Banagher lose out to Naomh Eanna in injury time
AIB Ulster Intermediate Hurling Championship
Banagher 0-12, Naomh Eanna 1-10
Banagher's Ulster Intermediate Hurling dream was ended in cruel fashion as an injury time point from midfielder Ruairi Donaghy sent Antrim champions, Naomh Eanna, into a semi-final meeting with Bredagh of Down by the narrowest of margins at Owenbeg on Sunday.
Donaghy's late score was a double blow for the St. Mary's, the point being the end product of a move which emanated from a free awarded after Banagher full forward Oisin McCloskey had been red carded for a challenge on Naomh Eanna's Cormac Jennings. A straight red was harsh on McCloskey but given the St. Mary's man was already booked, even a second yellow for the challenge would have spelt the end of his afternoon.
There was little between the sides with atrocious conditions contributing to a game which saw Banagher hit 12 wides and Naomh Eanna 14, many of which would have split the posts on another day, though difficult underfoot conditions didn't help either team.
The Antrim champions went a full 24 minutes without a score either side of half-time but Banagher's failure to register from play in the second period eventually proved terminal to their chances in a game the St. Mary's probably should have won.
Naomh Eanna's goal with 10 minutes to go was critical, arriving as it did only three minutes after a John McGoldrick free had broken that long barren run for Naomh Eanna. A sideline cut from McGoldrick dropped short of the posts but Banagher keeper Daryl McDermott was unable to gather in the deteriorating conditions and Eanna stalwart Philip Curran was on hand to bundle it over the line.
The goal took the Saffrons from two down to one ahead and more critically, it breathed new confidence into an Eanna challenge that looked to be faltering beforehand.
Banagher started slowly with Naomh Eanna taking control of the opening exchanges and McGoldrick looking likely to punish any St. Mary's indiscretions anywhere on the pitch.
The Antrim men pushed Philip Curran, despite wearing No. 10 on his back, into full forward with McGoldrick operating in a more withdrawn role but it was his dead ball ability that set him apart in the opening exchanges. Twice inside the first six minutes he scored long range frees, the second from an outrageous distance of over 80m, with a third effort from a similar distance striking the post.
The Derry champions were second best in those earlier minutes but the longer the half wore on the better Banagher became with a full-back line of Gabriel Farren, Shane Murphy and Ruairi McCloskey superb. In front of them, Mark Lynch and Darragh McCloskey gave Banagher the upper hand in what was the crucial sector of the pitch, winning countless breaks and severely denting the supply line to the dangerous Naomh Eanna inside line.
The excellent Jonathan O'Dwyer grabbed Banagher's first score of the afternoon but Phil Curran and Killian Jennings took the Naomh Eanna lead to 0-4 to 0-1 by the 11th minute.
Gradually though, Banagher were gaining a foothold, a long range Tiarnan McCloskey free signalling a swing in momentum that would have Banagher level by the 21st minute. Steafan McCloskey, who was superb throughout, Tiernan McCloskey and Sean McCullagh hit points to leave it 0-5 a-piece and when another McGoldrick free edged the Antrim men back in front, it would be their last score until midway through the second half.
In between Staefan McCloskey hit the score of the game before further points from Tiernan McCloskey and O'Dwyer left the Derry side 0-9 to 0-6 ahead at the interval.
The story of the second half was one of missed opportunity for both sides as neither team was able to take control of a game in the balance.
Wide after wide kept the scoreboard unchanged until McGoldrick's free finally moved it to 0-9 to 0-7 as the game entered its final quarter. Within three minutes the Naomh Eanna goal arrived. The game was now in the mix but crucially the momentum was with the Saffrons.
Banagher battled superbly and gave everything to redress that momentum shift with Dara Cartin's superb from frees after Tiernan McCloskey was forced off. Indeed Cartin's hat-trick of frees ensured the sides were level as the clock ticked into the first of four minutes of injury time.
The red card arrived after two of those minutes but it was the free that followed which sealed Banagher's fate. A cruel end to a brilliant championship season for the Derry men.
Banagher scorers: Jonathan O'Dwyer (0-2), Tiernan McCloskey (0-3, 2f), Stefan McCloskey (0-2), Sean McCullagh (0-1), Ciaran Lynch (0-1), Dara Cartin (0-3, 3f)
Naomh Eanna scorers: Philip Curran (1-0), John McGoldrick (0-4, 4f), Philip Curran (0-1), Killian Jennings (0-1), Matthew O'Hare (0-1), Ruairi Crummery (0-1), Ruairi Donaghy (0-1),
Banagher: Daryl McDermot; Gabriel Farren, Ruairi McCloskey, Shane Murphy; Darragh McCloskey, Mark Lynch, Niall Farren; Ciaran Lynch, Brian Og McGilligan; Sean McCullagh, Stefan McCloskey, Dara Cartin; Tiarnan McCloskey, Oisin McCloskey, Jonathan O'Dwyer.
(Subs) Pauric McCloskey for R McCloskey, 47mins; Cathair McGilligan for C Lynch, 55mins;
Yellow Cards: O McCloskey, 13mins; D Cartin, 25mins; S McCullagh, 49mins.
Red card: O McCloskey, 62mins, S McCullagh, FT.
Naomh Eanna: Martin Curran, Niall O'Connor, Rian Gillen, Ruairi Diamond; Cormac Ross, Mark Donaghy, Joseph Maskey; Ryan Bogue, Ruairi Donaghy; Philip Curran, Manus Mullan, Edward O'Connor; John McGoldrick, Matthew O'Hare, Killian Jennings.
(Subs): Cormac Jennings for J McGoldrick (blood sub), 32mins - reversed 40mins; Cormac Jennings for R Bogue, 45mins; Ruairi Crummery for E O'Connor, 58mins;
Yellow Cards: J McGoldrick, 15mins; R Gillen, 36mins; C Jennings, 54mins;
Referee: James Connors (Donegal)