Connor McGee stars as Slaughtmanus pip Lissan in Championship thriller
McFeely Group Intermediate Football Championship, Group A
Slaughtmanus 1-12, Lissan 2-07
It was 'The Connor McGee Show' at Ervey Road on Sunday as Slaughtmanus edged out Lissan in this hidden gem of an Intermediate Championship tie.
The group format has its critics, but try telling anyone at St. Mary's there's nothing on the line after a thrilling second half saw them set aside a poor league campaign to score a victory that could be the difference between championship progression and an early exit.
The two group format will see two teams depart before the knock-out stages so every point is crucial, especially for two of the more unheralded teams in the county's most competitive championship. And with Greenlough, Glenullin and Drumsurn making up the remainder of the five in Group A, it's easy to see why the encounter at Ervey Road had the feel of a knock-out tie about it.
Given that fact, it was surprisingly slow to come to the boil in a first half which lost the game for Lissan. Slaughtmanus were well set-up and patient but Lissan hit six first half wides and dropped another four shots short in 30 minutes which saw them trail 0-7 to 0-3 at the break.
Slaughtmanus were much more economical and in McGee, had a a weapon capable of punishing every Lissan indiscretion. The half forward finished with 0-09, 0-7 from eight frees, with the only one he missed being an audacious 50-odd yard effort after the break.
In many ways it was a contradiction of a game. Lissan had the game's best player in Iarlaith Donaghy and totally dominated the home side's kick-out with Slaughtmanus' insistence on going long playing into the visitors hands, especially with Donaghy ruling the airwaves.
Yet Slaughtmanus were always in charge, part in due to Lissan's wastefulness and partly due to a well structured back line and a trojan amount of work from those men in front, men like Jack McConomy and David Quigg who got through so much of the dirty work that wins tight championship games. Add in the excellence of McGee, the lively Caolan Hargan and Killene Thornton, whose superb second half goal turned the tide for his team, and St Mary's just about deserved it.
That Thornton goal came in the game's pivotal 60 seconds. Lissan had hit the front for the first time with a crucial second goal and appeared ready to push on with 10 minutes left. Slaughtmanus needed inspiration and Thornton provided it, running directly at the Lissan back line from the restart. His pace took his past three defenders only for the last to spill the ball from the forward's grasp, yet he still had the awareness and the technique to finish it from the floor and reinstate Slaughtmanus' lead at 1-11 to 2-06.
A lovely point from St. Michael's substitute Caolan McCann ensured the most nervous of finishes as we entered two minutes of added time but when they need settling - as he had all afternoon - up popped McGee again. With all around him roaring to hold possession and run down the clock, McGee took aim and split the posts from distance to give his team some breathing space.
It probably should never have been that close though. A dominant opening quarter saw St. Mary's 0-6 to no score ahead thanks to Hargan's opener, four frees from McGee and a nice Meehaul Brolly point.
Lissan's first score wouldn't arrive until the 23rd minute through Marty McCracken but by half-time efforts from Conor Loane and Donaghy had brought them somewhat closer at 0-7 to 0-3.
Lissan showed a marked improvement after the break, casting caution to the wind and it very nearly paid dividends. A 35th minute goal from Conan Muldoon proved the catalyst, the corner forward providing the perfect finish to a fine team move that involved Joseph McElkennon and Noel Conway to leave it 1-04 to 0-08 and make it game on again.
Slaughtmanus responded with another McGee free before probably the point of the day from Rian Cormick who got himself on the end of a lovely team move.
Not to be outdone, Lissan replied through a superb solo effort from Donaghy and McCann before that second goal seemed to have put them in the driving seat as Shea McKernan reacted quickest to McCracken's mishit shot, nicking in ahead of keeper Conor Thornton to flick to the net for 2-06 to 0-10.
Step forward St. Mary's other Thornton to restore Slaughtmanus' lead with a goal worthy of winning a championship match. It was just about enough but there was plenty to take from the game for both teams.
Slaughtmanus scorers: Killene Thornton (1-0), Connor McGee (0-9, 7f), Caolan Hargan (0-1), Meehaul Brolly (0-1), Rian Cormick (0-1)
Lissan scorers: Shea McKernan (1-0), Conan Muldoon (1-0), Conor Loane (0-2, 1f), Iarlaith Donaghy (0-2), Caolan McCann (0-2), Martin McCracken (0-1).
Slaughtmanus: Conor Thornton, Eamon Deery, Corn McMonagle, Jude Mullan, Rian Cormick, Oran Carton, Meehaul Brolly, Conraire Molloy, Jack McConomy, Connor McGee, Killene Thornton, David Quigg, Barry Cooke, Caolan Hargan, Caolan Watson. (Subs) Mark Duffy for D Quigg, 56mins;
Lissan: Gavin Muldoon, John Mallon, Oran Bennett, Conor Murray, Shea McKernan, Iarlaith Donaghy, Niall Murray, Enda Quigley, Eoin Murray, Noel Conway, Joseph McElkennon, Martin McCracken, Joey Devlin, Conor Loane, Conan Muldoon. (Subs) Caolan McCann for J Devlin, 38mins; Joey Devlin for S McKernan (inj), 51mins;
Referee: Maurice Corrigan