STEELSTOWN Brian Ogs kept their Division One survival hopes alive after fighting back to secure a superb single-point injury time victory in Bellaghy on Wednesday night.
Cathal Harkin reports from Bellaghy
The Pairc Bhrid men had been threatening such a result for a number of weeks but even the most ardent of city supporters would not given much hopes against the Wolf Tones in their own backyard. However this was a fully deserved win, the platform for which rests plainly on the broad shoulders of midfielders, Ryan Devine and in particular young Conor McGoran.
The latter was simply outstanding as he plucked balls from the sky, knocked men over with ease and gave incisive balls into the forward line. The effectiveness of McGoran could be seen written all over the face of county player Joe Diver who could not wrestle midfield superiority away from the dual player. Diver’s frustration was evident when he escaped what look a certain red card for a stamp on McGoran, the referee deeming it worthy of only a yellow.
While midfield was the platform, the forwards can also take a great sense of satisfaction as they recycled the ball well and did not force which has been their downfall in other close encounter this season. The return to form of Daniel Jackson was also a great help.
Bellaghy opened the scoring straight from the off as Francis Donnelly tore straight through the centre of defence to tap over a score within 30 seconds but the Steelstown response was devastating. Within a minute, a high ball into Stephen McCauley was broken down to Daniel Jackson who took the ball at pace to drive his shot beyond Brendan Diamond. It was a perfect response.
Jackson had another goal chance a minute later, however Diamond this time saved from close range. Bellaghy grabbed the next two scores, their first from the marauding Kevin Doherty, their second from the boot of Francis Glackin after an inch perfect pass from Ryan McNally.
Again the impressive Jackson responded, this time with Steelstown’s opening two points, the first after McGoran broke a high ball into his path and the second from a 21m free after McCauley was hauled to the ground. These scores were sandwiched between Gavin Diamond free.
The game was nip-and-tuck with neither team getting the upper-hand though a James Jackson free would had Steelstown two points up. It was a short lived lead though as Donnelly scored an opportunist goal as the Steelstown defenders were caught flat-footed allowing the Bellaghy man time to run through and shoot beyond Marty Dunne.
Steelstown quickly replied with another goal when the imposing McGoran won possession at midfield and fed James Jackson. The full forward eventually got the ball onto his favoured right foot and slipped it under Diamond. Bellaghy would finish the first half scoring when Kevin Doherty scored his second point of the game, running short to collect a free. Indeed, Doherty was one of the most impressive players on show and on this form would be very welcome back into the county setup.
Although that was the last score of the half, Steelstown will be kicking themselves they didn’t add a third goal as three men descended upon the Bellaghy goal. The ball was passed to Brian Scallan who shot with his less-favoured right foot, but drove the ball wide leaving it visitors advantage. First, Gavin Diamond hit a terrific score under pressure before Glackin drilled over a free from 30m out to put the home side in front.
It took Steelstown 12 minutes to open their account when Daniel Jackson scored but Donnelly replied from close rang. This was quickly followed by a third score from Kevin Doherty.
There were now two points in it with 10 minutes remaining and it looked like the same old story for Steelstown but back came the city men when Devine, who was imposing himself more and more, found Daniel Jackson with an exceptional pass. Jackson in turn fed the on-running Darren McDaid and he scored from out on the right. It was the score of the game and seemed to inspire the visitors. It certainly inspired Mark Foley who immediately caught a high ball above his head, turned and levelled the scores.
Bellaghy refused to lie down and Donnelly restored the home lead with time running out but just when the city side were looking for leadership, up-stepped captain Paul O’Hea who found himself on the 45m line and fired over a monster score to tie the sides once again.
But Steelstown were not finished. A high ball into the Bellaghy full back line broke away for a ‘45 allowing, Foley - who has returned from England - to fire straight down the centre of the posts to put Steelstown back in the lead.
With three minutes of injury time remaining, Steelstown were given a nervous few moments before registering only their second victory of the game but one which provides real hope of avoiding relegation.
Steelstown: Martin Dunne; Kevin Lindsay, Paul O’Hea (0-01), Michael Moore; Mickey McKinney; Neil Forester, Aidan Cleary; Conor McGoran, Ryan Devine; Daniel Jackson (1-03, 1f), Darren McDaid (0-01), Brian Scallan; Liam Heffernan, James Jackson (1-01, 1f), Stephen McCauley. (Subs) Christopher Beales for Moore, 8mins; Mark Foley (0-02, 1 45) for J Jackson, 45 mins; Gary Cunningham for Scallan, 50 mins; Niall Murray for D.Jackson, 60 mins:
Bellaghy: Brendan Diamond; Laurence Diamond, Eugene Scullion, Dermot O’Neill; Kevin Doherty (0-03), Ryan McNally, Thomas Hughes; Joe Diver, Ciaran McNally; Shea Quinn, Francis Donnelly (1-03, 1f), Diarmuid Larkin; Michael Molloy, Francis Glackin (0-2), Gavin Diamond (0-2, 1f). (Subs) Michael McGoldrick for C.McNally, 32mins; Peter Cassidy for Molloy 45mins; Fergal Doherty for R.McNally, 45mins.