary Duffy’s side let this one slip. Greenlough won the game with an Enda Lynn inspired 20 minute spell in the first half but Steelstown were the better side. That’s what will leave a bitter taste in Steelstown mouths.
Joe Cassidy’s south Derry men went into the semi-final as the stand-out team in Intermediate football this season and Lynn as the stand-out player, alongside Claudy sharp-shooter Aaron Kerrigan.
Lynn lived up to his pre-match billing, Greenlough didn’t but when you have the sort of attacking threat that the Derry star and Niall Loughlin offer, sometimes you don’t have to be at your best in every game.
Yet the celebrations at the full-time whistle were more about relief than joy.
Greenlough had destroyed Steelstown in the league but it was the city side who started better in Celtic Park. One of the weaknesses of the Brian Ogs since Stephen Cleary departed is the lack of an attacking focal point but that worked in their favour early on.
No discernible main attacker meant a continual rotation of their front two which had Greenlough confused as McKinney (2) and Foley helped build an early 0-3 to 0-1 lead.
Obviously wary of a potential man marker, Lynn was roaming all over the pitch and 10 minutes in, he began to exert his influence. Nineteen minutes later the game looked over with Lynn conductor-in-chief of a Greenlough team that appeared to be strolling away from Steelstown in second gear.
Lynn was untouchable. After Loughlin had brought it back to a one point game, the Derry forward reeled off three successive points, including a beauty off his left foot.
Not content with that, he dropped in midfield on 20 minutes to pick out the pass of the night to Brian McCallion after a Marty Dunne kick-out had gone astray. McCalllion looked certain to hit the net but Dunne redeemed himself with a brilliant stop. The Steelstown keeper however was helpless when his save took a wicked ricochet off one of his own men and dropped perfectly at the feet of Conor Madden in front of the empty net.
Further points from Loughlin and Ryan Tohill had most of the press box preparing the Steelstown ‘obituaries’ for another Championship year but they grabbed themselves a lifeline one minute before the break.
Neil Forester is the heartbeat of Brian Ogs and it was his constant running which created the space for Seb Crudden to shoot for a point. Crudden’s effort fell short but Rory Maguire had anticipated it and out jumped Greenlough keeper, Chris Bradley, to punch into the net with Aidan Cleary making doubly sure on the line.
With only four points separating them at 1-7 to 1-3 there was suddenly a different feel to the game.
Still, no-one expected Greenlough to go 21 second half minutes without scoring but that was thanks to a Steelstown performance which had it been replicated over the hour would have taken them to the final. Paul O’Hea was moved out from full back and had a terrific impact further up the field with some incisive runs.
But Loughlin almost stopped the Brian Ogs revival before it got going with a shot that almost broke the crossbar two minutes after half-time but thereafter it became a familiar tale of Steelstown not getting the scores their impressive approach play deserved.
McKinney and Foley scored for Duffy’s team, Loughlin and McCallion replaying for the league champions but McCallion’s point on 41 minutes would be Greenlough’s last score.
Both sides were guilty of some poor wides but the momentum was with Steelstown. Foley, Forester and substitute Emmet Deane, who caused all sorts of problems when pushed into full-forward, brought it back to 1-9 to 1-8 with a minute of normal time left.
In between those scores, the lively Eamon Donnelly had a goal chance to win it but pulled his shoot across the face of goal and inches past the far post after he found himself in space behind the Greenlough defence. It was critical.
Ryan McCloskey’s effort which drifted wide was the last kick and Steelstown hopes were over. In the end Lynn had been the difference once more for Greenlough.
Steelstown Brian Ogs: Martin Dunne; Paul O’Hea, Kevin Lindsay, Shane O’Connor; Ryan McCloskey, Liam Heffernan, Neil Forester (0-1); Darren McDaid, Mickey McKinney (0-3, 1f); Oran Sweeney, Seb Crudden, Aidan Cleary, Eamon Donnelly, Mark Foley (0-3, 2f), Rory Maguire (1-0). (Subs) Ciaran Flanagan for S O’Connor (inj) 7mins; Andy Moore for S Cruddan, 42mins; Emmett Deane (0-1) for R Maguire, 46mins; CJ Martin for C Flanagan (inj), 60mins;
Greenlough: Chris Bradley; Gary Loughlin, Joe Kearney, Paul Quinn; Brian McCallion (0-1), Kevin McCann, Chris Kearney; Stefan Lynn, Niall Bradley; Conor Madden (1-0), Liam Quinn, Enda Lynn (0-3, 1f); Chris Lagan, Niall Loughlin (0-5, 3f), Ryan Tohill (0-1). (Subs) Mark Tohill for G Loughlin, H/T; Cormac O’Neill for C Lagan, 42mins; Matthew Bradley for C Madden, 53mins; Brian O’Neill for L Quinn, 53mins;
Referee: Joe Mulholland.