Faughanvale 1-12, Glack 1-09
Faughanvale had made short work of their neighbours in their two one-sided league meetings, displays which Glack manager Aaron O’Connor called a ‘disgrace’.
He witnessed an altogether different performance at Celtic Park on Friday night.
The O’Connor’s were heroic in defeat, reproducing a display which touched the very same heights to the one that came so close to winning the Joe Brolly Cup last year.
In the end however, the favourites dug deep, very deep, and found the crucial scores when they needed them most. The league and cup double is still on for Joe Gray’s men.
Player/manager, Gray, insisted afterwards it was all about staying focussed and maintaining the hard work. This is new territory to the vast majority of this side. Faughanvale have been a mainstay in the Intermediate ranks for a generation but championship success has eluded them for far too long.
The ‘Vale’s silver lining to that relegation cloud has been their turnaround this season, first winning the Division Three title and now making it to the Junior Championship final.
“The simple fact is it’s a semi-final, and you don’t get any medals for winning a semi-final,” explained The ‘Vale manager, “We have to refocus, get our heads on going into the final and come away with a medal in the pocket. That’s what we wanted to get across to the players.”
Gray also admitted that opponents Glack had pushed his much-fancied side to the brink.
“It was a very tight game. We said beforehand a semi-final is all about getting over the line. And whatever it takes, you have to do that. Fair play to Glack, they were up for it.
“They gave it a real go from start to finish but we managed to get those extra couple of scores at the end and hold in there and I’m please at the end.”
Faughanvale squandered a number of shots in the first half, but hit just one wide in the second half compared to Glack’s wasteful six miscues in front of the posts. Gray accepted the big occasion made have affected a few of his younger players, particularly with their early shooting.
“Our shots were going over the bar after the break. I think maybe we have a very young team and a big semi-final occasion maybe gave us that bit of nervousness in the final third. And we lacked that bit of composure when we were going in there.
“But listen, the pleasing thing is we were getting in there and getting chances. It would be a lot worse if we weren’t getting into those scoring positions. It’s something to work on, and something to work at it in training going into the final.”
Faughanvale’s three point win brings them to their first championship final since 1999 and on a collision course with the only side to defeat them this season – Drum.
The ‘Vale man is all too aware that the Gortnaghey men, most of them no strangers to Junior Championship finals in recent years, will present another huge test.
“Of course they will. We’ve had ding-dong battles with Drum all year. Whether it was Drum or anybody else, everybody’s in it to win it, and they will give every single thing in their bodies to win the game.
“We’ll have to prepare and prepare well, and I’m sure Drum will do the same. It will be a good final and I hope we can all put on a showpiece for whoever comes and watches it.”
Glack impressed from the start on Friday. The outside of both Shane Toner and Kieran McIntyre’s boots saw the O’Connor’s lead 0-2 to no score in the early phases.
Unusually for the league champions, it took until the 11th minute before Stephen King opened their account. Once King broke the seal, Gray and James Moore points followed as the league champions took the lead by the 15th minute.
Points from Liam O’Brien and a ‘rocket’ launched by Marty McGonigle regained the lead for Glack, however, as the game ebbed one way and then the other.
Up top Cormac Boyle and Michael Sweeney were in the thick of a titanic individual dual, and the big Glack man was among the shooters who stretched their lead to 0-7 to 0-4 with five minutes remaining in the half.
Glack’s last score of the half was another almighty effort from McGonigle but Michael McLaughlin, superb all season in the green and white, began the late ‘Vale revival which included further points from experienced campaigners Gray and Martin McGuinness as the sides ran in 0-07 apiece at the break.
The 10 minutes after the interval produced the winning of this game. Glack’s shooting had been irresistible in the first half but they squandered four very scoreable chances in a row at a crucial time.
By contrast, Faughanvale couldn’t miss. A route one ball from the throw-in produced a Conor O’Hara point and another Gray free.
Better was to follow. Another long ball, this time from Martin McGuinness was eventually drilled to the net by county minor, and former Glack alumnus, Eunan Murray.
It handed his side a five point lead and as valiantly as the Glack men battled, that lead would be a bridge too far.
A superb Jimmy O’Connor interception formed the basis for Ryan Morgan’s 44th minute point. Kieran McIntyre raised both the green and white flags shortly after which left Glack just a point behind at 1-10 to 1-9 with 10 minutes to go.
With the game very much in the melting pot, Glack were badly hit with an untimely brace of black cards which removed captain Ciaran Carmichael and O’Connor from the fray.
Two Gray frees gave the ‘Vale a three point lead which they would hold onto until the final whistle sounded. Faughanvale scorers: Joe Gray 0-6 (0-5f), Eunan Murray 1-0, Stephen King 0-1, James Moore 0-1, Michael McLaughlin 0-1, Martin McGuinness 0-2, Conor O’Hara 0-1
Glack scorers: Kieran McIntyre 1-1, Martin McGonigle 0-3, Ryan Morgan 0-2 (0-1f), Shane Toner 0-1, Liam O’Brien 0-1, Cormac Boyle 0-1
Glack: James Martin McLaughlin; Ciaran O’Brien, Barry Kerr, Ryan O’Kane; Aaron Moore, Ciaran Carmichael, Tommy O’Kane; Liam O’Brien, Jay Clyde; Martin McGonigle, Kieran McIntyre, Jimmy O’Connor; Ryan Morgan, Shane Toner, Cormac Boyle. (Subs) Niall McGowan for J Clyde, 35mins; Luke McLaughlin for S Toner, 40mins; Mark Moore for C Boyle, 49mins; Edward McLaughlin for K McIntyre (black card) 53mins; Evin King for J O’Connor (55)
Faughanvale: Kevin Morrow; Declan McGuinness, Michael Sweeney, Gordon Fahey; Jordan Curran, Stephen King, Aaron Cassidy; Oisin Quinn, Joe Gray; Eoin McElhinney, James Moore, Martin McGuinness; Conor O’Hara, Eunan Murray, Michael McLaughlin. (Subs) Michael Quinn for M McGuinness, 58mins; Martin Sweeney for E McElhinney, 60mins;
Referee: John Joe Cleary (Castledawson)